Adam Forshaw is targeting an ahead-of-schedule return to full training next week but admits the form of Mateusz Klich is likely to consign him to a spell on Leeds United’s bench.
Forshaw resumed outdoor work at Thorp Arch on Tuesday and will aim to step up his comeback with Marcelo Bielsa’s squad in the days leading up to Leeds’ next Championship game at Millwall a week tomorrow.
The midfielder is a month into his recovery from foot surgery after being diagnosed with a damaged bone on the eve of the new season.
Forshaw, who impressed under Bielsa throughout the summer and looked set to start the club’s opening league game against Stoke City, was initially told that he could be missing for up to 10 weeks.
His comeback will significantly strength Bielsa’s midfield options but Forshaw said he was realistic about his chances of regaining a place quickly after praising the “unbelievable” resurgence of Klich.
Klich stepped into replace Forshaw against Stoke and scored three times last month, reviving a career with United which was in doubt after an unsuccessful first season at Elland Road.
His performances earned him a recall to Poland’s national squad and Klich could end a four-year gap since his last cap in tonight’s UEFA Nations League clash with Italy.
Forshaw conceded that he had a fight on his hands, saying: “It would be very difficult (to get back in). He’s been unbelievable and fair play to him. It’s an example to young players and anybody, really. You get a chance and you take it.
“He’ll be the first one to say that he probably wasn’t going to play at the start of the season but he’s took his chance with both hands. Ultimately it only increases the standard of the whole squad. Don’t get me wrong, I want to play every week but if I’m sat there waiting in the wings it can only be a good thing for the team.”
Forshaw cost Leeds £3m from Middlesbrough in January but a series of injuries, including a persistent calf problem, have prevented him from getting his career going.
His latest setback was suffered less than a fortnight before the start of this term.
“We were in a tough training session and I stepped a bit funny, thinking it was a really sharp pain,” he said. “The next morning I had a scan and X-rays and they found a bone had snapped between by big toe and my foot.
“The first thought was around an eight-to-10 week injury but I’m five weeks tomorrow and I’ve been training for a couple of days so I’ve shaved a little bit of time of and everything seems to be going well. I hate being injured but you’ve got to take the positives.
“I haven’t got a set day to say ‘I’m back’ but I’ve worked hard enough to hopefully go into full training next week. I’m not ruling myself in or out. That’s above my head and for the manager to decide.”
Forshaw watched from the sidelines last month as Leeds climbed to the top of the table by taking 14 points from their first six games. The run earned Bielsa the Championship’s manager of the month award and striker Kemar Roofe the players’ version.
Bielsa turned down the opportunity of an official photograph with his trophy yesterday, reluctant to make too much of it so early in the season.
“I don’t know him too well personally but I don’t think he’ll be too bothered in all honesty,” Forshaw said. “We’re pleased we’re top of the league but it’s a start and I think he’ll say the same.
“We can improve a lot so to be given an award after four or five weeks, I don’t think he’ll be too fussed.”
Forshaw and defender Luke Ayling spent yesterday afternoon at the Leeds General Infirmary’s Congenital Heart Unit, meeting children on the ward.
Leeds recently announced a year-long partnership with the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund, a local charity which supports children and adults with congenital heart disease.
“It’s tough here and from mine and Bill’s point of view, it’s the least we can do to come and show our support,” Forshaw said. “I’ve got a six-and-half month old son and I’ve been into see two seven-month old boys who are onto their second surgeries. It brings you a little closer to what they might be feeling.”