Behind-the-scenes Leeds United figure reveals summer transfer commitment in wake of Victor Orta exit

Leeds United academy manager Adam Underwood has reaffirmed the club’s commitment to recruiting young talent despite director of football Victor Orta’s recent exit.
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Leeds have signed several emerging talents in recent seasons, including the likes of Joe Gelhardt, Sam Greenwood, Crysencio Summerville, Darko Gyabi, Mateo Joseph and Sonny Perkins, a strategy closely associated with Orta’s work at the club.

Following his departure, the recruitment framework at Elland Road is set for a change in personnel, but the processes and objectives remain the same, says academy manager Underwood.

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Underwood has been at the club since 2014, overseeing the development of players such as Kalvin Phillips, Lewis Cook and many more. Orta’s arrival in 2017 saw the Spaniard attempt to implement ‘Project Anticipate Talent’, with the aim of signing promising young players for the club’s academy before establishing themselves in the professional game.

Pascal Struijk’s acquisition from AFC Ajax’s famed academy in 2018 is perhaps the most successful example of a young player plucked from elsewhere, fielded with the academy sides before transitioning to become a bona-fide first-team player.

Orta’s recruitment structure at Leeds is to be broken up this summer with second-in-command Gaby Ruiz and scout Alberto Cordero both set to leave the club, while head of emerging talent Craig Dean and scout Alex Davies remain at Thorp Arch.

Underwood states that while key personnel behind-the-scenes may be on their way out this summer, recruiting young players for the Under-21 side with a view to future senior involvement, will continue.

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“I think it's really important to acknowledge that all the players we've recruited up to this point, have their own individual plans and they’re our individual projects, right? We want to see those guys through. That's our responsibility,” Underwood told the YEP.

Former Leeds United director of football Victor Orta (C) at Molineux Stadium earlier this season (Pic: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)Former Leeds United director of football Victor Orta (C) at Molineux Stadium earlier this season (Pic: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)
Former Leeds United director of football Victor Orta (C) at Molineux Stadium earlier this season (Pic: Mike Egerton/PA Wire)

"We wouldn't have brought those players to the club and blended them with our best local talent if we didn't believe that out of those crops of players year-on-year, we could produce first-team players for Leeds United.

"We will absolutely continue to push our youth development in this club and make sure that we can realise our vision of developing players at the highest level and pushing them through, recruitment is obviously a key part of that,” he added.

Underwood spoke ahead of the Under-21s’ Premier League 2 play-off final against Nottingham Forest on Monday evening. The club have sold in excess of 10,000 tickets, opening the West and North Stands for the fixture at Elland Road as the young Whites vie for a spot in PL2’s top flight.

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"Just missing out on automatic promotion has given us the opportunity to put them in a pressure situation in a play-off semi-final against Aston Villa which they came through and they're now in a play-off final against Nottingham Forest,” Underwood said.

"I think the the billing of the game and the magnitude of the game for these young players is clear. The more that we get into Elland Road, I think the better the experience for them from a development perspective.

"I'm really pleased to hear that we're up to 10,000 and hopefully we will surpass that.”

Ticket information for Monday evening’s final is available on the club’s official website. Kick-off at Elland Road is from 7pm.