Teenager Lewis Cook marked himself out as Leeds United’s next academy success story as coach David Hockaday hinted that the 17-year-old will be in the thick of the forthcoming season.
Cook caught the eye with a consummate display in Saturday’s 2-0 win at Guiseley, leading Hockaday to admit that he is ready to blood the midfielder and other United youngsters when the Championship season starts next month.
Hockaday fielded Cook in his starting line-up at Nethermoor and the England youth international produced the pick of the performances in a tight and competitive pre-season friendly.
Cook’s reputation has grown in the past six months on account of his involvement in the England squad who won the European Under-17 Championship in May, and he was taken on United’s tour of Italy earlier this month.
He was one of three young professionals used by Hockaday at Nethermoor, with centre-back Ross Killock completing an hour and striker Lewis Walters featuring for the final 30 minutes.
Hockaday said: “If you chopped Lewis’ head off and put an older head on his shoulders, you wouldn’t be surprised.
“From what I’ve seen, he along with one or two others have a very good chance here. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with a lot of the younger players and I’ve got a history of giving young players a chance. If they’re good enough, they’ll get their opportunity.”
Cook, who is under contract at Elland Road for the next two years, played as the defensive tip of an experienced midfield diamond containing Michael Tonge, David Norris and new signing Tommaso Bianchi.
Hockaday gave two other foreign recruits – goalkeeper Marco Silvestri and forward Souleymane Doukara – an hour on the pitch at Nethermoor, and goals from Jason Pearce and Matt Smith snatched a late victory.
Watched by owner Massimo Cellino, United struggled to get on top of Guiseley and appeared to be heading for a goalless draw with the Conference North side until Pearce converted a free header five minutes from time.
Smith’s tap-in completed a 2-0 win in injury-time.
Hockaday conceded that the club’s new signings would need time and patience to settle in, saying: “They’ve got to acclimatise to the English culture, the language, the tempo of the games and what we’re looking for.
“Some of them will fly early doors and some might need a bit of time to walk before they run and fly so we’ll have to be patient. We need them to be ready for Millwall on August 9.”
Gaetano Berardi – the Swiss right-back signed by United from Sampdoria on Friday night – was eligible to play at Guiseley but only took part in the half-time warm-up with a view to making his debut at Mansfield Town tomorrow.
“He came in on Friday and trained for the first time so he wasn’t ready,” Hockaday said.
“If we’d needed him in the last few minutes then we could have thrown him on.” Leeds are continuing to pursue the signature of 22-year-old midfielder Federico Viviani from Roma but Hockaday confirmed that trialist Andre Blackman will not be joining United.
Left-back Blackman began training with Leeds last month and travelled on their tour of Italy but he was not present at Thorp Arch last week.
“We had a look at him but it’s not right,” Hockaday said.
“We wish him well and we move on.”