Leeds United are a club enhancing their reputation for giving youth a shot. This is a reputation going back some years now, one that has paid dividends for the West Yorkshire club.
Players such as James Milner and Fabian Delph currently play a regular role in the Premier League. Of more recent graduates, Charlie Taylor (Burnley) and Lewis Cook (Bournemouth) are also gracing English football’s top-tier competition.
This season, Marcelo Bielsa has continued that trend, with youth playing a prominent role in helping navigate the Whites through some particularly choppy injury waters. With 14 games left in what is a pivotal run-in to the end of the season, youth will continue to play its part.
Leeds United have seen the likes of Jamie Shackleton, Aapo Halme and Jordan Stevens make the step up to the first team. However one name that seems to have caught the most attention is wing star Jack Clarke.
18-year-old, York-born Clarke has featured 16 times for Leeds United during the current Sky Bet Championship campaign, first catching the eye as an impact sub. To press, he’s scored two goas (vs Aston Villa and Nottingham Forest) and provided two assists (vs Sheffield United and Derby County).
With such eye-catching productions the risk that players catch the eye, and that is what has happened with Jack Clarke. Thanks to what he’s shown so far, Jack Clarke is now firmly on the radar.
Three transfer scenarios involving Jack Clarke and Leeds United
Scenario 1: Leeds United go up, Jack Clarke stays
Clarke’s agent, former Leeds United great Ian Harte, has already reassured Leeds United that Clarke is staying at Elland Road. That admission came about amidst much interest from Premier League sides such as Liverpool, Manchester United and Spurs.
Should Leeds United drag themselves out of the Sky Bet Championship, and achieve promotion to the Premier League, that would give the Whites a large degree of sway. A promoted Leeds United could just about be the best thing for keeping Clarke at Elland Road in the longer term.
Scenario 2: Leeds United go up, Jack Clarke moves on
Despite protestations that Clarke will stay at Leeds United, if established clubs want him, there’s a chance he could go. Loyalty in football, and it does exist, often comes second to the aspirations some clubs have in bringing in the ‘next big talent’.
In situations such as that, loyalty is tested and the waving of a company cheque book from an interested club can be very tempting indeed. Should Clarke have a season-ending run-in that further catches the eye, then the riffling pages of the cheque book could get louder.
Scenario 3: Leeds United stay down, Clarke moves on
Leeds United are currently in 3rd place at the moment, albeit it with a game in hand over table-toppers Norwich City and 2nd place Sheffield United. The Whites have suffered some dips in form, but it would take a huge swing to see them bad enough to not go up.
Saying that, should the unthinkable become thinkable and Leeds United NOT go up, then the vultures from the Premier League could close in an ever-increasingly tighter circle. Suddenly a side sitting in the Championship, with a fledgling starlet such as Clarke, start to look a little vulnerable.
This scenario could very well play out as United look to cash in on Clarke, using the money to buy someone dependable to lift them to promotion in the 2019/20 season.
Endnote – most likely scenario
If truth be told, I think that Scenario 1 is the one most likely to play out. There will be hiccups along the way, but the Whites possess too much class to simply fall away to Championship oblivion. I’m going to go for Leeds United going up via the automatic places.
With that all done and dusted, and hopefully sooner rather than later, the Jack Clarke situation will fall into place like well-oiled tumblers in a looked after lock. With Leeds United promoted, there’s no real compunction for Jack Clarke to go anywhere.