Bamba faces more time on Leeds bench - but he's not for sale

Sol Bamba has been warned that he faces more time on the bench this season, despite Leeds United rejecting claims that they have put their club captain up for sale.
Sol BambaSol Bamba
Sol Bamba

Leeds head coach Steve Evans said he was not aware of any offers for Bamba amid reports that Sunderland and Newcastle United were both interested in signing the centre-back.

Sources in the north east have dismissed those suggestions and Bamba will be included in United’s squad for tomorrow’s FA Cup tie against Bolton Wanderers after resuming training at Thorp Arch yesterday.

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Bamba missed Tuesday night’s 1-1 draw at Brentford having asked for permission to fly home to France to deal with a family matter.

The Ivory Coast international, however, has been largely absent from United’s line-up for the past three months, stuck behind an established centre-back partnership of Liam Cooper and Giuseppe Bellusci.

Bamba was sidelined by a fractured toe before Christmas but despite starting league games against Derby County and MK Dons either side of the turn of the year, Evans dropped him to the bench in favour of Bellusci ahead of Leeds’ recent visit to Ipswich Town.

Evans said: “Sol’s a solid member of our squad, he’s our captain and he does that job with real professionalism. I’m not aware of any bids for Sol in this window but I can’t stop speculation.

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“He knows better than anyone and he has more chats with me than any other person in the group. The one thing he appreciates is the form of Cooper and Bellusci. As a centre-back he knows he has to be patient and wait his turn. And when his turn comes he has to perform.

“But he’s capable of that because he’s an outstanding centre-back.”

Evans is less sure about the involvement of Chris Wood tomorrow after the striker was sent for a fresh scan on his niggling hamstring injury.

Wood limped out of Tuesday’s draw at Brentford – his first start since aggravating a hamstring at home to Derby last month – but Evans said initial assessments indicated that the problem was less serious.

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“He’s had his scan but clinically he looks a little bit better so we’re certainly not ruling him out of the weekend at this stage,” Evans said. “He’s better than how he was last time he had a hamstring strain.

“I deliberately held him back against Bristol City (last weekend) and introduced him with half-an-hour or so to go. He came through that fine and trained really well in the days before Brentford.

“It’s my policy not to gamble with the fitness of players. If Chris isn’t 100 per cent for the weekend then he won’t be involved.

“If he’s back to how he was in the days leading up to Brentford then he’ll start.”

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Midfielder Alex Mowatt is poised to return after a two-game absence with a dead leg but right-back Gaetano Berardi and goalkeeper Ross Turnbull, both of whom have long-term ankle injuries, will not be available until the end of next month.

Midfielder Tommaso Bianchi – a player who has not featured at all this season – completed a move away from Elland Road yesterday, joining Italian Serie B club Ascoli on loan to the end of the season.

Bianchi has two-and-a-half years left on his contract at Leeds but Ascoli have negotiated an option to sign him permanently in the summer.

Former United player Chris Dawson, who had his contract terminated by mutual consent on Tuesday, has signed for ex-Leeds academy boss Neil Redfearn on an 18-month deal at Rotherham United.