LUKE Ayling has finally returned to training with Leeds United but head coach Paul Heckingbottom says it would be “a big ask” for the defender to feature in Saturday’s Championship clash at Norwich City.
Ayling has not featured for Leeds since injuring his ankle in the goalless draw at home to Nottingham Forest on New Year’s Day with the defender subsequently undergoing surgery to repair damage to his cartilage.
The 26-year-old returned to training at Thorp Arch this week along with Belgian full-back Laurens De Bock who has also been on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.
Providing an update on Ayling, Heckingbottom said: “We’ve had him back a couple of days already which is good.
“Touch wood, everything has been fine, it has been nice to have him there and nice to have his voice on the training ground and I know he is delighted just to be back training because it’s been a long road back for him.
“We’ve had him and Bocky back in for the last couple of days.”
Asked if either Ayling or De Bock could feature in Saturday’s clash at Carrow Road or in the following weekend’s season finale at home to QPR, Heckingbottom reasoned: “We’ll have to see. It’s a big ask when you are just thrown in and you have had two days training. They are probably a bit away from it.”
The return of Ayling and De Bock has whittled United’s previously substantial list of injuries down to two with striker Tyler Roberts and defender Conor Shaughnessy the only other first-team players out injured.
The duo appear unlikely to be joining Leeds on their well-documented post-season tour to Myanmar.
“They are just progressing as and when,” said Heckingbottom.
“From an ideal point of view, by the end of the season it would have been great to have had all of those back just before and getting minutes away on this trip and feeling part of it before they go away. Whether it happens or not, we will have to wait and see.”