Izzy Brown will hand Leeds United a major boost by returning to first-team contention if he comes safely through 90 minutes of a development-squad game on Monday.
The midfielder is being lined up to complete the whole of an Under-23s fixture at Sheffield United next week and revealed that a successful outing would make him available to head coach Marcelo Bielsa.
Brown, who is recovering from two operations after rupturing a knee ligament earlier this year, was being lined up for a January return by United but he could feature in Bielsa’s squad before Christmas having started full training.
Leeds gave him a first outing at any level for 10 months last Friday as Brown played for 45 minutes in a development-squad defeat to Birmingham City at Thorp Arch and the club will cast their eye over his fitness again during a longer appearance in Sheffield on Monday.
Brown has been at Leeds since late August - signed on a season-long loan from Chelsea - after United agreed to take him on and complete the final stages of his rehabilitation from a damaged ACL.
The 21-year-old said: “It’s happening. I played my first 45 the other day and I’ve got 90 minutes to play on Monday, that’s the plan so far. After the 90 minutes on Monday I should be ready for selection.
“I always thought I’d be getting there and then there would be a setback but I can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel now.
“I’m training every day with the boys, doing double sessions and basically part of the team. I’ve heard before that I’d be back in a month and then it would take longer than it was supposed to so I don’t ever really get my hopes up but this time I’m excited because I can see that I’m near the end.”
Leeds had originally intended to give Brown just half-an-hour against Birmingham but left him on the field until half-time to push him further physically.
“It felt crazy,” he said. “When I put my shin pads on before the game it was the first time I’d put shin pads on in 10 months. The little things you take more notice of and it makes you appreciate playing football more.
“Some days I used to think I was tired but now, every day I want to train and play. I just want to play football. It’s like I’m a little kid again.”
Brown is poised to involve himself with a side who are third in the Championship and he has prior experience of promotion after featuring in the second half of Huddersfield Town’s play-off winning campaign in 2016-17.
Leeds identified him as competition for Samuel Saiz and Brown is looking for an attacking midfield role under Bielsa having produced his best form in that position in the past. He was midway through a Premier League loan at Brighton when he damaged his knee in January.
“I’ve been training in the number 10 roles and I like playing in that role because you get a lot of the ball and you get space to run with it,” Brown said. “It’s what I think I can do best but I know there are great players in that position. There are great players everywhere so I’m willing to bide my time.
“I’m not in a rush to force my way in. Hopefully we keep winning games and it keeps me out of the side. I want to play but the team is more important.”