Leeds United department chief reveals plan for Monday and coaching schedule as players return

Leeds United's promotion charge begins on Monday, not on the pitch but in the medical rooms of Leeds Beckett University's Carnegie School of Sport.
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And the job of greeting the first group of players at the £45m facility will not fall to a head coach, as it never tends to, but to Rob Price and his team. The head of medicine and performance is rubbing his hands at the prospect of getting another pre-season underway. This is his fifth at Leeds United since a move from Hull City, where he spent five years in the same role.

Even during the Marcelo Bielsa era, when the head coach was so heavily involved in so many aspects of life at the club, day one was left to Price, the medical staff and fitness coaches. The preparations for Monday began at the start of the year and negotiations have been taking place ever since as to what the day will actually look like.

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"The planning actually begins about six months prior," Price tells the YEP.

"People like Rishi Dhand [club doctor], Henry McStay [first team lead physio], Tom Robinson [first team sports scientist] and Daryl Carter [first team physio] are all heavily involved. We do study and change what we will be testing for and measuring and they all have to come to me and present what it is they want to test or measure. They have to justify it, because it has to be effective and useful - for example some things might not be practically measurable during the season, but only once a year."

What Leeds set out to do on day one is not just creating benchmarks for strength and fitness, so that players can be monitored and returned to their 'levels' after injuries, but checking for underlying health concerns. Players undergo heart screening. Scans for Myocarditis - inflammation of the heart muscle, usually following a virus - have become ever-more important in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Scanning for imbalances and checking hip mobility is vital in a sport that requires quick rotations of the body. Players also see an optician. They have bone scans. Blood work. The lot.

It's a busy day and requires a tight schedule.

"Every player will need to have their eyesight tested, for example, and that might take 15 minutes. You don't want to waste time and there is a lot to get through so while a player is in there, others are being tested for something else in another room. Tom Robinson spends countless hours on a spreadsheet, planning who will be in which room, with whom and for how long," said Price.

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DAY ONE - Rob Price, Leeds United's head of medicine and performance, and his team will welcome the first group of players back for pre-season testing on Monday. Pic: GettyDAY ONE - Rob Price, Leeds United's head of medicine and performance, and his team will welcome the first group of players back for pre-season testing on Monday. Pic: Getty
DAY ONE - Rob Price, Leeds United's head of medicine and performance, and his team will welcome the first group of players back for pre-season testing on Monday. Pic: Getty

"Then I come along and tell him so and so isn't coming and ruin the whole thing for him."

If it feels like the 2022/23 season has only just finished, it's because a mere 33 days have passed since the game against Spurs at Elland Road. Clubs like Norwich City, who spent last season in the Championship, completed their campaign on May 8, three weeks prior to Leeds' last fixture.

"You might have seen other clubs going back to training over the past week," said Price.

"We finished three weeks later than teams in the Championship last season and they might already be back but we needed to give our players their holiday and their rest. We did send them away with fitness programmes, however, and they have been sending screen grabs back to us to be logged and checked."

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Supporters will not have missed the fact that several of their players have combined their holidays abroad with football training. Archie Gray headed to Dubai to work with former Leeds United physio Chris Bowman at Elite Sports Performance, following in the footsteps of Liam Cooper who spent time there during the World Cup break. Joe Gelhardt and Sam Greenwood trained at Mykonos Performance, which counts Daniel James among its previous visitors. Greenwood has also spent time working on his finishing in Marbella.

How do these trips tally with Leeds' summer plans for the players?

"It can be difficult," said Price.

"But our players are pretty good, they tell us what they're doing so we can vet the people they're working with and we know they're good people. There are some people running these types of camps who we wouldn't want our players working with because they're not qualified. So we would rather players were just up front and open about it and tell us what it is so we can make sure it's the right thing for them."

Some - those carrying injuries at the end of last season - have not been able to make their escape from Price and his team this summer, not if their rehabilitation has been ongoing, but he expects those who did to turn up in fine form on Monday.

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"They're always pleased to see each other and be back around each other again," he said.

"Footballers have changed over the years. They don't just turn up and do as they're told and get off again, they're actually interested in how they measure up, they want to see their data and understand it. They come back in such good shape - it's no longer a case of having them run up hills in week one to lose two stone - they come back and post good results."

Monday afternoon's schedule includes the beep test, bleep test or yo-yo test. Whatever name you want to give it, there is a universal acknowledgement that it's not a nice thing. Running between two lines, attempting to finish the distance before the bleep sounds, with the pace picking up, is no sane person's idea of fun.

"The players are competitive about everything, so it definitely plays a part with the yo-yo test," said Price.

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"They actually drive each other on. We've had players doing it on their own, maybe internationals coming back late or new signings, and they don't score as highly as when they do it with the group."

That test, and a 1km time trial the players have been instructed to complete on Saturday, will give Price and his team more data and more of an idea on where players' fitness lies right now.

On Tuesday, the running will begin in earnest. Players will be back on the grass as fitness work begins. The club is yet to announce who the head coach will be, although by now it is obvious that Daniel Farke has stood out during a rigorous and thorough interview process and is the leading candidate. 49ers Enterprises want to get their takeover ratified by the EFL and concluded prior to unveiling a manager, although the optics of a squad rocking up to the training ground without a boss in sight might be such that they consider their stance over the weekend. In any case, coaching staff, as in the technical bods who start to seed tactical ideas and shape the team in pre-season, are not scheduled to get involved until the back end of week one.

The Championship season that lies ahead is a long one. Forty-six league games await, although Price says that changes little about the preparations.

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"When the season starts players who are playing get their loading through games and then recovery days during the week, the challenge is making sure you get the work into the players who might not be playing in the games," he added.

Before Leeds kick a ball in anger on August 6 a lot of work will take place, building on all the work already done at Thorp Arch this summer. Price can't wait.

"I'm always excited about starting," he told the YEP.

"I'm looking forward to seeing the players. I always look forward to it, just like I look forward to the first game. I just want to get to the first game and get it out of the way and then we're off and hopefully we can build the foundations that allow us to have a successful season."