SAM BYRAM is seeking to go back to the future as he attempts to get his Leeds United career back in the fast lane.
The right-back, who lit up 2012-13 after bursting onto the scene, suffered the proverbial reality check in a frustrating injury-hit 2013-14 campaign – and is determined to write a more positive chapter again.
A nagging and persistent hip injury bedevilled Byram’s progress last term when he was restricted to just 17 Championship starts, all this after a peerless year at the club that saw him sweep the board at the club’s end-of-season awards evening at the end of 2012-13.
Byram, who turns 21 in September, is firmly looking forwards and sees no reason why he cannot get back to the heights of that memorable first season throughout the forthcoming campaign. Byram said: “Last year was tough with injuries and stuff. But I am hoping to get back where I was when I first broke through into the side.
“I want to push on and have a really good year and work my way back regularly into the team if I can and improve. Last season was tough to take. But you kind of just have to take it on the chin and learn from it. It was tough mentally too, but the players and staff try and keep your spirits up so you are not too down on yourself. I am just really looking forward to this year and kicking on again.”
Byram is currently being put through his paces with his team-mates, about to start their second week’s training at the club’s training camp in Santa Cristina region of Val Gardena, with United’s first work-out on the pitch coming on Thursday tea-time when they take on local Italian side FC Gherdeina. The work amid the alpine splendour in northern Italy has been hard graft, but enjoyable according to Byram, when United building up a core fitness to serve them well throughout the long course of a nine-month campaign along with building a collective team togetherness to stand them in good stead from late summer to mid spring.
Byram added: “Last season was tough overall. Watching from the sidelines, in the first half of the season we started really well and looked solid and hard to beat. We were in amongst it and it was all going well.
“But I am not sure what happened after that, really. We just seemed to go downhill. Now the new owner and manager is in place and things are falling together nicely, hopefully we can put last season behind us.
“You can tell straight away that he (Hockaday) is big on discipline and wants us to work hard and build a real togetherness in the team, which is a big thing in a successful team.
“I really like the sound of his ideas and how he wants us to work. It sounds good.
“Hard work but enjoyable is probably the best way to put it.”
United continue to be linked with a number of Italian-based players, most notably Chievo Verona’s former Italian under-21 goalkeeper Marco Silvestri along with Catania defender Guiseppe Bellusci and Modena striker Tommaso Bianchi, as they seek a recruitment boost after a quiet close-season so far.
Head coach Dave Hockaday is running the rule over former Arsenal and Spurs trainee Andre Blackman, who ended last season at non-league Maidenhead United, during the pre-season camp in Italy, with Leyton Orient midfielder Romaine Vincelot another domestic-based player linked with the club.
The future of wantaway striker Ross McCormack, not part of the travelling squad in Italy, continues to be very much unclear, with the striker keen to leave Leeds, having put in a transfer request last month. Relations between the striker and owner Massimo Cellino have deteriorated in the past few weeks, with the Italian ready to dig his heels in regarding McCormack’s future, with a stand-off effectively ensuing between the pair.
Fulham remain keen on landing the forward, although not for the £10million Leeds are seeking, with several other sides watching developments.
After taking on FC Gherdeina on Thursday at the Mulin De Coi in Val Gardena (kick-off 5.30pm), where admission is free, United take on Romanian outfit FC Viitorul Constanta on Sunday, July 13 where supporters can pay on the gate. That game will again kick-off at 5.30pm.