United again: how Leeds are looking to develop their way back to the top.
There is no disputing that Leeds United is a huge club. Since the dominant seasons that were the backdrop to the Clough/Revie rivalry they have been seen as one of Britain’s top clubs, even if the last 10 years haven’t exactly shown it.
In 2004 Leeds United were relegated from the Premier League amid a sea of financial troubles. It was a huge surprise to most football fans that one of the biggest clubs in England had fallen so fast as in previous years they had been troubling Europe’s elite via European qualification.
The backbone of their success was the club’s fabled academy. With players like Harry Kewell and Alan Smith coming through the ranks in the early 2000’s the club were rocking with a youthful squad, many members of which would be sold to aid the financial issues later on. The club’s development of talent is legendary, from club legends such as Norman Hunter, Billy Bremner and Peter Lorimer, to current top flight players like James Milner and Fabian Delph, Leeds have always looked to promote from within.
Recently the club have looked to bring through a host of young talent amid controversy in the boardroom; they have looked to bring some home-grown passion onto the pitch. Sam Byram was one of the first to benefit from the youth movement as he came into the first team in 2012. He was initially deployed as a right back but was last season moved further forward into a right wing role, his versatility is one of the reasons that he has been touted as a target for a number of top flight clubs. He is also vastly experience for a 21 year old, having already made over 100 appearances for Leeds.
The last two seasons have seen many more hot prospects come into the Leeds first team, midfielders Lewis Cook, Chris Dawson and Alex Mowatt have all become fully fledged first team players and have been grabbing the headlines with consistent performances, further indications of their potential. Left back Charlie Taylor has also become a mainstay in the back four and 19 year old midfielder Kalvin Phillips has also played twice for the club, scoring one goal.
The sheer number of home grown talent that the club is producing is an indication of how the club is looking to the future with a passionate squad of players that will seemingly develop into top flight players, whether that is with Leeds or elsewhere.
While the old adage about not winning anything with kids may be true for the most part, it has been proven that developing talent can benefit clubs with both on-pitch success and financially, Southampton are the prime example. The Saints had already brought through Theo Walcott, Gareth Bale and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and sold them on for fairly big fees, while they also kept hold of Adam Lallana who would help lead the club to the top flight before departing for Liverpool as part of a summer where a host of home grown talent left the club.
Leeds are seemingly following the same policy, reportedly looking for a big fee for Byram before he will be allowed to leave the club.
There is a general feeling that Leeds United should be back in the Premier League, and given the amount of top performing young talent, this may be their best chance of getting there very soon, their commitment to the academy has been a blueprint for success in bygone eras and there is no doubt that Leeds are looking to the past in order to build for a much brighter future.