After Leeds United's final friendly in Slovakia last week, Simon Grayson was asked about the reasoning behind four players completing the entire game at a stage of pre-season where 45-minute appearances are standard practice.
"We didn't have enough bodies," he said with a laugh, stating the obvious after reaching the city of Kosice with a squad of 18. Limited resources at Bury this evening might force others into longer shifts than Grayson originally intended.
His squad is not the definition of threadbare but United's friendly against Kosice was a demonstration of how rapidly a group of players can diminish and how essential it is that Grayson gets his numbers right before the season starts. "There's quite a fine line between having too many players and too few," he said. "But obviously I don't want us to be short of options when it matters."
The roll of absentees towards the end of Leeds' tour of Slovakia consisted of Patrick Kisnorbo, Jason Crowe, Lloyd Sam, Richard Naylor and Ben Parker. Three of those players were close enough to full fitness to conceivably have a chance of playing at Gigg Lane tonight, and another – left-back Parker – might be fit by the end of September.
At full strength, Leeds have choices in almost every position.
But it occurred to Grayson that one additional injury would have left him with fewer players available against Kosice than he would need to fill a match-day squad in the Championship.
It is already certain that Max Gradel and Davide Somma will be lost to suspension on the first weekend of the season, Gradel for four matches and Somma for three. Six new signings may be on board but United's manager has business left to complete.
"When everyone's fit and available, we've got a very good squad here," he said. "But you can find yourself short of players very quickly when injuries kick in and that's a risk for every club.
"Lloyd and Jason picked up knocks before the (Kosice) game – minor problems, nothing serious – but it meant that we were left with only 18 players. That's not something you'd want to happen once the season starts. The games come thick and fast.
"It's a bit of a strange situation because Lloyd, Jason and Richard are pretty close to being fit and with those three involved, we'd be fairly close to where I'd want us to be. But I need to keep the squad at a certain strength and that's why we're always looking in the transfer market, speaking to clubs and speaking to players."
Grayson's party in Slovakia was not the sum of every professional at Thorp Arch, where four transfer-listed players trained last week in the absence of United's squad at large, but he has all but confirmed that those made available for a move at the start of the summer will be allowed to leave Elland Road as planned before the season begins on August 7.
Andy Robinson, Alan Sheehan, Lubomir Michalik and Tresor Kandol are present for Grayson to work with if his present shortage persists but there would be little logic in fielding a group who were not taken on tour and are far removed from his plans. He is increasingly keen to see some or all of the quartet seal transfers elsewhere, lowering his wage bill and assisting his search for additional signings.
"Hopefully something will start to happen there this week," he said. "Players going out could influence who we bring in.
"But it's very rare to have your squad finalised at this stage of the summer and we're still looking for a few more deals, like everyone else is. I'm pretty happy with my squad, though, and aside from a couple of slight injuries we're shaping up nicely.
"I've had a close look at the six lads I've signed and I'm very pleased with them – impressed with their attitude and their quality. They'll be assets next season and the same goes for the lads who were already here.
"We've got a group here who are more than capable of competing in the Championship and we're not far too away from being where I want us to
Leeds will contest their third pre-season friendly at Gigg Lane tonight, and several of Grayson's players are likely to be purposely pushed beyond the 45-minute outings which he planned for them in Slovakia.
Full appearances materialised sooner than Grayson intended last week but an increase in intensity was inevitable upon United's return to England with the club moving closer to the start of the Championship season.
Their game against Bury will be followed by Saturday's match away to Hartlepool United, the prelude to the final stages of their pre-season programme.
Grayson said: "Leaving players on for 90 minutes in our second game wasn't ideal and certainly not what we planned. But on the other hand, they all did it quite comfortably. I'm pretty sure that a few other lads could have managed as well.
"It says quite a lot about their fitness and the amount of work they've
"We got through a lot of training (in Slovakia) in really hot
temperatures and I can see that work paying off already.
"The teams we played gave us very good tests and both of them were fit and well organised.
"In the first match especially, we came up against stronger opposition than you would do normally so early in pre-season but you'd much rather have that than be playing against teams who roll over and lose easily.
"Players don't benefit from that."