By Mark Rasdall
It was fantastic to see Leeds United's Aidy White captaining the Republic of Ireland under-21s in Italy last night and Tom Lees making his debut for England under-21s.
While White's side beat the Italians with nine men, they had already failed to qualify for the finals, whereas Lees helped England see out their victory over Norway and thus secure a Play-Off place to see which team goes to the finals in Israel next year. Thankfully Tom hasn't yet been part of an LUFC play-off campaign so won't be scarred by our consistent record of failure.
Not only did I feel good about seeing our boys performing on the international stage, but also good for the club in the sense that our youth scheme must be continuing to work, and, in some ways more importantly, being seen to work. Watching young players being given their full first-team debuts last season is also proof that if the system does its job well, then players will be given a chance for club and maybe country too.
Most recently we remember the likes of Gary Speed and Jonathan Woodgate coming through the system to play such key parts for great Leeds United teams and it can only enhance both the development of youth players - being exposed to different coaches and tactics - as well as their sense of pride in the club that gave them their chance. I know there is the worry of them having their heads turned by 'bigger clubs' and also injuries but, to be honest, that could happen anyway. I prefer to think that young lads as well as more established players will see the name of Leeds United in connection with international football and be swayed to want to join or stay with our club and be part of it.
Some of my treasured memories are of seeing Billy Bremner and Peter Lorimer and Joe Jordan playing for Scotland or Allan Clarke, Norman Hunter and, of course, Jack Charlton playing for England, not to mention Johnny Giles for Ireland. In the school playground I would bask in the pride of knowing that they played their club football for Leeds United - our club and nobody else's.
But this is happening again now and we look to tomorrow and the day after, in the knowledge that we may not be back to where we want to be as a club yet, but we certainly have the raw ingredients of success, a manager who knows how to put that raw material together to achieve promotion and, hopefully, a determination on everyone's part to enable these players to develop and want to achieve for our club as well as their respective countries.
The future's white