Following a successful season for Leeds United’s Under-23s in the Professional Development League, and with Andrea Radrizzani’s admission that the Whites are in for a difficult summer but have a “great academy” to rely on, we take a look some of the youngsters that could make the leap into first-team football.
Jack Clarke, Jamie Shackleton, Leif Davis and Aapo Halme were just a few of those who became well known to United fans in 2018-19, with Bielsa utilising the academy to plug gaps when required across the campaign.
Carlos Corberan guided his young charges to PDL national glory, with many looking assured in the Bielsa-ball way of life.
So, we thought we’d take a look at some of the other players in the Under-23s squad who could potentially be more heavily involved in the Championship next term.
Pascal Struijk (defender) – A towering central defender and a full season under Carlos Corberan’s guidance has done him no harm. Struijk arrived at Leeds 18 months ago from Ajax and hasn’t looked back since.
He’s dominant in the air, can pick a pass and is a real threat in the opposition box from set-pieces. The 19-year-old has taken on the responsibility of the Bielsa-ball style at the back, looking assured and unafraid of being left exposed one-on-one.
His performance in the PDL final at Elland Road last month won’t have gone unnoticed as he cut a composed figure in the heart of defence, helping United to a penalty shoot-out victory over Birmingham City.
Robbie Gotts (right-back/midfielder) – A quiet and unassuming young man, at 18 he’s got the world at his feet. After being turned from his natural right-back role into an attacking midfielder he’s gone from strength to strength.
Goals, passing and raw pace, it’s not hard to see why he has been included in countless matchday squads and named on the bench numerous times under Bielsa. Very similar stature and style of play to Jamie Shackleton.
Ended the season as Corberan’s skipper, looks a real leader on the pitch.
Mateusz Bogusz (midfielder) – A recent arrival from Poland in January but Bogusz didn’t take long to make an impact. At 17 he looks a real prospect. Strong on the ball with a build to match, he has also displayed craft and skill in abundance.
After learning his trade in the lower divisions in Poland, he won’t be bullied off the ball.
United senior star Mateusz Klich said of Bogusz that he was “going to probably be better than me”, which is high praise but easy to understand once you see the potential he boasts.
Alfie McCalmont (midfielder) – A player who sneaks under the radar a little with the Under-23s. McCalmont can pick a pass and loves a tackle. He fits into the anchor role in midfield in the Bielsa-ball system no problem and was a key player in the PDL title victory.
He’s already been called up several times by Northern Ireland’s youth teams and has an eye for goal too. At 19 the only thing he lacks is experience but that hasn’t stopped anyone else.
Jordan Stevens (winger) – Pacey and direct. Stevens was handed his senior debut in tricky circumstances at Stoke City in January. Can play on either wing and his speed and direct style of play are a real standout.
Brought in from Forest Green 18 months ago, he’s gained confidence under Carlos Corberan and is certainly an asset. His work rate shouldn’t go unnoticed either. Feels like a big season ahead for him.
Kun Temenuzhkov (forward) – A bustling forward who can play either as a striker or a number 10. Handed his a first-team debut in the FA Cup at QPR in January.
His first season in the Under-23s has been a success overall, despite not seeing as much action as expected. Best compared to Tyler Roberts in the senior squad with the way he can glide past players effortlessly.
His goal in the PDL play-off semi-finals against Coventry City will live long in the memory. Has also been called up for the Bulgarian Under-21s side in recent months.
Ryan Edmondson (striker) – Probably the most recognisable name on this list. Tall, physical, strong in the air and a great finisher – everything you want from a striker.
Since joining United from York City a little over 18 months ago his stock has been on the rise. Nineteen goals for the Under-23s this season has only enhanced that, but at 18 it’s easy to get carried away. A very grounded young man who knows he has a lot to learn.
Bielsa rates him very highly, and with United’s struggles in front of goal towards the end of the campaign it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him step up his involvement this coming pre-season.
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