Under Marcelo Bielsa’s leadership, academy players at Leeds United are daring to dream. Well known for playing and developing youngsters into world class players, there is no better time to be playing for Leeds United at academy level. One player who has had a taste of first team football and will be hoping to become more involved is Alfie McCalmont. The main issue isn’t his ability but the fact that he plays in midfield, an area that Marcelo Bielsa admitted is hard to get into due to the level of quality and the number of options that he has. With Phillips, Klich and Forshaw all fighting for two positions, the likes of Robbie Gotts and Alfie McCalmont will have to be patient. This being said, the first team squad is small and with an injury potentially always around the corner, there is always a chance for young players to stake a claim. Alfie being one who is hoping to get the chance.
Who is Alfie McCalmont?
Alfie McCalmont has always had noticeable talent from a very early age and was allowed to play for his local football holiday club at the age of 5 despite the minimum age being 7. Alfie was playing for Thirsk Falcons u9’s at the Wiggington tournament in York when he was first approached by a Leeds United scout. He was asked to go to the Leeds United development centre in York and after 4 weeks, Alfie moved up to the shadow squad at Thorpe Arch. Having impressed the coaches at Leeds, he was given a 6 week trial in the academy under 9’s team where he was eventually offered a 1 year contact the following season. The highlight of his first season at Leeds was scoring two goals against Manchester United in a 2-2 draw at the Carrington training ground. Alfie hasn’t always had it easy and his small stature sometimes meant he was in the shadows of bigger, stronger players but with his great nature, positive attitude, 100% commitment, determination and focus, he has managed to overcome this and exceed all our expectations and continues to do so. Alfie continued to progress through each of the age groups all the way up to the under 15’s where he was offered a 2 year scholarship which started at the end of the under 16’s. He was then offered a 1 year professional contract which started at the end of the 2 year scholarship. Thirsk School and Sixth Form College were very supportive of his football career and made sure he received extra support so that he still achieved very respectable GCSE grades. Alfie was then approached by MOM (Michael Owen Management) asking to become Alfie’s agent after they were impressed watching Alfie’s performances in his matches. These performances lead to him being given an international call up for the U17’s Northern Ireland squad to play in the Euro qualifiers against Spain, Slovakia and San Marino. He moved up the ranks from there to the U19’s and now the U21’s. After a call up to train with the senior team earlier this year he impressed Michael O’Neil training who then handed him his senior team debut. He qualified to play for Northern Ireland through his father who is Irish and his grandma, so plenty of green blood in his family.
What is his style of play?
Alfie a midfield player who likes to get on the ball and dictate the play. His low centre of gravity allows him to receive the ball in tight areas and look to play balls forward. Despite the lack of height and strength, he does like to get stuck into tackles but doesn’t always come out on top. This is something we will get onto later in the article.
Below are the two positions that best suit his skill set and his tactical role in the team in these positions:
What are his key attributes?
His main attribute is his passing, whether that be short range or long. His ability to drop deep, collect the ball and start attacks from deep is impressive. His use of the ball is very good, with Alfie often looking to play through the lines rather than just make a simple pass sidewards. Having only played 65 minutes of first team football there isn’t a lot of stats to go on. This being said, the stats that are available highlight what his game is all about. In both games he played he managed a pass accuracy of 95% against Salford City and 96% against Stoke City. Despite only being on the pitch for 20 minutes against Salford, he managed to register one key pass. He only lost possession twice, once in each game, which for a young player finding his way in the senior team is very good.
His reading of the game and decision making is second to none, allowing the players around him the license to get forward, knowing that Alfie will fill in the position vacated. Sharp across 10 yards, Alfie has the acceleration and fitness levels to break through the opposition lines but also track back and help defensively.
What are his areas for improvement?
Alfie, like any young player, isn’t the finished article and has areas of his game he will be looking to improve on over his career, whether that’s at Leeds United or elsewhere. First is his defensive work including tackling and winning duels. Standing at only 5ft 9, he is never going to be a dominate midfielder like, for example, Kalvin Phillips, however learning to use his frame better in defensive duels will be something he will be looking to improve on. Having only played in two games for the first team, 20 minutes against Salford City and 45 minutes against Stoke City, both in the cup, stats for him are limited. However in the short amount of minutes he’s played, he’s lost 3 out of 4 ground duels and 1 out of 2 aerial duels. This isn’t to say that Alfie isn’t capable of getting stuck in, but receiving the ball in his own defensive third means that physical contact will happen. As well as this, in a Bielsa system, the defensive midfielder is required to break up play and often tasked with man marking the opposition attacking midfield, so defensive know-how is crucial. These are not significant weakness in his game, more areas that if he does improve will take him to the next level. The level of opposition will also effect these areas of his game, the teams that defend deep suit his skill set more than the teams that press high and attack in numbers.
Overall, Alfie is a well rounded midfielder who has the correct attitude to continue to improve his game and become a player that is capable of excelling at the highest level. A big thanks to his mum and dad for providing in depth information on his footballing background. If you enjoy this article, please share it around. Follow me on Twitter @FocusOnLeeds for all the latest news, stats and videos on the first team and the next generation of talent coming out of Thorp Arch.
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