'It's getting tougher every year' - Patrick Bamford on Leeds United's Premier League preparations
Pre-season is always a sobering time for any Leeds United player.
Marcelo Bielsa likes to put his squad through their paces behind closed doors at Thorp Arch before unveiling them to the watching world.
United’s under-23s got a first taste of action at Guiseley on Tuesday before their senior counterparts took centre stage last night at Ewood Park - though United's number 9 was conspicuous by his absence
The trip to Blackburn Rovers signalled the glimmer of hope for the Whites’ playing staff that football – not just running – is finally on the horizon.
For the Argentine, there is no time to take the foot off the gas having followed up promotion from the Championship with a ninth-place finish in the Premier League.
“I think it’s getting tougher every year. It has been hard but it’s been good,” Bamford reflected on the club’s pre-season so far.
“What we did the first year with Marcelo, things have now grown on top of that so, rather than just be a standard pre-season, we push ourselves to get better.
“Normally you can come into pre-season and be a little bit off it and, by the end of pre-season, you’ll be ready. Here, you have to do a lot in the off-season to make sure you can start at the base you need to here, which is also important for reducing injuries.
“By the end of it, we’ll all be flying.”
Leeds will continue their friendly outings against Fleetwood Town tomorrow and Real Betis on Saturday.
A bumper clash with Dutch giants Ajax awaits next week in Amsterdam but there is no bigger focus than on August 14 when the Whites travel over the Pennines to arch rivals Manchester United.
Some of Bielsa’s squad managed to get away and enjoy a summer break while many remained at home amid Covid restrictions on travelling abroad.
Others, though, were representing their countries at this summer’s Euros - and in Kalvin Phillips’ case in particular it was all the way to the final.
After bagging 17 goals and seven assists, Bamford was unfortunate to miss out on an England call though, in hindsight, he may be thankful for the short rest before hitting the intensity button at Elland Road earlier this month.
“I think I had two weeks doing nothing,” United’s No 9 continued.
“After that, I stepped it up week by week with the gym and running.
“We obviously do murderball which is a good level of fitness, but it’s not the same as playing 90 minutes in a game.
“I feel like there’s nothing that can really replace that, so it’s important to get a few games under your belt before the season starts.
“It’s important because, in the Premier League, you’re playing against arguably the best teams in the world. I am looking forward to playing in Ajax’s stadium.”