Luke Ayling provides injury update amid praise for Leeds United transfer strategy

Leeds United defender Luke Ayling is feeling ‘strong’ as he recovers from a knee operation.

Tuesday, 26th July 2022, 4:51 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th July 2022, 4:53 pm

The 30-year-old underwent surgery before the Whites’ 2021-2022 season had concluded after a red card against Arsenal saw him suspended for the rest of term.

Days before United sealed their Premier League status with a victory against Brentford, Ayling went under the knife, with a recovery period of two to four months forecast.

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The full-back has stayed home as his team-mates took in a tour of Australia, claiming a win against Brisbane Road, a draw against Crystal Palace and a defeat to Aston Villa.

Meanwhile, back at Thorp Arch, Ayling has been working individually to progress towards a return to play – which won’t happen until the autumn.

But the experienced vice-captain has worked out the best way to stay positive while unable to play the football he loves.

"My family is a massive part of it. You spend a lot of hours on your own in the gym but you go home and your wife, kids and dogs are there,” Ayling said.

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 25: Luke Ayling of Leeds applauds the fans after the Premier League match between Crystal Palace and Leeds United at Selhurst Park on April 25, 2022 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Craig Mercer/MB Media/Getty Images)

"That is how I keep my mental health nice and strong. When I got my first big injury, I found it hard as I didn't know how to deal with it.

"Now that I have had a few injuries, I know how to deal with it and come back stronger."

This summer, United have signed Danish right-back Rasmus Kristensen from RB Salzburg and, when Ayling returns to fitness, the pair will challenge for a place in Jesse Marsch’s back line.

Kristensen is one of seven signings secured by Leeds this summer, joining Brenden Aaronson, Darko Gyabi, Luis Sinisterra, Tyler Adams, Marc Roca and Sonny Perkins on the Whites’ roster for their third season in the top flight.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - APRIL 02: Luke Ayling of Leeds United clears the ball during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Southampton at Elland Road on April 02, 2022 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Marc Atkins/Getty Images)

Ayling believes that the arrivals will have a bigger impact than the departure of key players Kalvin Phillips and Raphinha.

"I hope we have a good season, we have signed a lot of new players," said Ayling.

"We lost two of our most important players but we have signed well and our squad is better this year and hopefully we can have a good season.

"I am just trying to get back fit as soon as I can. I am excited to see all the new lads and how they get on."

While working his way back to full strength, Ayling has been enjoying watching the Women’s European Championship, hosted by venues across England including nearby Bramall Lane and the New York Stadium.

On Wednesday, England pulled off a dramatic comeback victory against Spain to seal passage to a semi-final against Sweden in Sheffield on Tuesday night.

"It is great,” Ayling said.

"I watched the game on Wednesday night and the standard is really good. It is great to see the women in that fight and getting their chance.”

"On a personal level, for somebody who has got a daughter, it is great to see that in a few years time there are going to be more chances for these ladies to come through and have a full-time job in football.”

One of the club’s longest-serving players, Ayling has made himself right at home during his six years at Elland Road.

"People are lovely up here. Everybody is so lovely and friendly. I see myself as a Yorkshireman now, my little girl was born here,” he said.

"I love it around the city, we live nearby, and I just love it up here."