Noel Whelan admits that he is worried about the players’ fitness as Leeds United prepare to return to training next week.

The former Leed striker and lifelong fan of the club, speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, revealed his fears over whether the players can reach the required fitness levels in reduced training sessions.

The EFL’s ‘return to training’ draft protocols, as relayed by the BBC, state that training will be limited to 75 minutes and will take place in groups of five or less, with no tackling or contact.

Leeds confirmed on Wednesday that while Thorp Arch is currently only open for individual fitness sessions, small group activity could potentially start from next week.

However, having seen the players spend two months training in self-isolation, Whelan is concerned about their return to the training ground.

Asked if he thought the players would be able to build up the required fitness from reduced sessions, Whelan told Football Insider: “It depends on the intensity and the players themselves – we saw Augustin get pushed too hard and get injured.

“You’re going into a real intensive atmosphere and environment when you start playing games and you’ve got to be very, very carefully, individually and collectively as a team, it’s got to be structured and it’s got to be managed right.

“Yes, the intensity has got to be there to fulfil these fixtures that are remaining and try to get the best results possible but it’s going to be very, very crammed in and that’s a worry on players’ fitness and injuries you may pick up.

Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa hunches over

“Leeds United play with a very intense purpose about their game, closing down on the ball, but it’s about trying to manage the players at the same time.

“You can’t always get what you require, it’s going to take a bit of time but they don’t really have time on their side, unfortunately.”

In other Leeds United news, it can be REVEALED that a near-£10million signing may be delayed for three months.