Next first team regular? Loan network? Leeds Under 23’s round up and Q&A!

With it currently being an international break and many of the first team and under 23 players away with their countries, its all quite on the Leeds news front. The first team have made a brilliant start to life in the Premier League, currently sitting 8th in the table after picking up a point against Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City. The under 23’s have also adjusted well to a new league, having become a category one academy over the summer, they now play in the Premier League 2. There was a change to the coaching team with Carlos Coberan leaving to become Huddersfield Town first team manager with under 18’s coach Mark Jackson stepping up to replace him. Jackson’s under 23 side started the season with a 4-0 defeat away to Stoke City but got their first point of the season after drawing 2-2 against Wolves with summer signings Sam Greenwood and Joe Gelhardt getting Leeds goals. Two wins followed against Sunderland and Middlesbrough, winning 3-1 and 1-0, with Sam Greenwood scoring all four of Leeds United goals. Greenwood is currently on five goals in four games which makes him the leagues top goal scorer. Two wins and a draw mean that Leeds sit third in the league with seven points behind Wolves and Norwich City. Mark Jackson’s men next play against Reading on the 16th of October and will be looking to climb the table. I asked over on Twitter for any questions regarding the under 23s and have answered them below: 

@JonnyMarsden97_ : “Out of the current crop of U23’s, who do you think has the most ability and is the most likely to become a regular feature in the first team? Do you see them breaking through into the first team this season or not?” 

In regards to who I believe will be the next player to become a first team regular it’s difficult to answer. A lot depends on opportunities, Bielsa has a pretty settled first squad and the only way players are breaking into it is if players get injured or lose form. Going of pure ability, then summer signing Joe Gelhardt would be the most likely player to become a regular. He’s already played a number of senior minutes at Wigan and it’s only a matter of time before we either see him on the bench with the first team or potentially leave on loan in January in search of first team minutes. At the moment he’s learning Bielsa’s ways but is far too good for under 23 football once he’s up to speed with El Loco’s methods. Sam Greenwood has also started the season on fire and looks a very well rounded player. If he continues his fine form then it will only be a matter of time before he’s knocking on the first team door. 

@cyclingjonny: “Was going to ask if any are likely to move out on loan next week. And now that we’re in the PL, are we likely to move towards that model? I know Bielsa liked to keep them at home last season, but presumably the gap between 23’s and PL is a bridge to great, if you get me?

Good question. I think we could still see a few go out on loan but it also wouldn’t surprise me to see them stay and reevaluate in January. In terms of are we likely to move towards a loan model, I believe that we will. I don’t think we will to the extent of teams like Chelsea and more recently Brighton but Leeds know they have to plan for life without Bielsa so making sure we have a number of young players ready for the first team under a different manager is vital going forward. The only way a lot of the young players are going to learn is by playing mens football. I also think it’s interesting to hear Radrizzani talk about buying new clubs to create a network of clubs, which could see Leeds players go out on loan in different countries. One to keep an eye on. 

@olly_bannon: “We hear that Bielsa is very invested with this group but what is his actual involvement? Is under 23’s training integrated fully into first team sessions or is Bielsa attending separate sessions?”

I don’t know for sure but as far as I’m aware they train together and also separately. Mark Jackson takes training and managers the team but Bielsa has an input into team selection. The under 23’s are heavily involved in the murder ball sessions but also do a lot of individual training to improve the areas the coaching staff feel they need to work on. 

@HelenNewsome6:“Last season, when Carlos coached the 23’s he was also a coach in the first team. This presumably helped support a whole club continuity in approach. Is it the same this season and so will Jackson be part of first team in the same way?”

I think this season with the more competitive schedules for both the first team and under 23’s that Mark Jackson will just be coaching the under 23’s. Of course he will work with Marcelo with many of the players playing for both teams throughout the season. Jackson has been at the club a while so is the perfect man to guide the under 23’s into a more competitive league and going forward. 

@gabrieldud: “Thoughts on Shackleton on U23/EFL cup? Was a little disappointed with his level there. Thought he could be a star there and didn’t see it.”

Jamie Shackleton is in a difficult situation at the moment. He’s to good to be playing under 23/21 football but not quite ready to nail down a first team spot in the Premier League. His best bet would be to leave on loan and play first team football every week but with the central midfield areas looking thin, I don’t see that happening. In the cup he’s played with a lot of younger players and has found it difficult to be the “leader” in them games. He’s a brilliant young player who I’m sure will take his chance if or when it comes.

@EmilioPepilio: “What do you think of the U23s in the EFL? – an idea / concept being floated around by some.”

I’m personally not a fan of the idea. The EFL and the clubs within it have been brilliant in terms of developing players that may of not got the chance at the bigger clubs. If it was to be like other countries then B teams couldn’t get promoted into the top divisions and I feel like it would potentially take away the competitive aspect of the leagues. In terms of quality, there is no country in the world that has the standard of football England has in league one and two so to potentially effect that by adding in under 23 sides would be a disaster. If Premier League clubs want competitive football for their younger players, then they should loan them to league one/two clubs without the expensive loan fees, big wages and fines for not playing x amount of games. 

Thanks to everyone for their questions and I will be looking to do more of these round up and Q and A articles every few months so that those who don’t have the time to keep up to date with how the under 23’s are getting on have somewhere they can find the relevant information. 

Written by Thomas Wilson

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