Neil Redfearn claimed Leeds United were developing a crop of players capable of carrying the club forward for years to come after his young side inflicted a 3-1 defeat on Blackpool.
United’s head coach paid tribute to the influence of the three academy products in his line-up, describing them as “the glue” and comparing them to the famous ‘Class of ,92’ who emerged at Manchester United 20 years ago.
Sam Byram, Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook all started Saturday’s win over Blackpool – named in a side with an average age of less than 24 – and a ruthless first-half performance earned the Whites their first league win in nine games.
Cook, 17, is in his first season as a senior player at Elland Road and Byram and Mowatt have both come through from the academy in the past two years.
Redfearn kept faith with them on Saturday, despite the pressure of a winless run which stretched back to September 22, and they were in the thick of an encouraging display which yielded first-half goals from Liam Cooper, Souleymane Doukara and Mirco Antenucci.
Redfearn, who worked as United’s academy boss up until his recent appointment as head coach, said: “These young players are really coming to prominence. It’s unusual to get so many coming thought at once.
“The Manchester United side with the Nevilles and all them, perhaps they’re going to have an impact like that. They’re a big influence and I look at them as mainstays in our side.
“They’re young guys and I don’t want to put too much pressure on them but they’re the glue in this side. It’s been said before that if you’re good enough you’re old enough and they look more than old enough. They’re coming good at the right time.
“The exciting thing for me is that I’ve been with some of these lads since they were in the Under-16. I’ve seen the potential and they’ve convinced me that they’re good enough.”
Redfearn had few complaints at the end of United’s win and having held a 3-0 advantage at the break, Leeds withstood pressure from Blackpool in the second half to close out a badly-needed win.
Nile Ranger pulled a goal back with 15 minutes to play but Blackpool remain at the bottom of the Championship with seven points from 17 games.
Cooper, who opened the scoring with his first Leeds goal on nine minutes, turned in a convincing display in the centre of defence, strengthening his claim to a long run in that position.
Recent suspensions to Jason Pearce and Giuseppe Bellusci brought Cooper back into the side and asked if he thought the £600,000 summer signing from Chesterfield had been unlucky to spend so much time on the bench this season, Redfearn said: “I do, but what he’s done is be patient.
“He always wants to work in training and he looks like a really composed, organised centre-back. He’s come in and made a difference.”
Antenucci, meanwhile, struck three minutes before half-time to put Leeds 3-0 up – just hours after his partner gave birth to their first child.
“He was always going to play,” Redfearn said. “It was just a case of when he joined up with us.
“I’ve been told he got a good night’s sleep and he got through the game fine. I can’t complain.”
United’s victory moved them four points clear of the Championship’s relegation places heading into the third and last international break of the season.
The club’s campaign resumes away to Blackburn Rovers on November 22.
“They’ve shown me this performance now,” Redfearn said. “They’ve shown me this level. As head coach, I should be able to expect that.
“The intensity was there and the determination was matched by the quality.
“We’re difficult to play against like this.”