'It's that strict' - Leeds United youngster details Marcelo Bielsa's 'intense' Elland Road fitness regime

The Whites are known for their high intensity style of play under their Argentine head coach.

By Joe Urquhart
Monday, 5th April 2021, 4:00 pm
Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa. Pic: Getty
Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa. Pic: Getty

Leeds United youngster Niall Huggins has detailed Marcelo Bielsa's 'intense' Elland Road fitness regime.

The 20-year-old Thorp Arch academy product has been a regular feature in the Whites senior matchday squad amid injuries in the top flight this season.

Huggins was promoted to the Under-23s before the Covid-19 pandemic hit last year and is a weekly starter in Mark Jackson's development side.

The Wales Under-21s international was handed his Premier League bow at Arsenal in February and has become somewhat of a utility man for Leeds in the academy ranks, playing predominantly as a wing-back.

Following the step closer to Bielsa's senior squad over the past 18 months, Huggins has admitted the initial fitness requirements came as somewhat of a shock to the system.

"For me that first season [with the 23s] was a tough one. The fitness levels you have to get to are ridiculous," Huggins said.

"The summer after, it was hard because of COVID but programmes got sent through, we had to stick to them to make sure we get as fit as we can and for me it's just been about improving my fitness.

"I think the reason I went up to the 23s was my technical ability but to push that step forward at Leeds now you have to be able to run, you have to be able to do everything intensely, everything as fast as you can.

"Obviously they're really strict on your body fats and weight targets, we have to hit them all the time and if you're not then unfortunately you might end up not playing - it's that strict.

"They want you to be at the top of your game and for them that means they want you to be on target to keep the intensity up for the full 90 minutes."

Asked about the work that is being put in by players under Bielsa behind closed doors, Huggins said: "It all comes down from him through his staff. It's all the same sort of principles - everything has to be high intensity.

"A lot of it is down to how intense it all is. The training, the games, the amount you're running and your high speed - things like that.

"How you pass the ball. The way we work in training all improves that with the drills we do.

"The manager has helped me improve loads at Leeds and the style of football we're playing obviously helps the first team a lot and down to 23s level and throughout the academy, it's had an impact on us all and obviously I've improved a lot from it."