Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear on Championship restart, contracts latest and Mateusz Klich's lockdown miles

The YEP exclusively brings you Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear's weekly programme notes.

Friday, 29th May 2020, 5:50 am
BUOYANT MOOD: Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear. Picture by JPI Media.
BUOYANT MOOD: Leeds United chief executive Angus Kinnear. Picture by JPI Media.

The footballing world has concluded that the time for extended debate has passed and that we are now in a position to return to play.

The Bundesliga continue to lead the way in demonstrating that the sporting challenges of Covid-19 are surmountable and the Premier League have voted for a return to contact training and a start date of June 17, with the expectation that the Championship will follow shortly after.

The EFL and the FA should be applauded for confirming that the principle of sporting merit honouring relegation and promotion was the solution in the event of curtailment.

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However, it was always a dramatically inferior alternative to completing the season on the pitch.

At a less macro level, the positive reaction of Blackburn midfielder Elliot Bennett to being one of three players testing positive (out of 1,030 players and staff in the Championship), is to be commended.

Demonstrating the positive progress the game is making in managing this horrid disease he commented: “It’s no big deal at all. It’s the people who are seriously ill in hospital that we need to worry about, not footballers who are fit and healthy.”

From a Leeds United perspective, this week’s return to small group training was a significant step forward in our endeavours to complete business on the pitch.

The mood at Thorp Arch was typically buoyant and whilst the protocols were seriously adhered to, the players were clearly relaxed and feeling confident that they are operating in the safest environment possible.

Whilst our pre-COVID run of five victories without conceding a goal is a solid foundation to build upon, nobody at Thorp Arch is under any illusions of the magnitude of the task that lies before us.

The singular nature of this circumstance necessitates an aberrant approach to the unique technical challenges.

Initially our performance team have had to manage maintaining players’ fitness remotely as they trained at home.

Bespoke individual plans were supplemented with centrally monitored GPS tracking, unwittingly proving that Mateusz Klich was the only man in Britain to cover more lockdown miles than Dominic Cummings.

The coaches have then had to devise individual drills to recapture the players touch and simulate match environments with no opposition and no contact.

Our nutritionists have worked to deliver menu plans without the luxury of our training ground kitchen and restaurant and the medical team have had to overlay complex Covid protocols on top of their day to day roles of rehabilitation and treatment.

However the quality of back room team we have assembled at Thorp Arch over the last two years, under the leadership of Marcelo and Rob Price (Head of Medicine and Performance), is now truly paying dividends and I am confident we have the expertise and attitude to embrace the complexity and overcome the obstacles.

Off the pitch, Victor has turned his focus away from his lockdown pogonotrophy to managing the, previously unlegislated for, issues around extending loan player contracts and retaining options for permanent signings beyond their original expiry date.

Currently we are finding that the majority of clubs are working to the spirit of the game and not seeking to unscrupulously profit from the pandemic.

Critically, we will need to extend the pragmatic and committed methodology we are showing in the preparatory phase to how we approach competitive matches themselves.

These will be played in higher temperatures on harder grounds and at unfamiliar kick-off times.

Opposition will undoubtedly return from the impromptu break in various levels of fitness and with differing degrees of motivation.

This, combined with unknown impact of the removal of crowds, (which seemingly has lessened the significance of home advantage in the resumption of the Bundesliga) is likely to lead to some unexpected results.

Fortunately we have the wit and guile of Marcelo to navigate our ship through these uncharted waters.