Pearce in line to take over Leeds captaincy

Jason Pearce
Jason Pearce
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JASON Pearce will captain Leeds United against Dundee United tomorrow and is in line to lead the club into the new season, head coach David Hockaday confirmed last night.

Centre-back Pearce is primed to take the armband at Elland Road, six months after former manager Brian McDermott narrowly overlooked him for the role.

McDermott considered awarding the captaincy to Pearce after previous incumbent, Rodolph Austin, unexpectedly stepped aside in January.

Ross McCormack was eventually named as Austin’s replacement but the Scotland international left Leeds for Fulham in an £11million deal last month and Pearce has been the leading candidate to succeed him throughout pre-season.

The former Portsmouth defender, who joined United in a £500,000 in 2012, and has been a regular presence in the club’s defence for the past two seasons.

He is also one of only two senior central defenders remaining at Elland Road after United allowed Tom Lees to complete a move to Sheffield Wednesday yesterday.

Hockaday said: “At the moment the captain has been Jason Pearce and if I have the same bunch of players at the start of the season then it’s going to be Pearce.

“He leads by example, he’s comfortable with the armband and nobody can say anything other than he gives 100 per cent.”

Leeds are in the final throes of their preparation for the new Championship term and will contest their last friendly of the summer at home to Dundee United tomorrow afternoon.

The match was the only home fixture scheduled by Leeds for pre-season and Hockaday admitted that he would have looked for a second game in front of the Elland Road crowd had his appointment at head coach come earlier than June 19.

United’s squad trained at the stadium yesterday and are planning to hold regular sessions there in the coming weeks.

Hockaday, who will be in charge of a home match for the first time this weekend, said: “If I’d had more time (to organise games) then I’d have liked to have had two fixtures at home. As it was, I wanted the best British opposition I could get and Dundee United represent that.

“The more comfortable we feel at our own ground the better so we trained there yesterday, we’ll train there next Thursday and the Thursday after that. If I have my way, we’ll keep in training there until the groundsman kicks us off – just so we get used to the environment.”

Dundee United finished fourth in the Scottish Premier League last season and are a club with an established reputation for producing homegrown players.

The club sold midfielder Ryan Gauld to Sporting Lisbon in a high-profile deal worth around £3m this summer and recently concluded a deal with Hull City for left-back Andy Robertson. Another of their leading talents, centre-back John Souttar, will miss tomorrow’s match through injury.

Hockaday said: “We’ll get good football and good play from them. It’ll be our toughest challenge to date.”

Leeds will be without Aidan White, who is likely to be out for another three weeks with an ankle injury, while Noel Hunt is continuing to recover from a pulled hamstring.

Striker Lewis Walters, meanwhile, is facing up to three months on the sidelines with surgery planned on his knee cartilage problem.

“We’re hoping he’ll be back in two or three months, rather than the eight or nine which was maybe the worst case scenario,” Hockaday said.