Leeds United bolstered their academy set-up during the summer with the signings of Joe Gelhardt from Wigan and Sam Greenwood from Arsenal, but there’s another hot-shot that could be soon fast-tracked into the first-team.
The Yorkshire giants announced today that 19-year-old defender Niall Huggins had signed a new long-term extension, keeping him at Elland Road until at least 2023.
Huggins has been part of the academy at Thorp Arch for 13 years, progressing into the U18 and U23 squads in recent seasons, and he has also caught the eye on the international stage featuring for the Welsh U21 side.
His impressive form in the youth ranks earned the young left-back a senior spot on the bus to Everton recently, and even though he was not officially named in the matchday squad, the experience and involvement with some of Leeds’ biggest stars would have been invaluable.
And it says an awful lot about what Marcelo Bielsa thinks about the teenage sensation – perhaps the Whites have found their next Ian Harte.
That left-back spot could soon become an issue for the Argentine as Gjanni Alioski is more a winger by trade whilst Stuart Dallas has been back playing in central midfield and Barry Douglas is currently out on loan to Blackburn Rovers in the Championship.
The Leeds legend himself has even hailed the recent decision, he tweeted: “Fantastic experience for Niall Huggins, travelling with the Leeds United first-team for the win v Everton,” as per LeedsLive.
Huggins has proven to be a touch in front of goal too, scoring 12 goals in 29 matches at U18 level, which only compounds the comparison to Harte further as he was a specialist from set-pieces.
He’s also impressed former shot-stopper Paul Robinson, who told MOT Leeds News: “Huggins is a very good player who’s performed really well in the Under-23s this season. I’ve seen a bit of him actually.”
It could only be a matter of time before Bielsa hands him an opportunity, he’s certainly more likely to breakthrough than Gelhardt, who has the in-form Patrick Bamford to beat right now.