Why post-op Leeds United star is among group at Leeds Beckett for pre-season day one

Jesse Marsch's Leeds United players reported to Leeds Beckett University's Carnegie School of Sport this morning for the first day of pre-season.

By Graham Smyth
Monday, 27th June 2022, 4:59 pm

Not all of the players turned up today - those who were involved in international football at the end of last season have been given an extra week off on holiday before returning next Monday. New signings Rasmus Kristensen and Brenden Aaronson are scheduled to start the next chapter of their club careers then, along with Diego Llorente and, if they are still Leeds players, Raphinha and Kalvin Phillips.

Among those pictured walking through the doors of the university's £45m facility was Luke Ayling, who went under the knife for a knee problem at the end of the 2021/22 campaign and was expected to be out for up to four months. The defender initially damaged his knee last September at Newcastle United and although after a minor clean up operation he returned to action, his suspension following a red card at Arsenal late in the season allowed him to have the joint fully fixed in surgery.

Ayling's presence on the first day back is no indicator of an imminent return or a recovery ahead of schedule, however. Even players with long-term injuries like Stuart Dallas, who had surgery on a fractured femur and will be out for the majority of the upcoming season, will go through the mandatory day one testing. Head of performance and medicine Rob Price and his team are putting players through a series of health checks, including cardiac screens, weigh-ins, blood checks, body composition measurements, eye exams and asthma screening tests so a player's ability to run does not preclude him from involvement. Players’ visual processing is also tested.

There will be other activities, physical tests that give the club's medical department and sports science experts their baseline data from which they can monitor a player's fitness levels and ascertain where he should be in terms of capability when returning from injuries this season, from which the likes of Ayling will be excused as they continue their rehabilitation.

The right-back, Stuart Dallas and Adam Forshaw were on all the injury list at the end of last season. Patrick Bamford, whose 2021/22 campaign was ravaged by a series of injuries, including an ankle problem, a quad strain and plantar fasciitis, was at Beckett today having had several weeks to rest and recovery from his foot issues. The striker is expected to lead the line again for Marsch this season, with the support of another senior striker yet to be signed by director of football Victor Orta.

One of Orta’s new faces was present today however. Marc Roca arrived to meet many of his new team-mates for the first time, accompanied by German defender Robin Koch, now preparing for his third season at Elland Road.

DAY ONE - Luke Ayling reported back with the rest of group one for the first day of Leeds United's pre-season testing at Leeds Beckett University. The right-back is recovering from knee surgery. Pic: Getty