Hunt close to making comeback after spell sidelined

El-Hadji Diouf
El-Hadji Diouf
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A striker will be high on Brian McDermott’s wish list when the transfer window re-opens on January 1.

But United manager Brian McDermott has another striker who could return to first-team action sooner rather than later with Noel Hunt expected to step up his training schedule next week following several weeks on the sidelines.

Hunt has been troubled by a nerve problem in one of his hamstrings but could be available for part of the Christmas period.

His career at United is still to get going following a summer move from Reading but Hunt said: “Now that this is cleared up, hopefully I’ll get right up to 100 per cent.

“I don’t like making excuses and it’s fair enough for people to think that when you cross the white line you’re fully fit, but the hamstring’s been a problem.

“I tried to play through it and shake it off but I shouldn’t have done that.

“It feels so much better now,” he added.

McDermott had hoped to keep forward Dexter Blackstock beyond the end of the January before injury forced Leeds to cancel the striker’s loan from Nottingham Forest.

A new forward is likely to be prominent among McDermott’s priorities for the forthcoming transfer window after the United manager confirmed his original intention to retain Blackstock when his three-month deal at Elland Road expired.

Blackstock moved to Leeds in October on an emergency loan until January 25 but he rejoined Forest this week after scans revealed that a knee injury suffered by him in training required an operation.

The 27-year-old will undergo surgery next week and is facing up to the prospect of missing the rest of the Championship season.

His premature exit from Leeds has also left McDermott to consider how best to compensate for the loss of a player who he hoped would stay in Yorkshire for the second half of the term.

McDermott was coy about his interest in signing Blackstock permanently throughout the striker’s short period at Elland Road, admitting that Blackstock’s lengthy contract with Forest would make a full-time transfer complicated to finalise.

But the Leeds boss said: “I would have kept him if I could have done. Sadly it’s not to be.

“He did great for us, I loved him as a fella and the lads loved him too.

“I thought he did well in the games he played in and I was very happy with him.”

He added: “It tells you about how he felt about us and about Leeds United that he flew over to Dublin to meet the other players (for their Christmas party last weekend).

“But he’s got to do right by his career now and it looks like he won’t be playing again this season.”

Meanwhile, McDermott admits he is excited by the signing of former Southampton winger Gboly Aryibi, 18, until the end of the season – after he caught the eye at Thorp Arch on trial.

He said: “He’s quite an exciting player, very very quick and he’s a great lad.

“He looks like he’s got a chance,” added McDermott.

leon.wobschall@ypn.co.uk