By Steve Barras
It has been a turbulent summer in Leeds with a deal of changes taking place behind the scenes; from the boardroom down to the refreshments served in the bars on matchdays. One such change which is a massive difference to previous regimes is the focus on the academy, described as the club’s ‘cancer’ by previous manager Neil Warnock (this being said mere weeks after our under 18’s were crowned divisional champions). Current manager Brian McDermott has miraculously turned this around within weeks of his appointment, cured the proverbial cancer and got the whole club pulling in the right direction.
This is the first instalment of this season's The Future’s Bright, our outlook on the goings on at Thorp Arch, primarily focusing on the u18’s and the Development Squad.
First things first…the summer.
It was announced at the beginning of the month that the Leeds United u11 squad had been touring Krakow in Poland, taking part in the Murapol Cup. Leeds were the only English representative whilst Britain were further represented by Celtic and Cardiff City. The youngsters were initially drawn in a tough group featuring Celtic, Legia Warsaw and Shakhtar Donetsk. Leeds only conceded one goal during these games and faced Jagiellonia Bialystok in the Quarter-Final. Leeds recorded an impressive 8-0 win over the top flight Polish team and moved through to the Semi-Final to face Slavia Prague. Leeds set up a final showdown with Shakhtar Donetsk after defeating Slavia Prague 1-0; Leeds tied up the competition with another 1-0 victory and lifted the Murapol Cup.
Last season’s u18 divisional championship winning boss Richard Naylor signed a new contract with the club, Naylor was said to be delighted at staying with the club for the foreseeable future and is looking forward to helping Brian McDermott and Neil Redfearn in bringing through the next set of home-grown talent.
Leeds have handed first professional contracts to two young players who featured heavily in the u18 success of last season. Smith Tiesse made twenty appearances at left back for the u18’s scoring one goal and Afalobi Coker made twenty-three appearances at centre back also scoring one goal, both players made one appearance each for the Development Squad.
Joining the ranks of former players taking their first steps into coaching at Thorp Arch is Neil Sullivan who agreed to become the clubs new Academy Goalkeeping Coach.
The u18’s started pre-season with a win against MK Dons, Leeds were down 2-0 at half time and 4-3 down with only ten minutes remaining but Leeds dug in and got the victory winning 5-4 with Frank Mulhern scoring his first hat-trick for the club.
A squad boasting five first teamers headed to Ireland for a friendly against Shelbourne, Noel Hunt, Ross Killock and a brace from Ryan Hall secured the 4-0 victory.
Young Chris Dawson was named in the u21 Welsh squad for the third time running despite being out for the beginning of pre-season due to injury.
Following on from handing two of our young defenders their first contracts, Leeds handed young striker Eoghan Stokes his contract after he impressed playing for the u18’s last season. He made nine appearances and scored six goals.
The Development Squad headed to Colwyn Bayin Wales, the home of Leeds Legend Gary Speed, and played out a 1-1 draw. Lewie Coyle unluckily scored in his own net to hand the Welshmen the lead but the impressive Alex Mowatt curled home a free kick in the final minute to rescue the game for Leeds.
Into the season
The Development Squad opened their season with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Barnsley. Three goals in the final fifteen minutes ended the game for the youngsters after Simon Lenighan twice went close and Alex Mowatt was singled out for praise from Neil Redfearn.
The Development Squad made it two defeats on the bounce as they lost to another Yorkshire club in the shape of HuddersfieldTown, 2-1 the score this time around. Out of favour Danny Pugh put Leeds ahead with a free kick but Huddersfield scored twice in the second half to settle the tie.
Leeds Development vs Barnsley
Jamie Ashdown, Zac Thompson, Smith Tiesse, Simon Lenighan, Ross Killock, Charlie Taylor, Alex Mowatt, Luke Parkin, El-Hadji Diouf, Ryan Hall, Chris Dawson. SUBS. Eric Grimes, Afalobi Coker, Lewis Walters, Kalvin Phillips, Lewis
Leeds Development vs Huddersfield Town
Alex Cairns, Sam Byram, Afalobi Coker, Charlie Taylor, Danny Pugh, Zac Thompson, Simon Lenighan, David Norris, Chris Dawson, Luke Parkin, Lewis Walters. SUBS. Lewie Coyle, Kalvin Phillips, Tyler Denton.
The u18’s started their season against Sheffield United, a game that ended 1-1. Frank Mulhern looked as if he had handed the youngsters their first win of the season at the first attempt but a late equaliser from the Blades ensured the honours ended even.
It wasn’t long before the divisional champions recorded their first win of the season though as they ran out 3-1 winners in their next game against Birmingham City. Goals from Eoghan Stokes and Lewis Cook gave Leeds an early 2-0 lead but Birmingham got back into the game on the stroke of half time. The visitors dominated the second half but only forced goalkeeper Dan Atkinson to make one save. The game was effectively ended when defender Smith Tiesse got forward to make it 3-1.
Leeds u18 vs Sheffield United
Dan Atkinson, Jack Vann, Luke Booker, Kalvin Phillips, Liam Bennett, Afalobi Coker, Piteu Crouz, Alex Purver, Frank Mulhern, Tom Lyman, Ali Amiri.
Leeds u18 vs Birmingham City
Dan Atkinson, Luke Booker, Liam Bennett, Corey Roper, Smith Tiesse, Alex Purver, Lewis Cook, Munya Mbanje, Tom Lyman, Frank Mulhern, Eoghan Stokes. SUBS. Ali Amiri.
The future’s bright. The future’s white.