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Leeds United Under-23 Orta experiment proven with squad numbers

Of all the faces at Elland Road that have come in for some grief over the course of last season no one has taken pelters more than Victor Orta.

For every piece of praise that he’s been begrudgingly given for signing players such as Samu Saiz and Ezgjan Alioski, he’s shipped much more the opposite way. Whenever anything has gone wrong, when players haven’t performed then it is Orta who’s got it in the neck.

Now, with last season drifting rather quickly towards this coming season, Orta has been taken out of the firing line and abuse has been directed more towards club owner Andrea Radrizzani. The reasoning behind this – a lack of activity in the transfer market.

That’s all beginning to be forgotten with the Whites transfer activity picking up pace with rumours of Wolves’ Barry Douglas and Derby County’s Matej Vydra thought to be in negotiations over moves to Elland Road.

One area that improvements were quickly seen in at Elland Road was the youth set-up that is based at Thorp Arch. Radrizzani and Orta set about rebuilding the Under-18s and Under-23s from the bottom up, having to do so after Massimo Cellino let them fallow.

The influence of their ‘find ’em and bring ’em’ policy can be seen in the number of those youngsters brought in to the club now being given squad numbers.

Here’s a run-down on five youngsters brought in to the club and given a squad number for next season.

Five alive – Leeds United reward youngsters

Ryan Edmondson (#39): Rangy striker Edmondson joined the Whites from York City in November, coming to Elland Road just a month after making his début as a 16-year-old for the Minstermen. He signed a deal for the Whites that will run until June 2020 and there are rumours the ubiquitous ‘undisclosed fee’ was of a sizeable nature – some quoting figures in the region of £200,000. When first joining up with Leeds United, the young striker has certainly hit the straps what with seven goals in seven appearances. The youngster made his first team debut in the last game of last season against QPR – coming on to see out the last 16 minutes of the fixture. He’s also been in fine form in pre-season, scoring twice in last night’s 4-3 victory over non-league neighbours Guiseley.

Sam Dalby (#41): United brought in talented 18-year-old Dalby from National League side Leyton Orient, the youngster signing on the dotted line in mid January. His signature saw him slotted in to Carlos Corberan’s Under-23 side, a move that he’s taken under his wing. He has scored five goals in eight appearances for the young Whites, including an impressive brace in the 3-2 win over Ipswich Town’s development squad. Again, like Ryan Edmondson, Dalby is a player that Leeds United are taking a look at. They began by including him in first team training, and he’s been getting a much better look-in during pre-season. Dalby has shown the traits of a natural in front of goal, but a jump from the Under-23s to Championship football might be a little out of reach at the moment for the youngster – still, Leeds United have had the faith to give him a squad number.

Hugo Diaz (#44): centre-back Diaz was another Spanish player brought in last summer to bolster the ranks of the Under-23s. He started out at Deportivo La Coruña, moving on through from their Juvenil A set-up to the B team. He moved away from Deportivo to Silva SD, a team from A Coruña who play in the 3ª Grupo I division. Since arriving at Thorp Arch, Diaz has gone on to become a mainstay of a rapidly developing Under-23 outfit, impressing many with his poise and potential. Diaz has already made his first-team debut, more out of necessity that luxury, coming on for a 33-minute spell at centre-back in the 3-1 defeat at Preston North End. Ahead of this coming season, it appears that those in the position to decide such things have enough faith in Diaz to award him a squad number.

Oriol Rey (#49): Rey came to the Whites via a deal from world football giants Barcelona, the young Catalan player being one of a number of Spanish players who joined the Whites youth set-up during the summer of 2017. Rey started out as a defensive midfielder for the Barcelona Juvenil side and played the most minutes in the azulgrana’s run to the semi-final stage of the 2016/17 UEFA Youth League competition. However, he converted to a central defender and that’s where he began featuring for the Whites Development squad this term, helping himself to two goals. He’s also been featuring in a holding midfield role for Carlos Corberan’s young Whites side, reverting to the role where he made his name at Barcelona. Rey is another player who may well benefit from added exposure to the first team set-up . He has shown himself to be very composed on the ball and able to dictate play at Under-23 level – showing glimpses of this during the pre-season games to press. In picking him and moving him up to the first-team, the Whites really have little, if anything left to lose – hence the former Barca boy being given a squad number.

Pascal Struijk (#50): Youngster Struijk was signed by Leeds United in late-January this year, slotting straight in to the Under-23s. In total young centre-back Struijk made 21 appearances for Ajax’s famed Under-19 side (two goals/one assist), these coming after 16 appearances for ADO den Haag’s Under-19s (six goals/one assist). He also has three Holland Under-17 caps to his name, including two games at the Under-17 Euro Championships in 2016; 64 minutes in a 2-0 loss against Spain and a cameo one minute appearance against Sweden in the Quarter-Final. Struijk showed a lot of composure in his Under-23 games last season, also carrying that composure over to the pre-season games that he has featured in.

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