Leeds United has forever and will forever be a club famed by it’s academy. In the past it’s bred names that now dominate the Premier League and beyond- your Delphs, your Milners and your Lennons to name but a few.
Presently, names like Shackleton and Clarke have lit up the Leeds senior squad and responded excellently to the massive demands placed on them. Others such as Kalvin Phillips have become the fulcrum of the club’s entire on-field operation.
The difference however is the time in which these players have come in. James Milner, for example, made his Leeds United debut at the tender age of 16. But then, the Leeds United of the 2003/4 was entirely different to the Leeds United of 2019/20. A story which need not be told here.
This is where the story becomes difficult. News comes today that Ryan Edmondson scored in England U19’s 3-1 victory over Greece U19s, a remarkable achievement. At the age of 19, a player of his technical ability and raw physical stature would usually be working his way into first team plans or at least, knocking very loudly.
Ryan is yet to be afforded this opportunity, however. The relative and perhaps unprecedented stability and meticulous planning that comes with today’s Leeds United means he finds himself at option number 3, or even number 4. Behind two first-team strikers, Eddie Nketiah and Patrick Bamford in equally fine form and competing themselves for the elusive lone striker spot. And alongside Kun Temenuzhkov, who finds himself in a very similar position.
So then a loan, surely? Not quite. At the helm of the operation is Marcelo Bielsa, whose word is final of course. We infer that the Argentine’s preference is for young players to stay within the operation and be patient whilst learning and developing under his and his disciples’ watchful eye. The thousands of technical and tactical tweaks that aren’t too commonly found on a December afternoon’s visit to the Keepmoat.
This may initally seem harsh but I find method in the unconventional approach. The intensity and atmosphere around Thorp Arch means under Bielsa it has become a whole lot more than just a training ground, rather a hub of many intangible values that moulds good players into great ones. Whilst the beginning of a player hungry to make an impact on world football’s career may be stunted, in the long-term it may be improved tenfold. For reason’s similar to this, Arsenal saw Leeds a good fit for their own prodigy Eddie Nketiah to spend a season.
We are well aware that a whole host of lower league clubs were interested in his services and he was perhaps fancying a stint elsewhere too. But for now, all the young goalscorer can do is make that knock on the door unbearably loud.