STEVE EVANS admits that he is keeping a watchful eye on Leeds United duo Eoghan Stokes and Frank Mulhern – as the young forwards chase new deals at the club.
The pair did their cause no harm at all with accomplished strikes in the Under-21 development squad’s 2-1 win over Nottingham Forest on Monday – which extended the side’s unbeaten run in February to three matches.
Mulhern fired a well-taken opener, while Stokes converted with a bullet header – netting his second goal in as many games for Paul Hart’s side.
The duo, out of contract this June, are being closely monitored by the club’s coaching staff – and despite a positive afternoon on Monday, each have been left under no illusions that the hard work and progress must continue between now and the summer to give themselves the best chance of earning fresh terms – and potentially stepping up to the first-team squad in time.
Evans said: “They have to earn themselves a contract (first) beyond this season. Their contracts are up in the summer.
“If we are planning for the future, believe me, scoring for the under-21s is a long way from scoring in the first team.
“But both boys are giving themselves every opportunity. Their training performances are now being monitored more closely than they have ever been before.
“It is why they are suddenly being pitched into the under-21s on a more regular basis, starting games.
“It’s because we need to make a decision – or I need to make a decision with the abilities of my staff – whether they can add something to go forward.
“If their abilities stick out and say they should be in the first team, I don’t care if they are 15, 16, 18 or 35. It doesn’t matter to me; then they would be good enough.
“At this minute in this, there’s players in front of those.”
Mulhern, 18, a youth international for the Republic of Ireland, signed his first professional deal last summer along with attacking midfielder Tom Lynam and highly-rated keeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
Stokes, 19, penned his first professional contract in August 2013.