Leeds United: Soft-tissue injuries becoming a concern for coach Heckingbottom

Concerned Leeds United coach, Paul Heckingbottom.
Concerned Leeds United coach, Paul Heckingbottom.
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HEAD COACH Paul Heckingbottom said Leeds United would look to address the club’s current problem with soft tissue injuries with Eunan O’Kane and Matthew Pennington joining seven other injured players on the sidelines.

Heckingbottom has been able to welcome Kemar Roofe back to training this week but the Whites head coach still has another nine players out with O’Kane and Pennington both picking up fresh injuries in Tuesday night’s 2-0 loss at Championship hosts Fulham.

Injured, Eunan O'Kane. PIC: Tony Johnson

Injured, Eunan O'Kane. PIC: Tony Johnson

O’Kane strained his groin in the 23rd minute and had to be substituted for Kalvin Phillips while Everton loanee Pennington then picked up a calf strain in the latter stages of the second half as United finished the game with ten men having used all three substitutes.

Asked if a recent spate of so-called soft tissue injuries as opposed to impact injuries were down to bad luck or the need for more attention on the fitness and physical recovery side of things, Heckingbottom reasoned: “Probably both. You expect it because we came in and we changed training under an intensity that the stats show in terms of the performances on the pitch as well with a lot more high intensity runs so you would expect that.

“The weather didn’t help, we had a spell where we were indoors and outdoors which sometimes can cause it.

“But it’s something we want to look at because of the way we want to play going forwards, we want to address that because as a staff and as a team, you want to be as in control as possible of soft tissue injuries.

Returning from injury, Kemar Roofe. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Returning from injury, Kemar Roofe. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe

“Impact injuries are totally different but soft tissue injuries, we want to be really on top of that and have really conditioned, robust players who can cope with the demands of how we want to play and this league.”

Leeds are also still without Adam Forshaw (calf), Liam Cooper (torn thigh muscle), Andy Lonergan (stiff neck), Laurens De Bock (hamstring), Luke Ayling (ankle), Conor Shaughnessy (ankle) and Tyler Roberts (shin), who are all recovering from injuries.

But striker Roofe has now returned to training having missed the last six weeks with a calf injury picked in the 2-2 draw at Derby County on February 21.

“We had him back last week but it was a bit too soon to involve him so Sunday he started and it was too soon to involve him Tuesday and we wanted to make sure we got as much work into him as possible.

“What we hoped was initially a three-week injury, ended up rumbling on into five or six so it’s important to build him up to make sure he can have an impact when he gets on the pitch.”