Such is the premium placed on promise – particularly homegrown prospects – players of Clarke’s potential are likely to be scouted further by Premier League clubs. It’s par for the course.
Naturally teams are intent on retaining their best players, and Leeds United have shrewdly secured Clarke’s services for another campaign by signing him on a season-long loan.
However, in many instances, the allure and the financial superiority of clubs in England’s top-flight proves too difficult to resist for both player and club.
Marcelo Bielsa’s emphasis meaningful youth integration last season was reflected in his selection policy, as Tyler Roberts established himself as a first team regular in the second half of the season, Clarke was often used as an impact substitute and Jamie Shackleton was sent on to replace Adam Forshaw in the semi-final of the Championship play-off clash with Derby County.
While Leeds will hope to avoid the poisoned chalice of becoming a stepping stone outfit, other talented youngsters in the Argentine’s squad could yet emulate Clarke’s path.
Shackleton, for example, is a fine example of a Leeds player who could pursue a similar avenue to Clarke. Having attained 21 appearances in the Championship last season, four of which were starts, one senses this coming campaign could prove pivotal in his progression.
Shackleton’s innate talent and promise are abundantly clear, and realistically, the 19-year-old has the best chance out of Leeds’ budding talents to secure a Premier League move in the future.
One of Shackleton’s greatest qualities is his versatility, and his refined technical ability enables the teenager to play at right-back or in central midfield. Despite being deployed sporadically for much of the Championship season, he amassed a couple of assists.
Most interestingly, in an age of ultra-specialised and forensically instructed players, Shackleton’s skill set stands out as being comparatively unique. The Leeds starlet is proficient in multiple areas of his game, and he approaches every on-field task with peerless vigour and intent.
A season of more significant and consistent involvement with Leeds would be of undeniable benefit to his development.
Similarly, Tyler Roberts is another promising Leeds prospect who could harbour ambitions of a return to the Premier League. He made his top-flight debut for West Brom against Liverpool on the final day of the 2015-16 Premier League season, and unlike Clarke and Shackleton, Roberts is in rather a peculiar position.
Despite having only scored 14 goals in 77 senior appearances, the 20-year-old has already received six caps for Wales – with Giggs often favouring the youngster ahead of the experienced Sam Vokes when Gareth Bale is absent. While a goal tally of three goals in 28 league games is an underwhelming return, especially for a striker, the Welshman does demonstrate exciting potential.
Roberts is an intelligent forward who often utilises his sharp movement to run the channels effectively. He’s often quite a selfless striker, who looks to bring others into play, as evidenced by his six assists in the Championship last season.
As a technically competent forward who exhibits good speed, Roberts has the promise and the necessary attributes to become a good player. Presently, his goal return is his biggest hindrance to fulfilling his potential; but if he overcomes that obstacle, then he could develop into an excellent centre-forward.
As alluded to previously, youth integration is a commendable area of focus at Leeds United, and Bielsa’s squad includes several promising players, for whom this coming season could represent enormous importance to their progression.
Players such as Leif Davies and Tom Pearce who are caught on the periphery of the Whites’ first-team. While Davies and Pearce, as left-backs, are in direct competition with each other, it’s these players – young players with limited senior experience – that could become so crucial to Bielsa.
In the context of Clarke’s move to Tottenham, more attack-minded players like Ryan Edmondson and Robbie Gotts can take inspiration in the fact that a move to a Champions League finalist materialised after a solitary season of senior football. In an age of ludicrous inflation in the transfer market and considering the prospective insecurity that Brexit will bring, this could be the time for young players, especially homegrown players, to make their presence known.