LEEDS UNITED head coach Steve Evans last night leapt to the defence of Giuseppe Bellusci after a calamitous week for the Italian.
The 26-year-old, in his second season at Elland Road, was badly at fault as United dropped points in the games against Rotherham United and QPR.
Last Saturday, Bellusci made a hash of an attempted overhead kick deep in Leeds’s territory that led to the Millers being awarded a last-minute penalty that was converted by Greg Halford to seal a 2-1 triumph.
Then, on Tuesday, Bellusci gave away the late spot-kick that cost Evans’s men two points – something that led to the defender being jeered by a section of the club’s support.
“Peppe’s an intelligent boy,” Evans said ahead of tomorrow’s trip to leaders Burnley.
“He is never shy in giving an opinion, but he has been very humble, very quiet. I have seen many players like that over the years – strong characters – and this is when they need support.
“He doesn’t need my support when he is getting man-of-the-match performances at Blackburn and Cardiff. He doesn’t need me to be there for him then. But I am a manager who all through my career has been in the trenches with people when they need it.”
If Bellusci retains his place in the United defence at Turf Moor, it will be his 60th for the Yorkshire club.
Despite that, the Italian continues to divide opinion among supporters with his critics finding their voice on Tuesday night.
“I don’t like to see any player be subject to heavy criticism from supporters,” said Evans, who could be without Liam Bridcutt (thigh) tomorrow against the Clarets. “I think when you make big mistakes, it is harder for supporters to accept that when it is so late in games.
“Afterwards, I look for a reaction. And if he could have bled because of mistakes, I would have seen Bellusci bleed at Rotherham and bleed against Queens Park Rangers.
“For 88, 89 minutes (on Tuesday), he was outstanding. But as a central defender, a goalkeeper or a defensive player, people don’t remember the 88 minutes. They remember the big decisions you get wrong or the big mistakes.
“There is no doubt that he has made mistakes but there is no doubt he will give us a positive reaction.”