"It was an opportunity I had to take." Keeper Blackman seals Leeds United switch
Jamal Blackman described Leeds United as the 'right stepping stone' and said the chance to work under Marcelo Bielsa had influenced his decision to join the club after signing from Chelsea on loan.
The goalkeeper became United’s second new arrival of the summer this morning, finalising a season-long switch from Stamford Bridge and resolving Leeds’ long search for a new number one.
Blackman was targeted by the Elland Road side after interest in Angus Gunn and David Stockdale fizzled out and he put pen to paper before training today having passed a medical over the weekend.
He will make his first outing for United during tomorrow’s pre-season friendly at Forest Green Rovers.
The trip to League Two Forest Green will offer a first look at the plans and tactics of new head coach Bielsa, the Argentinian who Leeds appointed on a two-year contract last month.
Blackman said: “It’s such a big club with a great manager as well. At Chelsea everyone speaks really highly of him. They said that being able to work under him would be a great opportunity, and in your career you don’t get that many opportunities like this. It was one I had to take.
“We had a few other clubs talking about me so it was quite a big decision. With Chelsea I’m trying to get as close to the first team as possible and Leeds was my best option. It’s the right stepping stone for me.”
Blackman has never played for Chelsea’s senior side but he holds prior experience of the Championship having spent last season on loan at Sheffield United.
He was on Leeds’ initial list of options in the early stages of the summer and came to the fore after Gunn left Manchester City for Southampton and Birmingham City blocked a bid to sign Stockdale on loan.
United wanted a new keeper after seeing Felix Wiedwald - a £500,000 buy from Werder Bremen a year ago - struggle to cope in the Championship.
Wiedwald was sold to Eintracht Frankfurt last month and veteran Andy Lonergan followed him out of Elland Road a week ago after agreeing to sever the remainder of his contract.
Blackman is expected to start the new campaign as first choice ahead of Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
The 24-year-old said: “I was pretty much away on holiday enjoying myself and then I got a call from my agent saying there was a possible chance to go to Leeds. He asked me if I wanted to go and I said yes because it’s such a big club with a big fanbase. I’d love to come.
“It was mainly up to (Chelsea) as well. They’re trying to make sure they look after me and that I make the right decisions for my career and get as much experience as possible. We sat down quite a lot together and tried to think about what the best option would be.”
Blackman, who signed a new four-year deal with Chelsea last June, is embarking on his fifth loan spell and had arrived in West Yorkshire two weeks after fellow Stamford Bridge academy recruit Lewis Baker signed for Leeds.
“That was the aim, to get out and get as much experience as possible,” Blackman said. “The more experience you have the more chance you have to push and be part of the first team (at Chelsea).”