Leeds United: Academy boost for Whites

Leeds United Academy products Alex Mowatt, Lewis Cook and Sam Byram.

Leeds United Academy products Alex Mowatt, Lewis Cook and Sam Byram.

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Leeds United’s youth-development scheme will be an “integral” part of the club’s future, according to new academy director Paul Hart.

Hart said conversations with owner Massimo Cellino had convinced him that the academy at Thorp Arch would be protected in spite of cuts imposed by the Italian at Elland Road.

Hart took over as academy director last month, replacing Neil Redfearn and returning to a club where he worked twice before, once as a player and later as head of United’s academy in the 1990s.

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The existing scheme at Leeds gained Category Two status under the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) last year but changes to the coaching staff and comments from Cellino indicating that he might abandon youth development with players below the age of 16 raised questions about the academy’s future. Hart, however, is one of several appointments made in the past two months and the 62-year-old said commitments made to him by former United executive director Adam Pearson had been echoed by Cellino.

“From speaking to Mr Cellino, the impression I get is that the academy is an integral part of the club moving forward,” Hart said.

“To be honest, after speaking to Adam I wouldn’t have expected anything else.

“That was the message I got from him and we spoke at length about what was planned and what would happen. The owner believes in it and I certainly believe in developing young players.

“I’ve yet to see the budgets but this is as well-run as anywhere I’ve been.The recruitment is excellent but there are things we can improve on. That’s always the case. The good thing is everybody who works here seems to be looking forward to the changes.

“They seem happy about the idea that things will change.”

Aitor Karanka.

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