Luke Ayling time may be running out at Leeds United as Djed Spence nears return
Beren Cross has suggested that time could be running out for Luke Ayling to secure his place in the Leeds United starting XI, with Djed Spence nearing a return from injury.
The Tottenham loanee joined Daniel Farke’s ranks in the January transfer window on a season-long switch but has been limited to only one appearance this season, playing nine minutes from the bench against Sheffield Wednesday, before picking up an MCL injury.
Originally, Spence was touted to return to the fold for Leeds’ clash with Plymouth Argyle at Elland Road on 11 November, and Leeds Live journalist Beren Cross believes that Ayling and the other right-back options in Farke’s squad must show why they deserve to start over the former Nottingham Forest man.
Writing for Leeds Live on Wednesday (18 October) he said: “Ayling has only started one of the last four matches for the Whites and that’s while Spence is injured. The time would always come for a concerted challenge on his place in the team and Ayling has to continue fighting to prove he’s Farke’s best option at right-back.
“The general consensus has been, based on Spence’s success with Middlesbrough, he would ultimately nail down that right-sided berth. His knee injury has delayed that ascension and the opening for his team-mates is narrowing as November nears.
“If Ayling, Gray or Shackleton hope to cement their place before Spence sharpens up, these coming games against Norwich, Stoke City, Huddersfield Town and Leicester City are pivotal in showing Farke why they cannot be dropped.”
Gray has had an incredibly busy last few weeks, with five games in 14 days for both club and country so it wouldn’t be a shock to see Farke opt to rest the 17-year-old against Norwich on Saturday (21 October) and you would imagine Ayling would be preferred ahead of Shackleton.
But the former Bristol City man needs to start performing at a level that will ensure that he doesn’t only keep his place in the starting XI until Spence returns to action but also make sure that he is the man competing with the Spurs loanee for a place at right-back.
Ayling has shown that he can still cut it at this level and was one of Leeds United’s better performers in games at the start of the season, including the famous win at The Den, where he barely put a foot wrong for the entire 90 minutes as Farke’s side won 3-0.
Now, he has to get his shirt back and prove why he should be starting week-in-and-week-out, if he doesn’t take the opportunity in the next few games, Spence will waltz back into the right-back role and leave Ayling waiting in the wings to be used as a rotation option.
You can never right off the 32-year-old as he has already stood up to the test whenever fans have begun to doubt him and you wouldn’t be surprised if he somehow ends the season with nearly 40 appearances once again.