Few have been on the roller-coaster journey Adam Forshaw has experienced over the last two years but the 30-year-old midfielder appears to be finally on the right track – and his future is set to be sorted in the coming days. Forshaw’s return in the 1-0 defeat against Southampton on October 16, 2021 marked his first league appearances for a staggering 748 days, with a hip injury suffered against Charlton on September 28, 2019 keeping him sidelined for 25 months.
But in a true test of Marcelo Bielsa’s faith in him and Forshaw’s mental strength to never give up, the former Middlesbrough man has returned to be a regular for the Whites this campaign in the Premier League. Not only that, but he has also been one of the club’s standout performers despite his lengthy layoff, slotting in the midfield superbly and more recently deputising for the injured Kalvin Phillips in front of the defence.
His composure on the ball, excellent pressing game and ability to pick out a pass fits the Bielsa mold perfectly and all those attributes were on show in the weekend’s vital 3-1 victory over Burnley at Elland Road. Though nobody wants to get too carried away, it is evident that Forshaw is now a vital part of Leeds’ first-team set-up, even when some of the current absentees return. It’s an incredible turnaround for a player whose career looked all but over just a few months ago, with his form surprising many Leeds United supporters.
Speaking exclusively to The Leeds Press on his comeback, Forshaw said: “I’ve said this in a lot of interviews, but people see it a lot worse than me because I’ve just seen it as time to heal. From the outside I know the general consensus was that ‘he’s done’ and ‘he’s not ever coming back’, but I was never giving up. I mean don’t get me wrong, I had a couple of wobbles but all I knew was to keep trying, to keep coming in and getting rehab and to believe one day I would step back on to a football pitch again.”
A lot changed in that two-year spell Forshaw had on the sidelines. The biggest of course was that Leeds gained promotion to the Premier League, something the Liverpool-born playmaker had to watch from his home. Though that was tough to not be part of, the 30-year-old admitted that it was difficult each and every match he couldn’t play in, no matter what division or the significance of the game.
“I’m always desperate to play,” he said. “I’m was that kid at school that just always had a football at his feet. I love the game and I love playing, so all of it was tough. But I knew just to take every day as the next day, the next step. There was the odd time, especially when we had the promotion party, when it was a little bit tough. But I had to put it to one side and use it as fuel for myself to try and get back with the team as soon as possible. Everybody has a different journey. No two football careers are the same and mine has been different to most others, but I’m still here and I want to play every game between now and the end of the season.”
Forshaw has proved many doubters wrong, but he proved club Chairman Andrea Radrizzani correct after the Italian owner said he would provide extra strength in Bielsa’s midfield prior to the campaign – a tweet that received a lot of skepticism. But to the credit of Radrizzani and Bielsa, both have stuck by the player Leeds signed for £4.5m in January 2018 and their belief in him has certainly payed off, with Forshaw himself the main beneficiary.
“I was always confident that once I was fit I could do a job,” said Forshaw. “Obviously I wasn’t just coming back after two years out injured into any league, this is the best league in the world but I’ve played in the Premier League before so I know what it takes. I’ve tried not to overthink things, just that I’m going on the pitch and playing my game, which has gone okay so far. We’ve done it tough this season with injuries so I’m thankful I’ve been able to step in and help the team. I know I’m not at my best yet though, I feel I have a few more gears to go up and I’m keen to make up for lost time.”
Forshaw is the only first-teamer whose contract expires this summer and having only just turned 30 in October and with an added drive given he’s not played for the last two years, there are plenty of legs left in the ex-Middlesbrough midfielder yet. The Daily Mirror’s David Anderson has reported that United’s Sporting Director Victor Orta plans to open contract talks with Forshaw in the coming weeks, with a two-year deal set to be put on the table for Forshaw, but the player himself is keen to let his football do the talking.
“Look that’s obviously in the background, but in the grand scheme of things I’ve only just come back after a long time out. It’s something to aim for but it’s one step at a time. I don’t think any player is thinking about their contract when they’re involved in a match. All the focus is on winning that game so we can concentrate on pushing Leeds up the Premier League table. If off the back of that I get a new deal then great, but there is a lot of work to be done yet. I’m grateful for Marcelo and the club for showing such faith with me and staying patient, I can’t expect to be rewarded after such a long time out, to play a few games and get a new contract, that’s not realistic. I need to prove myself and be consistent over a sustained period. I love it here, I love all the lads and I want to work hard to ensure I stay part of that.”