Under former Leeds United owner Massimo Cellino the youth set-up at Elland Road was left to go fallow – neglected and left to die back.
Andrea Radrizzani altered that mindset when taking full control of the club from his fellow Italian. Installing a new ethos, Radrizzani began to rebuild what Cellino had left to go to waste.
Players were brought in from high-profile continental sides such as Benfica, Real Madrid, Ajax and Barcelona. These players were part of an evident rebirth of the youth set-up based at Thorp Arch. Under the guidance of Spaniard Carlos Corberan, that first season produced the bedding in, and shoots of success were soon evident.
That initial blossoming has been continued this season, and players such as Tom Pearce, Jack Clark and Jamie Shackleton have seen action with the first team. Alongside this, both the Under-18s and Under-23s are demonstrating excellent form in their respective leagues.
One of these youngsters, who is beginning to sparkle, is young Norwegian striker Niklas Haugland. Haugland is currently bedding into the Under-18s. The Norwegian youngster signed on as a young White on Transfer Deadline Day – August 31.
As Haugland’s Instagram post indicated, the 16-year-old striker was taken on by Leeds United, signing a three-year deal for the Whites. News of the youngster being on trial at Elland Road was actually broken from Norway itself by one of Leeds’ huge following of Scandinavian fans.
— Rudi Gerhard Rakner (@BergenWhites) July 22, 2018
Rakner said that youngster who he calls a “wonder boy” had arrived in Leeds and looked to be about to take up a trial at Thorp Arch, something which evidently proved to be the case. Haugland arrived at Elland Road, and Leeds United, after other trials with some big clubs on the continent such as AC Milan, Bayern Munich and Salzburg.
It was whilst playing for Red Bull Salzburg that he helped them lift the Istria Youth Cup, a competition that featured youth players from Inter Milan, Chelsea, Dynamo Zagreb and Benfica.
Haugland scored his first goal for the Whites in the recent Under-18s game against Birmingham, helping the young Whites to a 1-1 draw against the Blues.
The rated 16-year-old also been on the scoresheet today against Sheffield United’s youth side in a game that is still ongoing.
— Sheffield United Development (@sufcdevelopment) November 10, 2018
However, it is a game where the Leeds United youngsters look likely to be on the losing side. Currently it is 4-1 to the young Blades and Leeds United are down to 10 men. Whites captain Ollie Casey was sent off, with a straight red card to his name, after a reckless challenge on Sheffield United youngster Leo Gaxha.