Leeds United: Varney plans a short break before stepping up training

Luke Varney.
Luke Varney.
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Luke Varney will restrict himself to a cursory break from close-season training as he looks to make a greater impression on Leeds United in his second year at Elland Road.

The winger has revealed the extent of the strict summer fitness plan laid out by the club’s conditioning coaches and welcomed a “complete overhaul” at Thorp Arch in the aftermath of Brian McDermott’s appointment as manager.

United’s squad were sent away on holiday immediately after their 2-1 win at Watford on May 4, a result which ended a gruelling and unrewarding season, and took with them detailed instructions for the next two months after meeting with fitness coaches Jon Goodman and Matt Pears 48 hours earlier.

McDermott, who replaced Neil Warnock as boss on April 12, highlighted the need for an improvement in the fitness levels of his first-team players after United were beaten by Birmingham City during his third game in charge.

The 52-year-old said: “We’ve played three games in a week and it was a big ask. Next season we want to make sure that we play three games in a week and it’s not a big ask.”

Varney said: “I’ve not been in the game that long, 10 years as a pro, but it’s changed since I first started.

“We used to get three weeks off but you now get a week with your family and then you are back at it.

“You have to be active now because we have our day-by-day plan and diet sheets to keep to. We’ve really got to come back in good shape.

“The gaffer will know if we haven’t done right during the summer and that obviously doesn’t bode well for the start of the season.

“It’s a complete change and a complete overhaul and that’s something you need sometimes – a bit of a freshen up.”

Varney – a £200,000 signing from Portsmouth in July of last year – came in for criticism during his first season as a United player but exerted greater influence towards the end of the term, scoring five times after Christmas. Both Warnock and McDermott persevered with him and two headers from the 30-year-old handed McDermott a 2-1 win over Sheffield Wednesday in his first game as manager.

In a sign of the pressure on United’s campaign, the victory against Wednesday eased growing fears of relegation at Elland Road and prompted a second win over Burnley three days later.

The results restored calm in the final throes of a campaign badly affected by a protracted takeover and prolonged doubt about Warnock’s position as boss.

Warnock made Varney one of his main transfer targets last summer and claimed that the former Blackpool forward would help to fill the void created by the £3million sale of Robert Snodgrass to Norwich City, a sale agreed in the same week as Varney’s move to Elland Road. Varney struggled to make an impression until January when his breakaway goal inspired an FA Cup fourth-round win over Tottenham Hotspur.

Varney, who has just 12 months to run on his deal, said: “On a personal note it’s been a bit on and off and it’s been like that the last couple of years.

“I’m excited about next season.

“I think with everything that has gone on this season it has ended on a positive note.

“Personally I pick out little bits that will give me confidence.”

Paul Heckingbottom watched on at Bramall Lane.

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