With Leeds big name out for rest of the season in new blow, rarely-seen ace must be given run
COMMENT By Richard Parks
Cometh the hour, cometh the man.
Leeds United must put their faith in rookie left-back Tom Pearce as a replacement for Gaetano Berardi for the remainder of the season.
Berardi was dismissed for the third time in the Championship this campaign in United’s 1-1 draw against Sunderland on Saturday and will pay the price for his behavioural folly.
FA rules stipulate increasing punishment for repeat red card offenders, with the automatic three-match ban increasing by one for every additional sending-off, meaning Berardi is to be banned for the remainder of United’s five-match league programme.
One man’s misery is another man’s opportunity.
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Berardi, a right-back by trade, was deputising at left-back on Saturday, with Laurens de Bock sidelined through a long-term injury.
Vurnon Anita came on for the final few minutes at Elland Road but Paul Heckingbottom must hand rarely-seen youngster Pearce the chance to make the left-back spot his own in the last five games of the season.
Pearce, 19, made his Whites bow earlier this season, and delivered an accomplished display despite Leeds falling to a 2-1 loss to Sheffield Wednesday.
He has been on the bench on several other occasions under Heckingbottom, but that 77 minutes against the Owls is the only game time he has seen so far.
Now is the perfect time for Pearce to be properly blooded into the Leeds first-team, with the squad offering no better option at left-back.
De Bock is injured and Anita is better at right-back or in central midfield, leaving Pearce as the clear choice to start their last five games.
Furthermore, the Whites have nothing to lose in these upcoming fixtures, with their promotion hopes having disappeared long ago.
Pearce has shown enough to be given a chance, and if he doesn’t get a chance to impress now, then when will he ever get to do so?
It is a clear choice for Heckingbottom, who would be massively missing a trick if he fails to take it.
In other Leeds United news, a 24-year-old is unlikely to play for the club ever again after events on Saturday.