LEEDS UNITED captain Stephen Warnock’s move to Championship title-chasers Derby County is on hold, although the Rams remain hopeful of completing a deal later this week.
Warnock underwent a medical at Derby yesterday, with the Rams keen to assess the extent of the ankle injury he suffered in the Championship game at the iPro Stadium a fortnight ago before rubber-stamping the transfer.
An 18-month contract is reportedly on the table for Warnock, once he proves his fitness.
The 33-year-old will be out of contract in the summer with Leeds having not made any moves to keep him at Elland Road. He hobbled off after being injured in a block tackle with Rams’ defender Cyrus Christie in the opening minutes of United’s 2-0 televised loss on December 30.
Warnock has not played since, although Derby remain optimistic that a deal, likely to be a free transfer, will be finalised once they establish when he is fit to return to training.
Warnock, one of United’s highest earners, underwent a scan on the injury seven days ago, which allayed fears of serious ankle ligament damage.
This came after head coach Neil Redfearn had expressed concern that the consistent left-back, arguably Leeds’s outstanding player this term, could be out for a long spell – after labelling the injury he suffered at Derby as a “bad one”.
Warnock tweeted last week: “Very happy with the news that my scan is all clear!
“Dr also happy with its condition...need to get the last bit of swelling out of it!”
Derby are keen on landing Warnock to provide some serious competition for regular left-back Michael Forsyth, while also offering some invaluable experience during a critical run until the end of the season.
On the incoming front, Leeds remain keen on bringing former Leicester City defender Sol Bamba to Elland Road to boost their central defensive options.
Ivory Coast international Bamba, who celebrates his 30th birthday today, is currently plying his trade at Italian outfit Palermo.
A striker is also high on the list of priorities for United, whose goal drought in open play was extended to almost 10-and-a-half hours following the weekend draw at Bolton Wanderers.
Conscious of that increasingly damning statistic, Redfearn has recommended to owner Massimo Cellino to make a loan move to take Luciano Becchio back to the club from Norwich City.
The other forward consistently linked with United so far during the transfer window is Sassuolo’s Leonardo Pavoletti, who Cellino and sporting director Nicola Salerno are keen on bringing to Leeds.
While it may have been a torrid winter and another thoroughly turbulent season so far, on and off the pitch for United and their long-suffering followers, Redfearn insists that it has not come at the expense of team unity.
The 49-year-old, United’s third permanent head coach this season, has labelled the togetherness of the players as “unbelievable” and says their gutsy performance in Saturday’s Roses encounter at Bolton augers well for the crunch battles ahead, with fourth-from-bottom Leeds currently pitched firmly in a relegation scrap.
United’s battling qualities at the Macron Stadium saw Gaetano Berardi sport a black eye following the game after suffering an injury on the pitch, while Sam Byram was also in the wars with a head wound.
Both provided firm evidence of his side’s commitment, according to Redfearn, and he says his side will need to show similar resolve and a bodies-on-the-line mentality in the coming weeks.
Events were certainly a far cry from the worrying performance in the second half of the limp 2-0 defeat at Derby to end the calendar year.
And although results have not been great of late, Redfearn is confident that his squad will stick together in their quest to turn around their winter statistics. Saturday’s draw at Bolton, who have not lost at home since early October, may have represented a decent result and performance, but equally it extended United’s run without a win to seven matches in all competitions, since beating Derby 2-0 at Elland Road on November 29.
Redfearn said: “To say all the change that has happened at this football club this season and to say all the stuff they have been through as a group of players, the togetherness is unbelievable and I think they showed that togetherness and that willingness in wanting to do well (at Bolton).
“Jason Pearce at the end, even though he is out of the picture and not in, was willing his mates to do well. He was saying to the centre-halves, ‘Brilliant, great header, well tackled’.
“That is great as it is what it is all about, and it might be him in next week. It’s a team game.”
“Saturday was competitive and a typical Roses battle. The good thing is we are battling and that is what we need. It was a battling performance at Sunderland and at Bolton, we scrapped for 90 minutes and that is important.”