Leeds United have a long standing history of developing their own youth players, many having gone on to bigger and ‘better’ things. There often seems to be a conveyor belt of talent coming out of the youth academy at Thorpe Arch. Many of these progress to the first team.
Most importantly, many of our scholars realise the importance of staying at Leeds, knowing that opportunities will come. This is shown by our current crop of young professionals with Sam Byram, Alex Mowatt, Charlie Taylor, Lewis Cook, Chris Dawson and Kalvin Phillips having made impacts during the season. This isn’t just a generational thing, we have had many come through in the last 50 years on a regular basis.
This is based on improving contract negotiations with all of our young players, with the current regime seeming to value our youth at more than cost value. The latest to sign new contracts, Luke Parkin and Tyler Denton follow in the footsteps of Lewis Walters and Kalvin Phillips in signing improved deals in the close season.
Parkin and Denton represent the system well, both having signed together as 7-year-olds at the club. Now 19, they have both grown up side by side together with many of the others. Many sign youth terms at a young age so develop a deep affinity with the club, meaning very few sign elsewhere at scholar stage.
Competition is rife for the u21’s with Luke Parkin admitting “I can think of four or five strikers off the top of my head who are going to be in and around the 21s and pushing for the first team. You’re going to have to be doing well…” The club provides the atmosphere and history for youngsters to develop and eventually excel with ‘technical proficiency’ ‘quality distribution’ and ‘good tempo’ highlighted within the academies’ manifesto.
None embody this style more than Lewis Cook. Much has been said of this lad as he burst onto the scene this season, showing superb passing ability, willingness to commit opponents and most importantly, a maturity beyond his 17/18 years. In May this year, Cook signed an extended 2-year deal with many fans viewing this as a coup in the hope of warding off Premier League vultures.
Having won the Football League Apprentice Award this season, Lewis was quick to praise his manager Neil Redfearn, “Neil Redfearn has believed in me, he gave me my chance” “Redders has helped me. He’s been with me since I was younger and brought me through. I’m really grateful for what he’s done.” Many of the graduates accredit Redfearn for their continued success and improvement, with him having being around the scene since December 2008. He encourages possession football with pressure higher up the pitch, both Fabian Delph and Alex Mowatt have commented on Redfearn’s ability to coach his midfielders to retain the ball but not be afraid to take on your man or play ‘that killer pass’. This perhaps goes some way to explaining the plethora of midfield talent that has come out of Leeds United in recent seasons.
Many were upset to learn that Neil Redfearn hadn’t been given the Manager’s (or ‘Head Coach’) post at the end of the season having comfortably taken Leeds away from the bottom end after a turbulent start under the previous custodians. But Uwe Rosler has come in and has made the right noises, making it clear that the crop of players coming through was a key factor in his interest.
There appears to be more where that comes from and it’s not hard to see why with Neil Redfearn recently saying “We are very family orientated and close-knit” “Respect is shown to parents and they know we’ll give kids a chance”. The proof is in the pudding. The backroom team appears to be in place so let’s see if Rosler can continue to develop this young team and push the circus to the back of our minds.