It has been 16 months and 499 days since Adam Forshaw was last spotted in a Leeds United shirt.
The midfielder has endured a horrendous period out with a hip problem but he still hopes to be fit before the Premier League season ends.
For the former Middlesbrough man, it would be a big reward for someone who has had to sacrifice so much. When he hobbled off against Charlton last term, top-flight football was not a reality quite yet.
The club’s transfer record was still the £18m they spent on Rio Ferdinand in 2000 and dare we say it, but social distancing didn’t exist either.
So much has happened to Forshaw, Leeds and indeed across the globe since he last took to the field. Though, if you believe the player himself, there could soon be a light at the end of the tunnel.
Forshaw is a tenacious figure and despite the Whites achieving promotion last season they missed him greatly. His running between each box are desirable qualities and to Marcelo Bielsa, he is highly rated.
“He defends similar to Kalvin, he attacks similar to Klich,” the Argentine noted in October 2019. Understandably, you can see why Bielsa lusts after his return.
Forshaw is like very few players in the Leeds squad but over a year since he first got injured, the manager has finally found a remedy to his hole in the squad.
United’s midfield has been lacklustre at times this season. Pascal Struijk has struggled to fill in for Kalvin Phillips when he’s been absent at the base and Mateusz Klich has had a difficult term. The Pole has scored just once since the second game of the campaign for example.
Thus, when Bielsa witnessed Stuart Dallas rampage forward and find the net against Leicester last weekend, he will have raised a wry smile. At long last, he’d found someone who, in the words of the great man himself, defends like Phillips and attacks like Klich.
Dallas won their Players’ Player of the Season in 2019/20 and he’s not let up since Leeds won promotion. Once again, he’s proven to be a pillar of versatility but he’s now finding a home for himself in the middle of the park. Like Forshaw, the £10k-per-week earner possesses boundless energy and provides as much to the attack as he does in defence.
Leeds Live reporter Beren Cross wrote after the Leicester win: “The performance in central midfield any doubters needed to see. Wonderful, especially in the first half. Those third-man runs from deep caused chaos and eventually forced the equaliser. So dependable in both halves of the pitch, with and without the ball.”
Cast your mind back over a year and that could quite easily describe a performance from Forshaw. As Leeds brushed Brendan Rodgers’ team aside, Dallas broke up the play by making two interceptions and producing four fouls.
Speaking earlier in the season, Darren Fletcher aired his views on the Northern Irishman, hailing his ability to play in a host of positions.
“The midfielders can go everywhere, he wants interaction, he wants wide players coming in, he wants midfielders running beyond. He (Dallas) played like a normal midfielder so credit to him to be tactically that versatile, it’s perfect for somebody like Bielsa,” Fletcher said.
A quick look at the stats will tell you how similar the two players are. In 2020/21, Dallas has won 2.2 tackles per game, made 1.3 interceptions and produced 1.1 shots per match.
Reflect on the 2018/19 campaign and Forshaw also won 2.2 tackles an outing. He managed 0.8 shots on average too.
It’s taken a while for Bielsa to find his ideal solution in midfield but it looks as though he’s finally stumbled upon something worth sticking to.