Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa is making a big mistake as news emerges on Niall Huggins’ future at Elland Road.
Reports recently from the Yorkshire Evening Post’s Graham Smyth indicated that Huggins was someone who was prepared to fight for his place at the club and be a part of the Premier League squad next season.
The journalist said: “A number of the 23s, inspired by what Pascal Struijk did quite unexpectedly last season in seizing a first team opportunity and accruing a huge number of Premier League minutes, have set their hearts on staying put to try and do the same. Niall Huggins is among those preferring to stay put than head out on loan.”
However, Football Insider have now claimed that Huggins has been told he is free to leave the club this summer, despite only signing a new long-term contract at Elland Road back in December.
The report stated: “United do not regard Huggins as capable of forcing his way into Marcelo Bielsa’s team amid increasingly strong competition”, adding that “United’s decision to let him go ranks as a surprise given that run-out and the esteem in which he has been held for so long”.
In a recent poll done on Football FanCast about whether Huggins deserves a chance to impress in the first team next season in the Premier League, 77% of Leeds fans who answered said yes (135 votes to 41).
While the 20-year-old may not have exactly forced himself into the squad last season – he made just one solitary outing in the top flight – he was a key member of the under-23s squad under Mark Jackson which won the Premier League 2 Division 2 title (he scored twice and provided one assist in 17 games).
England international and Leeds team-mate Kalvin Phillips – who is currently at Euro 2020 – is also a big fan of the left-back, saying last summer: “We’ve got a few younger lads called Niall Huggins and Alfie McCalmont. They’re really good young players as well. They’ll be in the team in the next year or so, definitely.”
That Phillips suggested Huggins would be ready around this point, as well as his fine performances for the under-23s, makes Bielsa’s decision to let him go – on a permanent basis at that – a baffling one.
The Whites aren’t blessed with real strength in depth in the left-back position at the moment with Gjanni Alioski’s future still unclear and no new signings through the door either.
Keeping Huggins around as a potential squad option, or even just allowing him to build up experience away on loan, would surely be the right call here, especially given his age. Instead, Leeds are making a ruthless call on someone who hasn’t yet been given a proper opportunity to shine, even with pre-season just around the corner.
Given how they answered the poll, many Whites fans may be livid with Leeds’ decision to let him go this summer.
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