Leeds United’s Adam Forshaw relieved to be back in the game after injury nightmare

LIVING the dream is a phrase which usually makes everyone of a Leeds United persuasion cringe given its tainted association with former chairman Peter Ridsdale.

WELCOME RETURN: Adam Forshaw, seen battling with Crewe's Luke Murphy, above, ended a near two-year wait to play again when he lined up at Elland Road on Tuesday night. Picture: Bruce Rollinson.

In speaking those very words amid the elation and sheer relief of completing his first competitive game for his club in some 697 days, midfielder Adam Forshaw could surely be excused.

It has been the longest of roads for the Liverpudlian, who turns 30 in October.

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Maintaining his fitness and well-being after a lengthy lay-off due to a serious hip injury would provide the best present he could wish for.

PROVING IT: Adam Forshaw battles for the ball for Middlesbrough against Burnley's George Boyd (right) at Turf Moor in December 2016, the last season he played in the English top-flight. Picture: Tim Goode/PA

His appearance for just over an hour in Tuesday’s 3-0 Carabao Cup victory over Crewe Alexandra was cathartic; his first since lining up in the Championship game at Charlton Athletic way back on September 28, 2019.

The world has changed since and it certainly has in the sporting realm for Forshaw, who professed to some ‘horrific’ times during his time out, which tested his mental fortitude.

It is why one midweek evening in late August – seemingly in a run-of-the-mill cup tie against lower-division opposition at Elland Road – meant so much.

Tuesday will hopefully be an occasion not just remembered for the presence of a staggering crowd of just over 34,000, but also for the fact that it marked the penning of the first page in the sustained return to action of a cultured player who is still more than capable of contributing for Leeds in their engrossing Premier League story.

THE LAST TIME: Adam Forshaw hadn't played for Leeds United since September 28, 2019 against Charlton Athletic in the Championship. Picture: Tony Johnson

Forshaw said: “It was amazing. I am just back living the dream and enjoying myself.

“Every day, I am smiling at training and starting to play games now and build fitness.

“It has been tough; I am not going to lie.

“It was something taken away from me and my biggest passion in the world. To be back, I am just pleased and relieved.”

The joy of seeing Forshaw back on the pitch is a pleasure not just exclusive to his family and friends, but also staff and team-mates who interact with him on a daily basis at the club’s Thorp Arch training ground, where he is a very popular figure.

Despite some difficult times, his positivity and professionalism invariably shone through and it is why so many individuals around the club were so thrilled to witness his successful return – not to mention the club’s supporters.

After some painstaking rehabilitation, Forshaw now has another gradient to climb as he seeks to become a regular in the club’s first-team plans again.

Encouragingly for his part, it is a mission that the person who matters in head coach Marcelo Bielsa clearly thinks he is capable of completing.

After Tuesday’s game, the Argentine spoke of the 29-year-old being ‘well prepared.’

Tellingly, Bielsa referenced the fact that he has the capabilities of ‘being a player who can shine’ if he stays fit and gets quickly up to speed with the demands of the top flight.

Evidence suggests that there is no reason why he cannot.

During former club Middlesbrough’s season in the Premier League in 2016-17, Forshaw was one player who acclimatised seamlessly from the Championship to the big time thanks to his prowess as a technically-accomplished footballer at a level where retaining possession is often nine-tenths of the law.

His early-season form even prompted some talk of a potential England call-up in some quarters.

Becoming an established first-teamer for Leeds again would suffice for Forshaw, this time around after what he has endured.

A nice guy he may unquestionably be, but his determination to do just that suggests a single-mindedness in that regard. Footballers ultimately exist to play and not be universally liked.

He will no doubt also be fully aware of his contractual situation as well, with Leeds being a club on the up that not too many will be wishing to leave in a hurry.

“I am not just here to make the numbers up, I want to start playing regularly again,” added Forshaw, whose deal expires next summer. “I understand it is going to be a long process and it has been a long process to get back here, but yes, I have aspirations to play again (regularly).

“I felt great and I feel really good. First and foremost, I’ve been pain free now for the whole of pre-season and I am gradually building my fitness.

“The manager, the staff and the physios have been brilliant with me, they have managed my loads.”

Progression, of course, in the Carabao Cup, will increase Forshaw’s immediate prospects of more game time and it is something in his thought process. He said: “There’s not many games until the final and we came in the second round and we will definitely be trying to go as far as we can. On a personal note, I want to play as many games as I can now.”

Charlie Cresswell, 19 – son of ex-Leeds United, Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United striker Richard – has signed a new four-year deal at Leeds until June 2025.