Destination unknown for Leeds United duo with fortnight left in summer transfer window

What the 2021/22 season will hold for Leeds United youngsters Robbie Gotts and Niall Huggins remains up in the air with a fortnight left in the transfer window.

By Graham Smyth
Tuesday, 17th August 2021, 4:48 am
DEADLINE LOOMING - Just two weeks remain for a decision to be made on the immediate future of Leeds United youngsters Niall Huggins, pictured, and Robbie Gotts. Pic: Getty
DEADLINE LOOMING - Just two weeks remain for a decision to be made on the immediate future of Leeds United youngsters Niall Huggins, pictured, and Robbie Gotts. Pic: Getty

For Gotts, the likelihood is a second-successive campaign out on loan, although a permanent move still cannot be ruled out.

The 21-year-old spent time with both Lincoln City and Salford City in his first spell away from Thorp Arch since signing for his local club at the age of seven.

He departed the League One Imps midway through the 2020/21 campaign when Leeds recalled him to send him to League Two Salford, where game time was expected to be more forthcoming.

The decision paid off, with 22 league appearances coming in the colours of the club owned by former Manchester United players. All told, he played 34 times in senior football, enough to call it a successful season in terms of involvement and development.

Even just by featuring in the men’s game, Gotts will have got better through experience, but there was anecdotal evidence of progression.

Then Salford boss Richie Wellens lauded Gotts’ pressing ability, his passing, attacking threat and off-field presence.

“We think he has a real chance to go all the way,” he added.

Given the praise that flowed his way from Marcelo Bielsa on a number of occasions, the minutes he was able to accrue last term and the versatility he showed – a right-back turned midfielder, he featured in an advanced central role, as a No 8, on both sides of midfield and at full-back – it is no surprise there have been clubs sniffing around this summer.

Doncaster, with Wellens now at the helm, were keen but went for Manchester United’s Ethan Galbraith on loan and their attentions have since turned to vacancies for a striker and a winger.

Motherwell have been an option for some time but a deal has not yet progressed. Midfield, specifically in the attacking sense, was the main area of concern for Graham Alexander’s side heading into the transfer window and, although they signed Callum Slattery from Southampton, they remain interested in Gotts.

Salford are believed to still be keeping tabs on Gotts and Oldham Athletic have expressed tentative interest but the latest to the chase are Stockport County, the National League side.

While they are expected to challenge at the very top of the table, backed by local businessman Mark Scott and managed by former Brighton Under-23s head coach Simon Rusk, they still represent a season outside the EFL at a level Gotts is surely too good for.

Whichever destination is deemed the right one, Gotts’ future undoubtedly now lies elsewhere and it is only a matter of time before a move is sorted.

The same can be said for Huggins, who has gone from playing in the Premier League at the Emirates against Arsenal to an almost inevitable departure.

While the 20-year-old was unable to shine on what was a surprise first-team debut off the bench last season, he looked confident and more than competent in his 37-minute cameo.

That was one of nine occasions on which he was included in Bielsa’s matchday squad in the top flight and, what’s more, he enjoyed a fine season with the Under-23s.

He played on both flanks as a full-back and made appearances in midfield for Mark Jackson’s side en route to the Premier League 2 Division Two title before the summer came and it became apparent Leeds felt a loan, or a permanent transfer with the right terms, was an appropriate next step.

The Yorkshire Evening Post understands an offer from a Championship club is on the table and Blackburn Rovers’ interest in the Wales Under-21 international is well documented, but nothing is imminent.

Huggins signed a new contract last season, one that runs to the summer of 2023 but it would now be a surprise if he is still at Elland Road to see it through to expiration.

For both youngsters the decisions taken in the next two weeks will be critical for their future, short term and long.