In a fortnight when Leeds United used squad rotation to combat the strain of their fixture list, Charlie Taylor was the only player who Uwe Rosler refused to rest.
That fact might highlight the absence of a spare left-back at Elland Road but it also underlines the physical prowess of a footballer who Rosler describes as “a machine”.
United’s head coach expected Taylor to feel the pace and grind to a halt against Sheffield Wednesday on Saturday. The 21-year-old confounded him by shining in the second half.
Much has been asked of Rosler’s team since the start of this month and more of Taylor than anyone else. The defender started and finished all four league games and completed 120 minutes of United’s League Cup defeat at Doncaster Rovers two weeks ago. He is likely to start at Derby County this weekend, almost the first name on Rosler’s teamsheet.
“I would mention Charlie Taylor,” Rosler said at the end of Saturday’s Yorkshire derby. “Charlie’s played all the minutes – all the minutes – and he’s a machine. How he pushes himself, I find it hard to come to terms with.
“I was thinking he would blow up (against Sheffield Wednesday) but he didn’t. He pushed on and pushed on.
“He made some wrong decisions on the ball in the first half but we spoke about that before the second half. After that he tried to get forward and put crosses in.
“He’s a pleasure to work with. This group are a pleasure to work with.”
In the final stages of a month which has passed in a flash, Rosler seems fairly happy with his lot. Leeds are yet to win a game but the club are unbeaten in the league with an identical record to Derby.
Lewis Cook completed a three-match ban at the weekend and is available for the visit to Pride Park, a comeback which should ease the strain on Rosler’s other midfielders.
In the 18-year-old’s absence, and with Alex Mowatt showing signs of fatigue last week, Rosler was forced to push Luke Murphy harder than he would like. Leeds wanted to put Murphy through a structured training programme following his knee operation in mid-July but the 25-year-old has completed almost as many competitive minutes as Cook.
He and Mowatt came off the bench to good effect against Sheffield Wednesday, increasing United’s momentum and helping to force an 1-1 draw through Chris Wood’s equaliser.
“We’ve had to get Luke fit by using him in matches which is not optimal,” Rosler said. “But our size of squad doesn’t allow us to train him up before he’s ready to play. We’ve had to use him already because of the red card for Cooky.
“But it was perfect timing for Luke on Saturday. They were sitting so deep. We needed someone with more calmness on the ball and that’s why I made the change.
“It’s horses for courses. I’ve had to juggle things around to find a team who give us a chance to get a win or get a result.”
Murphy took the place of Kalvin Phillips, the teenager midfielder who thrived during last Wednesday’s 2-2 draw at Bristol City but found Saturday’s derby more difficult to control.
Rosler warmed to Phillips during pre-season and was confident enough about the 18-year-old to start him in back-to-back away fixtures at Reading and Bristol.
Despite a tougher afternoon against Sheffield Wednesday, Rosler said the midfielder had coped well enough since the start of the season to “know that he’s going to be a player.”
“Both midfielders (Phillips and Tom Adeyemi) had to cover a lot of ground at Bristol City,” Rosler said. “Both of them found it hard to start with on Saturday. They were a bit slow mentally.
“They thought they had more time than they did but both players grew into the game and after 10 or 15 minutes, Kal got to grips with the tempo. He got the ball down and made better decisions. For a young player to come through this schedule means he’s mentally strong. He’s a strong one and he’s not doubting himself. He knows he’s good and he knows he’s going to be a player if he continues to work hard.”