Leeds United are currently a side who boast an incredible amount of exciting young talent, with the likes of Sonny Perkins, Mateo Joseph, Joe Gelhardt, Darko Gyabi, Wilfried Gnonto, Crysencio Summerville and Sam Greenwood taking both the Premier League 2 and Papa John’s Trophy by storm for Michael Skubala’s U21 side.
However, it has undoubtedly been the goals of Perkins and Joseph that have most caught the eye so far this season, with the 18-year-old attackers already looking to be a level above U21 football, returning simply remarkable numbers in the final third.
Indeed, summer signing Perkins has immediately proven why the Whites were desperate to tempt the former West Ham United starlet to Thorp Arch ahead of the likes of Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa, with the £1.08m-rated talent hitting the back of the net in each of his first seven outings for the Whites – bagging a total of eight goals in eight appearances for the U21s.
These returns have seen the England U19 international earn a considerable amount of praise, with former Leeds striker Noel Whelan singling the forward out in an interview with Football Insider last month:
“This is why you bring in these youngsters from other clubs. You’re just hoping they hit the ground running, which he obviously has. He’s made a massive impact – settled in very quickly and found his feet.
“He’s also finding the back of the net and even taking that confidence into international games as well. This is what it’s all about. Even if he’s 18 – he won’t be there to make up the numbers.
“He wants to be in the mind’s eye of the manager and put himself into contention for a first-team spot. He looks sharp, confident and he’s on the right path. The only way you can be noticed as a striker is if you’re scoring goals.”
However, despite his astonishing run of goals, Perkins is not currently the U21’s top scorer, with that accolade being held by fellow 18-year-old centre-forward Mateo Joseph.
Indeed, the January arrival from Espanyol has been in even more prolific form over his eight appearances for Skubala’s side in 2022/23, with the Spaniard having bagged nine goals in the Premier League 2 and Papa John’s Trophy combined.
These numbers have also seen Joseph lavished with compliments, with Skubala stating of the youngster after the U21’s 4-0 win over Stoke City earlier this month (via Leeds Live):
“I think Mateo was fantastic tonight. He’s come in and out a little bit but he’s been training like a warrior and you can see that in his game. I think sometimes you can talk about some other players but Mateo is very humble and very quiet in a way but he’s really working hard, he’s got that energy and desire and we saw that in his goals and his finishing. He’s a threat for any defence.”
As such, while there is undoubtedly a massive difference between youth and senior football, the signs are extremely positive for the U21s attacking duo, with some Leeds supporters perhaps even beginning to believe that Perkins and Joseph could go on to become the Whites’ next Mark Viduka and Alan Smith up top.
Indeed, over the four seasons the duo lined up alongside each other for Leeds between 2000 and 2004, Viduka and Smith scored a combined 112 goals and provided a further 21 assists, as well as directly linking up for nine goals – with the double-team playing a key role in Leeds’ success in the early 2000s.
As such, while the “dangerous” Perkins and Joseph have a long way to go before they are firing Leeds to the Champions League semi-finals, should Marsch place his trust in the 18-year-old talents, he could well be rewarded with the formation of the club’s next legendary strike partnership.