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Leeds United: Imagine if Jonny Howson emerged under Jesse Marsch

Leeds United have brought through a host of talented young prospects via their academy set-up at Thorp Arch throughout their history.

In the modern era, the likes of Kalvin Phillips, Pascal Struijk, Tom Cairney, Lewis Cook, and Charlie Taylor have all come through the youth sides before making it into the professional game.

The likes of James Milner, the late Gary Speed, Aaron Lennon, and Paul Robinson are among some of the players who made their way through the ranks before the current crop.

As with a lot of things in football, luck plays a large factor in how an academy graduate gets on at the club. How well they do depends on the manager, the financial situation, and the league they are playing in at the time they make the breakthrough.

For example, one player who came through at an unlucky time was central midfielder Jonny Howson. The gem burst into the first-team whilst they were in League One and racked up 225 appearances in all competitions for the Whites, with 111 of those coming in the third tier.

He played one-and-a-half seasons in the Championship before he was snapped up by then-Premier League side Norwich City for an undisclosed fee, leaving Elland Road after captaining the team.

Howson went on to play over 100 matches in the top-flight for the Canaries in his career, scoring eight goals and providing six assists at that level, and helped them to win promotion from the second tier in the 2014/15 campaign.

Now, just imagine if the now-Middlesbrough captain had come through at Thorp Arch in the last few years and was now strutting his stuff in the Premier League under Marsch.

The American head coach has deployed a pressing style of play at Elland Road and Howson, who was once described as a “Rolls-Royce” by Radio Norfolk’s Rob Butler, would have thrived in this set-up.

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In three of his four Premier League seasons at Carrow Road, he made at least three tackles and interceptions per game and this shows that he had the mobility, and ability, to cut out opposition attacks regularly in the top-flight. This also suggests that he could have thrived in a pressing system as he could have pushed up the pitch to utilise his talents in the middle and final third to force errors out of the opposition.

Former Yellows boss Alex Neil previously claimed that he is a “joy to work with” and said that he provides “good energy” on the pitch, which further illustrates how well he would fit into a pressing style of play.

Howson, who has played 656 club career matches to date, also proved that he could chip in at the top end of the pitch as he managed 14 direct goal contributions for Norwich in the Premier League.

Therefore, he could have thrived under Marsch at Elland Road as he could have been an effective pressing machine in the middle of the park. Instead, he came through at an unfortunate time and was forced to leave Leeds in his search for top-flight football in the summer of 2012.