Pascal Struijk makes Leeds United fitness vow and declares aim for second season in Premier League
Pascal Struijk has opened up on his aims for a second season in the Premier League and says Leeds United will be the fittest team in the division upon their return.
Struijk only made his Whites debut in the Championship clash at home to Hull City of December 2019 but the centre-back bagged 27 Premier League outings last season upon United's top-flight return.
The 21-year-old is competing with three internationals for a Leeds centre-back spot in Spain's Diego Llorente, Germany's Robin Koch and Scotland's Whites captain Liam Cooper.
Struijk admits holding down a first team berth is a difficult task but the former Netherlands youth international is hoping to add to his tally of top flight outings en route to bettering United's superb ninth-placed finish of last term.
Already in the thick of a 'heavy' pre-season, Struijk is also confident his side will have a fitness advantage on everybody else.
Opening up on his progress at Leeds so far and his aims for the 2021-22 Premier League campaign, Struijk told LUTV: "I did look back at most of the games, saw some highlights. I am really pleased with how the season went and I am happy with my progress so far.
“Like last year, I want to try to get myself into the team and improve even more, then play as many games as possible.
“There are three other great players (at centre-back) so it’s really hard to get yourself in the team when you get there it’s even harder to stay there.
“We finished really high last year, it was a really good season from us. Everyone wants to do better so hopefully we can do that.”
Reflecting on United's return to pre-season training - and testing at Leeds Beckett University - Struijk said: "The testing is good to see where your body is right now and then progress through the season further.
“It’s good knowing how much you have done throughout the summer, how your body has been, what changes have happened to your body.
“I always try and do some (over the summer). In the first couple of weeks not much, you try and relax your body for a bit then after you need to get back to it.
“Loads of running, little bit of fitness, to make sure you come back and be super fit.
“Our pre-season is way heavier than the normal season because when we do it and get back to the Premier League, we are fit and ready to go, fitter than everyone else.”
Leeds will kick off their second season back in the Premier League in just over four weeks time with a trip to arch rivals Manchester United on Saturday, August 14.
The Whites returned to pre-season training and testing earlier this month and will take in their first friendly of the summer away at Guiseley on Tuesday, July 27.
"It’s been good seeing everyone again," said Struijk.
“Seeing the staff, seeing everyone, I’ve had a big smile on my face.
“It’s been a long time so it has been great. Everyone comes back with a smile, so for everyone, it’s great to be back and let’s just have a great time!”
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Thank you Laura Collins