Leeds United took the first step back into Thorp Arch as a side yesterday. It’s been closed for team training since March, in mothballs as part of the lockdown of football caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Monday’s visit came on the back of players returning at specific times during the last week to use the running track at Thorp Arch. It is the first step of many that will need to be taken before football can even begin to look anything like it was before it was shut down.
In an interview with BBC Radio Leeds’ Adam Pope, captain Cooper gave an insight into just what training was like on that first day back. It was a sight that fans have been itching to see as the Whites ramp it up ready for a promotion push.
The fans eagerness is matched by the players. One of the things that Cooper stressed was just that, saying: “As a group, we are just itching to get back. We’ve been able to train in small groups today, a group of five. There was the back four and a midfielder in there, in our group this morning.”
He went on to say that the atmosphere, after being apart for what was around a two-month stretch, was electric. Commenting on what it was like, he added: “All the lads was buzzing just being able to kick a ball with your mates again…with the lads again. Obviously it’s going to get more and more and hopefully not too long. I can’t believe I’m saying this but we’ll get to do murderball.”
That brought a laugh out of Popey, Leeds United’s murderball sessions are the stuff of legend. However, despite the time apart and not being in proper training, Cooper was also surprised at what he saw. Focusing on this he pointed out: “I was quite surprised at the standard to be fair considering the lads hadn’t really been able to do technical work for a while. The delivery was good, passing was good and that lads have come back in unbelievable shape. I think the fitness coaches are surprised at how good a shape we’ve come back in.”
One thing that has paid dividends is the dedication to the individual training that they have put in whilst in lockdown. On this, Cooper reveals: “We’ve put ourselves in a good place to be able to start off with the tactical side as opposed to getting fitness again because we’ve maintained that throughout this period.”
Starting off on the tactical aspects, brushing up their skills might just be that one step ahead that the Whites need to maintain as they look towards a hopeful return to the Premier League for the first time in 16 years.