Charlie Taylor’s experience of glandular fever has been a frustration and a relief; frustrating in the sense of the games it has cost him but a relief in the knowledge that the symptoms could have been worse.
The illness is debilitating and the fatigue it causes can last for up to a year.
Taylor read about it after his own diagnosis last month and is honest enough to realise that a return to training after six weeks is nothing like the worst-case scenario.
That fact notwithstanding, the 22-year-old is rightly aggrieved that his place in Leeds United’s team was lost in this way. Taylor completed every minute of the season up to the end of a 2-0 defeat to Birmingham City on October 3.
Uwe Rosler, United’s former head coach, described him as “a machine” and it seemed that only injury or illness would force Taylor aside.
The left-back struggled in the days before the game against Birmingham but started anyway, convinced that he could run his way through the virus.
“Straight after the Middlesbrough game, I felt ill and all week leading up to Birmingham I wasn’t great,” Taylor said.
“Ten minutes into the Birmingham game, all my energy was zapped out of me. I thought ‘something’s not right here’. I had blood tests straight after on the Monday and found out I’d got glandular fever.
“I’d played in every minute up to Birmingham and I wanted to carry on so I didn’t really mention the fatigue to anyone.
“Obviously I had no idea what was actually wrong but early on in the Birmingham game I went on a forward run and felt absolutely knackered. The tests came back and it was pretty much the worst possible outcome.”
Taylor was bed-bound and Rosler ruled him out indefinitely.
Leeds sacked the German one game later but Rosler’s replacement, Steve Evans, has been unable to use the defender in any of his five matches in charge.
Taylor began light training last week, however, and is likely to begin ball-work before Saturday’s game against Rotherham United.
“After the tests came back, I read up about the side-effects, as you do,” Taylor said. “The illness and the fatigue can affect people for up to a year and that was a worry. So, in a way, I’m probably quite lucky to be back already and training as soon as this. That doesn’t mean it was nice.
“It’s been frustrating for me. I’d played every game and then to get this and be bed-bound was horrible. I couldn’t really get out of my house. But the hard work starts now. I’m basically doing a mini pre-season to get fit and get back in the team.”
Taylor expects to be available for United’s game against Hull City on December 5. Evans is more hopeful that the left-back will be available for the club’s visit to Queens Park Rangers a week earlier. Neither of them has given any thought to the idea of Taylor playing against Rotherham this weekend.
“This knocked me for six and took everything out of me,” Taylor said. “I’ve got to build up my strength and my fitness again. It might take some time but, hopefully, I’ll be back soon.
“Realistically, for the Hull game I think I could be in the squad but it’s hard to say. The Rotherham game is going to come too soon and maybe QPR as well.
“I’ve had the all-clear now so I’m working with physios and fitness coach, trying to get back to where I was before I got ill. There’s been no ball-work yet so I’ll be a bit rusty when I come back but, hopefully, this week I’ll get the footballs out and start doing a bit of that.”
Taylor’s stated aim at the beginning of the season was to complete a full campaign for the first time as a Leeds player; to be first-choice from start to finish. He is still the only recognised left-back in United’s squad but he returns with a different head coach in charge and Gaetano Berardi filling in capably on the left side of defence.
The youngster has only been able to watch Evans operate from a distance but he can see differences in the results and performances since Rosler’s dismissal.
Leeds reached the international break on the back of wins over Cardiff City and Huddersfield Town, including a first victory at Elland Road for eight months. The club are a point below the top half of the Championship.
“I think he (Evans) has brought passion,” Taylor said. “He’s got all the lads up and you’ve seen that in the last two games, with good results and clean sheets. The lads are pumped up and firing. They’re wanting to play for him and wanting to win.
“We’re picking up some very good results and everyone knows what they’re doing now. Everyone’s one big team.”
Taylor’s task on his return will be to dislodge Berardi, a player who, in the estimation of many, has been as consistent as most players at Leeds this season.
Evans doubted the Swiss defender’s ability when he first took charge but has been quickly impressed by Berardi’s ability.
“It’s not a surprise that he’s played for his country,” Evans admitted.
Taylor’s view of Berardi is no different. “He’s been brilliant and I can’t fault anything he’s done,” Taylor said. “It’s going to be tough but it’s a challenge I’m up for.
“What’s happened to me has happened and I’ve got to try and forget about it. Otherwise I’ll just wind myself up by thinking too much.”