PAUL HECKINGBOTTOM praised Ryan Edmondson’s attitude but admitted the young striker was some way short of regular first-team football after handing him his debut against Queens Park Rangers.
Edmondson made his first senior appearance yesterday aged 16 years and 351 days, stepping off the bench to replace Kemar Roofe for the last 16 minutes of a 2-0 win.
The powerful forward, who Leeds signed from York City earlier this season, came close to scoring with his first touch and was booked for a foul on QPR’s Darnell Furlong in the closing stages.
He caught Heckingbottom’s eye with a streak of eight goals in 12 appearances for the club’s Under-18s and his form earned him a promotion to the Under-23 squad last month.
Heckingbottom joked: “He’s massive. He looks 36! But he’s a good guy and he gives everything to be a footballer. That’s what we want.
“I can’t have people here who don’t want to be, and I can’t have people here who go through the motions.
“He wants to play and you see that when he put someone into the third row. He’s eager, he’s keen and that should be a minimum when you play football. It’s recognition for that.
“I’m not standing here putting any pressure on him. I’ll be really honest when I say he’s not ready for us yet at first-team level but he’s made great strides already and this gives him a taste to look after himself over the summer, come back even hungrier in pre-season and let’s see where he is then.”
Leeds have seen a steady flow of academy players into their first team since Heckingbottom was appointed as head coach in February. Part of Heckingbottom’s brief was to blood the club’s more promising youngsters with United planning to supplement a smaller first-team squad with Under-23s next season.
Left-back Tom Pearce, one of those who has broken through, is approaching the end of a 12-month deal but is expected to be handed a new contract.
He’s massive. He looks 36! But he’s a good guy and he gives everything to be a footballer. That’s what we want.Paul Heckingbottom on Ryan Edmondson
Heckingbottom said: “Circumstances are different with younger players and under-24s with the compensation rules.
“It’s a little bit different.”