Marcelo Bielsa insisted he would continue to treat Patrick Bamford’s injury comeback with caution despite the striker cutting a month off his expected recovery date.
Bamford appeared on Leeds United’s bench on Saturday for the first time since snapping a knee ligament in September, returning several weeks ahead of the January timeframe set for him by the club’s medical staff.
United anticipated that their £7m summer signing from Middlesbrough would be missing for four months but Bamford appeared for the Under-23s in a Premier League Cup game two weeks ago and was deemed fit enough to feature in Bielsa’s 18-man squad for a 2-1 win over Queens Park Rangers at the weekend.
Bamford, who suffered his injury by landing awkwardly in a development-squad game, has not played in a first-team match since a 0-0 draw with Middlesbrough in August and the forward is still to make a league start for Leeds having been kept out of Bielsa’s line-up by the form of Kemar Roofe.
United are edging towards their Christmas schedule, when the club will contest four matches in eight days, and Bamford was aiming to be an active part of that run of fixtures.
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Bielsa, though, is preparing to ease him back in, saying: “He’s a very important player but it’s one thing to be fit and another to recover his performances.
“I think he’ll need some time to get to the level he was at before he got injured but we’re very happy to have him back so he can start the process of getting to his level sooner than we were expecting.”
Izzy Brown - United’s loan signing from Chelsea who is close to completing his recovery from ACL surgery - did not feature in the squad on Saturday despite Bielsa declaring him available beforehand.
The midfielder has been stepping up his fitness with Leeds’ Under-23s and the development squad are in action again at Burnley on Tuesday afternoon.