Lewis Walters’ prospects of a first-team breakthrough at Leeds United have been hampered by the news that the striker could require surgery on a knee injury.
Walters is to undergo examinations by a specialist consultant as Leeds wait to learn if the damaged cartilage he suffered in their friendly at Mansfield Town will force the club to send him for an operation.
The 19-year-old academy product limped out of Tuesday night’s 2-0 defeat at Field Mill after injuring himself off the ball.
Walters attempted to play on but was substituted minutes later when he collapsed in more pain inside Mansfield’s box after heading a half-chance wide.
Head coach David Hockaday predicted immediately after full-time that the forward would be missing for “a few weeks at least” and initial assessments of the injury have raised the possibility of Walters going under the knife.
“It’s quite serious, or potentially quite serious,” Hockaday said. “It’s damage to the cartilage and I think it’s a bad one, although at this stage we’re still not 100 per cent sure.
“How long that will take to heal we don’t know as yet. We need to let the swelling settle down. He’s had a scan on the injury and he’s going to see a consultant so we’ll take it from there.”
Hockaday has used Walters throughout pre-season, giving clear signs that the teenager would be involved with his first-team squad when the Championship term starts.
Walters, who turned professional and signed a two-year deal with Leeds last summer, began pushing his claim for a senior debut towards the end of last season and made the bench for United’s visit to Bournemouth in February.
Leeds were run ragged at Dean Court, losing 4-1, and Walters sat as an unused substitute throughout the game.
Hockaday, however, took him to Italy for United’s recent tour and said the striker was in line for a meaningful role this season. He is set to miss the club’s remaining friendlies, however, and the start of the 2014-15 campaign.
Hockaday said: “Lewis has been playing really well and he’s a big loss to us.
“He was beyond the fringes of the first team and he was right in there, playing really well, making intelligent runs and getting in behind defences.
“His work ethic was good, he’s a product of the academy and as I keep saying, I’m into giving young players a chance. It’s unfortunate for him.”
Noel Hunt was also injured during Tuesday’s match, over-extending his hamstring as he attempted an overhead kick in the opening minutes, and he will sit out of tomorrow’s trip to Chesterfield.
But Hockaday said: “He’s looking at about two weeks so it’s not so serious.
“He tried the overhead kick, didn’t connect and he over-extended his hamstring. He felt it again later on so we took him off as a precaution.”
Hockaday, who is still awaiting the outcome of protracted negotiations between Leeds and prospective signing Federico Viviani, reiterated his plan to use his preferred formation and strongest possible line-up at Chesterfield.
The 56-year-old denied that United’s first Championship opponents, Millwall, would gain any advantage from him showing his hand two weeks in advance, saying: “I can’t not play my team. We have to get used to playing with each other. Millwall are looking at us and we’re looking at them. There’s no secrets.
“I’ve named the starting XI. There were people happy, people relieved and other people who said ‘okay, how am I going to get in the team?’ The whole group were super.”