Gaetano Berardi must be rueing his luck after Steve Evans decided to bring him on in the 2nd half versus Charlton last weekend. A broken nose against Rotherham followed immediately by a sending off with subsequent suspension and now another injury.
A challenge described as "naughty" by Evans ended Berardi’s game, and the early prognosis is he will be out for up to 2 months with torn ankle ligaments. The impact in real terms, including a period for regaining match fitness and the busy Christmas period, could mean he misses up to 12 matches.
Against Charlton, the Whites were struggling in a dour goalless first half. It is difficult to say whether the substitution of Wootton for Berardi was the inspiration for a much improved 2nd 45, but there’s no hiding the fact that Berardi is more of an attacking threat than the out-of-position Wootton.
Berardi, who can play at left or right back, was almost a forgotten man in the early stages of last season; however, his dogged professionalism earned him a 2-year extension to his contract, a starting berth, and the respect of the Leeds United faithful who could perhaps see in him some the qualities of players that epitomized the glory years.
As ever though at Leeds United, there is a subplot. Steve Evans has publicly stated that he took the Leeds United head coach role on the basis that he and he alone would pick the team and not the club President Massimo Cellino. If any interference occurs, he (Evans) will leave. Recently skepticism has grown that Cellino has at least influenced tactics after his half time visits to the changing room. We’ll see how that plays out.
The preferred right back of choice over the last few seasons has been Sam Byram. Byram has refused to sign the latest contract offer and has subsequently been dropped to the bench. Byram, a quality player when on form, is the obvious choice to replace Berardi; however, his refusal to sign the new contract likely means Cellino doesn’t want him to play.
Another variable is the emergence of Lewie Coyle, who has yet to make his senior debut but has proved a rising star of the under-21 team in the right back position.
If pressure is put on the head coach to leave out a player he wants to pick, Byram may not be the only one to be leaving soon. The spotlight will be on Evans: will he pick his own men?
Gaetano Berardi joined Leeds United July 2014 from Sampdoria where he made 26 Serie A appearances. The former Swiss International has since made 40 appearances for the Whites and he will be missed as long as he is out. Here’s hoping he’s back sooner rather than later.