Flashback - 2009: When Fabian Delph netted wonder goal at the Withdean
THERE have been a number of talented young players to have passed through Thorp Arch in recent years, none more so than Fabian Delph.
It is nine years to the week since he announced himself to the football world with a wonder strike against Brighton and Hove Albion.
Premier League clubs were circling before that, of course. The Bradford-born midfielder had made a place in the side his own during the 2008/09 season and it became a case of when, not if, he would go on to light up the very top tier of English football.
It’s difficult to recall a teenager making such an impact in quite the way Delph did. Most bright young things are dashing, lightning quick strikers or bit-part wide men. Not this one. For someone so young to become the key man in the middle of the park for a club like Leeds showed quality.
He would take games by the scruff of the neck. Not every performance was of absolute quality, and at times Leeds fans saw glimpses of immaturity that only a teenager could show, but on the whole it was his consistent ability to control matches that made him stand out as the most eye-catching prospect in English football.
That said, there was something about the Brighton goal that marked Delph out as a very special talent indeed. This was the moment many Leeds fans resigned themselves that League One wasn’t the place for Delph to operate.
Picking the ball up inside his own half, the 19-year-old jinked and darted his way across the sodden and pop-marked Withdean turf before hammering the ball left-footed into the top corner of the net. The late strike made it 2-0 after Lee Trundle’s opener on the hour and Leeds celebrated only their second win in nine after an unfestive Christmas period.
Within months Delph signed for Aston Villa clutching Leeds’ young player of the year award, their goal of the year award and a nomination for the League One player of the year.
And it is from here that his career becomes a matter of debate. Nine years ago the notion that Delph would have only nine England caps by now would have been seen as pessimistic, but after an eight-month absence due to a knee injury sustained during training, Delph’s early Premier League career flatlined.
Luck wasn’t on the youngster’s side. Villa manager Paul Lambert integrated him back into the line-up as an emergency left-back, but his best performances for the Midlands club were in the holding midfield role, where Delph began to show glimpses of the player Leeds fans expected him to become.
His dynamism, that eye for a pass and his ability to control the tempo of games was back and England soon came calling. During the 2013/14 season, Fabian Delph was the player he always could have been, showing all the quality of that solo effort at Brighton. After a protracted transfer saga that saw him flip-flop over a move to the pavements of gold at Manchester City, he made the switch in July 2015. Whether Delph’s potential as a young Leeds player has been truly realised is a subject for debate, but aged 28 and earning plaudits for his transformation into a left-back in Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering City side, there is little doubt that a Premier League winners’ medal is on its way.
MATCH STATS: Brighton 0 Leeds United 2 (Trundle 61, Delph 82)
LEAGUE ONE, JANUARY 17, 2009. Brighton: Sullivan, Whing, Hinshelwood, El-Abd, Elphick, Fraser, Birchall (Murray 62), Virgo, McLeod (Cox 70), Fleetwood (Loft 85), Forster. Subs not used: Crichton, Mayo.
Leeds United: Ankergren, Richardson (Robinson 66), Naylor, Marques, Dickinson, Johnson (Howson 84), Douglas, Hughes, Delph, Becchio, Trundle (Christie 83). Subs not used: Lucas, Michalik.
Referee: Pat Miller (Bedfordshire).