STRIKER Patrick Bamford is back in normal training for Leeds United with head coach Marcelo Bielsa outlining the route back for his injured quintet that also includes Gaetano Berardi, Izzy Brown, Stuart Dallas and Barry Douglas.
Summer signing Bamford was thought to be facing around four months out after picking up a posterior cruciate ligament knee injury playing for United's under-23s in September but the striker made a return earlier than expected to score the only goal of the game as a second-half substitute in the 1-0 Championship success at Bolton Wanderers on December 15.
The £7m striker then suffered another blow in training with Bielsa having previously described the new injury as "similar to the one before but not as serious."
But Bielsa has now revealed that the forward returned to normal training on Thursday with the Whites head coach declaring that the 25-year-old will step up his workload next week before playing for United's under-23s the following week.
Bielsa then hopes to have Bamford ready for the first team and United's crucial Championship run in.
"Bamford started to train normally today," said Bielsa at Thursday's press conference ahead of Saturday's Championship clash at Rotherham United.
"He will increase the tempo next week and in about ten days he will play an under-23s game and he will be available for the first team.
"Bamford has been absent a long time, same as Izzy Brown."
Brown is one of four other players currently sidelined because of injury problems along with Berardi, Dallas and Douglas.
Dallas (stress fracture in foot) and Douglas (muscle) are also now back in training and described as "available" by Bielsa but the duo will now put through their paces for United's under-23s against Sheffield United on Monday with a view to then returning to the first team.
Berardi returned from a near three-month lay-off with a hamstring tendon rupture for United’s under-23s against Southampton on Monday but limped off and while scans revealed the fresh setback was not serious, Bielsa believes the defender also needs more game time with the club’s under-23s.
Brown, meanwhile, is continuing his gradual comeback from what is now more than a year out following the ACL injury that the Chelsea loanee picked up on loan at Brighton last January.
Brown has already been described as "fit" by Bielsa but the 22-year-old will not feature in Saturday's clash at Rotherham and will instead continue to gain minutes for United's under-23s.
"He (Brown) didn’t play for one year and he will need several games to be the player he was before he got injured," said Bielsa.
"This is usually the case for a player who misses one year of competition.
"He needs between six and eight games to reach his highest level.
"Dallas is available. Same for Douglas. They lack tempo of course and need to find the competition pace.
"Berardi was in the same situation as Dallas and Douglas. He played 45 minutes with the under-23s and it was hard for him to assimilate the game.
"Even if he didn’t get injured again, we know he will need more time to reach his best level.
"Dallas and Douglas will play with the under 23s next Monday so they will be able to compete for a position in the main team."