Earlier today Leeds United confirmed that they had accepted an invitation from the EFL to enter their Academy side into the EFL Trophy next season. This will see United’s young players feature against seasoned first-team sides from Leagues One and Two.
This is only something that is possible due to the Whites promotion to the Premier League and the upgrading of their Academy to Category One status. It is also something that is only possible thanks to the hard work of Andrea Radrizzani in resurrecting the youth set-up at Elland Road after it was allowed to go fallow during Massimo Cellino’s reign.
Times were different then, money needed to be saved and places where it was haemorrhaging away from the club needed stemming. That was achieved at the cost of a decimated youth set-up. Thankfully, that has been resurrected and the Whites find themselves in the position where they are at the moment – much better off.
This acceptance of the EFL’s invite will allow the Leeds United youngsters to step out of the confines of youth football, albeit against good sides, and pit themselves against seasoned professionals playing first-team football. This can only have positives for their development as footballers.
With that in mind, here are five young Leeds United starlets that might be worth looking out for in next season’s EFL Trophy.
Joe Gelhardt: the youngster just bought from Wigan Athletic for a cool £1m is unlikely to see much action at first-team level. However, the EFL Trophy would be the ideal set of circumstances to see this talented teen in a Leeds United shirt. He’s done it all at youth level for the Latics, including smashing five against Manchester United and 10 in another game. Definitely one to look out for.
Cody Drameh: Just poached by Leeds from rivals Fulham, England Under-18 starlet Drameh is another one who big things are expected from. He’d been a regular for the Under-23s at Craven Cottage, appearing in 34 Premier League 2 games for the Cottagers. In this season’s Premier League 2 competition, Drameh had an amazing 7 assists to his name.
Pascal Struijk: The cultured Dutchman signed for Leeds United two seasons ago from Ajax of Amsterdam. He made his debut this season for the first team and looked the epitome of calm, cool and collected in the season-ending run-in when standing in for the injured Kalvin Phillips in an unaccustomed defensive midfield role. He’ll likely be there or thereabouts with the first team next season but will surely impress in the EFL Trophy games.
Stuart McKinstry: winger McKinstry arrived at Leeds United from Cumbrian side Carlisle. He is one of the players in the Under-23s who continues to impress and has caught the attention of Marcelo Bielsa. Good with the ball at his feet and a threat when running at opponents. McKinstry will be another Leeds United youngster to look out for.
Nohan Kenneh: Youngster Kenneh is another highly-rated starlet at Elland Road who big things are expected of. He signed his first professional deal in early January on his 17th birthday. He’s been a regular for the Under-23s and featured in all four games of the young Whites in their FA Youth Cup run and impressed many observers. Should be another youngster who will get a chance to impress in next season’s EFL Trophy.
Will learn a lot.
Will be overwhelmed.