Leeds United make rare training ground move ahead of historic Wembley final

Georginio Rutter was among the Leeds United players who were involved in the club's media day on Monday -Credit:George Wood/Getty Images
Georginio Rutter was among the Leeds United players who were involved in the club's media day on Monday -Credit:George Wood/Getty Images

Wembley does not host Leeds United every year, or even every five years for that matter. It remains hallowed ground for the Whites that has only been visited twice in the last 30 years. It’s a big deal.

Preparations began on Thursday night after the demolition of Norwich City and only ramped up once it became clear Southampton would be their opponents on Friday evening. There were a few days of rest for the players, but training picked up again over the weekend.

There was a double session on Monday wrapped around a media function which summed up the efforts being made to ensure this occasion is marked. Press conferences are a regular, vital crutch for the working week and sit-downs with players are organised every so often, but mass invites like Monday’s are rare.

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LUTV, Sky Sports, BBC, Talksport, ITV, regional and national press gathered together on the indoor pitch at Thorp Arch awaiting the players on their break between sessions. There were even British Heart Foundation representatives there to do some CPR training with Sam Byram and Junior Firpo as part of their Every Minute Matters campaign.

The club recognises this is a major week in its recent history and moved to ensure as many supporters as possible can watch, listen and read the players’ thoughts over the next few days. It was refreshing to see such access and such organisation on such a scale.

The players also seemed only too willing to jump in with both feet. Patrick Bamford was prompt in concluding his allotted sit-down before some members of the media had even turned up, while captain Liam Cooper was another of those in early to set the tone.

While he has not played as much as he would have liked, Cooper remained a man in demand for the journalists gathered, looking to hear from the senior voice of the dressing room. The skipper, Ilia Gruev, Archie Gray, Georginio Rutter, Junior Firpo and Illan Meslier cut relaxed figures as they wandered into the indoor pitch, exchanging pleasantries and small talk with the journalists waiting.

The excitement for the game was clear. Wilfried Gnonto even admitted he wanted training to be done, so he could get his boots on that turf under the arch.

Ultimately, there were 14 players made available to preview this monumental match. It was an event which set the tone for Sunday and gave the players a crucial voice ahead of what will be the biggest crowd some of them ever play in front of.