Massimo Cellino ready to finance play-off push, says Leeds United boss Steve Evans

leeds United manager Steve Evans believes club owner Massimo Cellino is ready to finance his bid for a play-off charge by making early signings in the January transfer window.

Steve Evans

Evans has already made it clear that he is keen to “do our business early” next month as he continues to work on potential signings ahead of his first full window as United’s head coach.

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Having guided Leeds back into contention for a top-six spot on the back of a run of three wins in four matches, the 53-year-old is increasingly confident that owner Cellino will now throw money behind him when the market opens on January 1.

Evans is targeting a new striker and has maintained his interest in Norwich City’s Kyle Lafferty, a player he tried and failed to sign on loan during the Football League’s emergency window.

The United boss plans to extend Liam Bridcutt’s loan from Sunderland and could also move for an additional centre-back as he tries to set the club up for a more consistent run during the second half of the Championship season. Leeds were 18th in the table two weeks ago but back-to-back victories over Wolverhampton Wanderers and Preston North End have moved them up to joint 12th, five points back from sixth-placed Ipswich Town.

Evans said talk of the play-offs was premature after a 1-0 win against Preston on Sunday but he expects the transfer window to strengthen his hand and confidently predicted that Cellino – currently in Miami for Christmas – would not be drawn into selling any of his top players.

“With a bit of luck one or two new bodies might pop in on the first (of January),” Evans said. “If players aren’t in by the first then what’s important is that they’re in by the 31st. But absolutely, we’d like to do our business early.

“I drove down to Nottingham Forest (United’s opponents this weekend) on Saturday and I’m glad Mr Cellino was paying the bill because I spent the

whole time on the phone to him, talking about updates and conversations he’d had with clubs and representatives. They seem to be on track and because I know the managers at those clubs I know those conversations are happening.

“I can’t go away from my agreement with the president which was to let him believe that we have a chance (of the play-offs) but he’s certainly putting ducks in a row. And there won’t be any leaving – apart from those who we don’t see going forward with us in the future.”

Right-back Sam Byram, who is out of contract at the end of the season and has turned down the offer of a new deal at Elland Road, is the one prominent player who Leeds are likely to listen to offers for next month.

Aston Villa are being linked with Byram and scouts from the struggling Premier League club are rumoured to have watched him during last Thursday’s 3-2 win at Wolves.

Evans, meanwhile, is hoping to see Bridcutt sit down for talks about his future with Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce.

Bridcutt’s loan at Elland Road ends after United’s clash with MK Dons on January 2 and Leeds agreed in principle to keep him until the end of the season when they signed him on an emergency loan last month. Brighton, however, are strongly rumoured to be lining up a bid for Bridcutt and Allardyce admitted recently that he would prefer to sell Bridcutt than allow the 26-year-old to stay on loan at Leeds.

Evans, who claimed Bridcutt is committed to remaining in West Yorkshire, said: “My understanding is that we have an agreement. I know where Liam would like to play his football but him and Sam Allardyce probably need to sit down and have a chat when his loan’s up.”

Meanwhile, Colchester United have appointed former West Ham and Stoke midfielder Kevin Keen as their new manager.

The club had been searching for Tony Humes’ successor since he left by mutual consent last month and Keen watched the U’s take on Rochdale with chairman Robbie Cowling on Saturday, a match they lost 3-1 at Spotland.