Former Leeds United coach with unusual career path makes bold Archie Gray prediction

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The 18-year-old is making serious waves in his debut campaign as a Leeds United first-team player.

Former Leeds United academy coach Mark Jackson is keeping a close eye on Archie Gray and insists the 18-year-old can reach the top if he works for it.

Jackson developed a reputation for improving young talent during seven years within the Leeds academy coaching set up, at one point even co-managing the under-18s with Archie's dad, Andy Gray. As under-23s coach between 2020 and 2022, the former defender played a crucial role in some of the club's recent breakthroughs including Crysencio Summerville, Charlie Cresswell and Joe Gelhardt.

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But none have enjoyed such an early rise to first-team prominence as Gray, who had 41 senior appearances under his belt before turning 18 earlier this month. A debut goal for England under-21s pushed Gray further into the spotlight last week and Jackson knows the sky's the limit.

"Archie's a phenomenal talent and can go as far as he wants," Jackson told the Daily Mirror. "I'll be watching from afar."

Jackson left Leeds to take up his first managerial role in December 2022, taking charge at relegation-threatened League One outfit MK Dons. The ex-Whites player was unable to keep them afloat and was sacked at the end of the same season.

A move to Central Coast Mariners in Australia surprised just about everyone but Jackson is enjoying life away from the spotlight of English football and is enjoying a successful campaign.

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"[Getting sacked by MK Dons] knocked my confidence a little bit, but not my ambition of what I still wanted to achieve as a manager and getting to the highest level,” Jackson added. “Moving to the Central Coast was a massive decision from a family perspective, if not necessarily from a footballing one.

"I had the challenge of fighting relegation at MK Dons and the challenge here at Central Coast is one of expectation given what happened last season. I know which I'd prefer and the Mariners hierarchy knew it would be about rebuilding after losing five first-team players at the end of last season.

"But in life I always see things as an opportunity. Our stadium is right next to the beach - it's an amazing part of the world. Our target is a top-six finish and then, in the play-offs, as the lads showed last season by reaching the Grand Final and winning it, anything can happen."