Storylines are not in short supply at Leeds United this summer. Whether it’s the takeover, the incoming head coach, the coming exodus in the playing squad or the restructuring needed in crafting a promotion-ready unit, this is a very busy close season.
However, one of the most special narratives of the summer could yet involve one of the surviving heroes of the last Championship campaign. Stuart Dallas, now 420 days on from his horrific leg break, may finally be counting down to a full return.
It has been a long road of false starts and premature target dates, but after missing the entirety of last term, pre-season must be a real aim for the 32-year-old. It was actually at the start of last season when we saw a first step forward outdoors from Dallas.
In August, he was pictured on the running track at Thorp Arch. At the time, Jesse Marsch said: “Then Stuart Dallas, I saw on the pitch today, moving around a little bit. So that was an exciting moment for us.”
He added: “It's much too early to start talking about the prognosis and a timetable for Stuart, but any of you who know Stuart know his energy and his positivity and his personality is so amazing. The way he applies that, even to this situation, you see him suffering when he's got the electrodes on his legs, cranking it as absolutely high as he can and he only knows how to go 1,000 per cent.
“He's learning a little bit how to manage this because an injury like that can go up and down. He's been a big presence in the team.
“He's here every day and he wants to be around the team as much as possible. He still has such a positive impact on the group.
“Because of all those personality traits, that gives him a really good chance to come back as good as ever. So that's what we're all pushing and hoping for.”
There was another update three months later. In November, Marsch said: “Stuart's making great progress as well and we'll see how that goes, but maybe we can get him on the pitch at some point towards the end of December, early January.”
Dallas would then go out to Spain with those members of the squad not on World Cup duty, but he continued to train individually with the club’s medical staff. Sadly, that timescale from Marsch did not materialise.
It was not until late March we had an update from Michael O’Neill, Dallas’s Northern Ireland boss. He said: “Stuart has maybe got an outside chance [of making the June internationals]. I’m not relying on that.
“I know Stuart is desperate to be involved and he was desperate to be involved in this game, maybe unrealistically and he maybe pushed himself to his own detriment a little bit, but, look, the medical team we have here is top class and the communication with the clubs is excellent, which is very important.
“The clubs appreciate how we treat the players when they come away. We’ll just have to see how Stuart is at that point in time.”
During that same March week, Dallas himself broke his silence on his recovery: “Look I’d love to be back tomorrow morning, but I can’t be so, listen, we can’t say when for sure I’ll be back, but I’m aiming towards obviously the back end of the season and the summer, and then we’ll take it from there.
“It’s been a long and frustrating period, but I feel like I am finally getting there.”
Dallas, as you now know, would not make it back for the end of the season or this month’s international duty, but pre-season now awaits him. Everyone associated with the Whites will have their fingers crossed on his return.
If he can get back and return to his best level, he will be a force in United’s promotion tilt.