'He's a different player' - international boss lauds Leeds United midfielder after goal-filled loan spell, explains senior call up
Northern Ireland manager Ian Baraclough says Leeds United midfielder Alfie McCalmont is a different player to the one that first went out on loan to Oldham Athletic.
The 21-year-old signed a new four-year deal at Elland Road last summer before heading out for a season at Boundary Park. By all accounts it went well, with 10 goals in all competitions and 35 appearances in the highly competitive, ultra physical proving ground of League Two.
McCalmont told the YEP in a recent interview that he hoped what he had done with the Latics would help him break back into the senior set-up at international level, having first been capped in 2019 and today he was named in the squad to face Malta and Ukraine in Northern Ireland's summer friendly matches.
Baraclough was delighted to see a player he coached at Under 21 level for Northern Ireland taking the step away from Leeds and cutting the Thorp Arch apron strings.
"When I was in charge of the 21s I was desperate for those playing 23s, those not playing at first team level, I was keen for them to go out and get first team experience," he said.
"Alfie has done that. It's tough because if you're in an environment like he is at Leeds or the lads at Manchester United or Chelsea, we've got everything we need, we're in a comfort zone, they've got the best equipment, the best facilities and all of a sudden you go to a club, no disrespect, to Oldham like Alfie did and you're in the muck and bullets of it all. You haven't got the best things and you have to learn and adapt quickly. Alfie has gone and done that."
The result is a better footballer who returns to Leeds this summer to plot his next move and a player Baraclough feels deserves a place in what is largely a young squad for the upcoming friendlies.
"I think he's gone and scored double figures in his first season of senior football," said Baraclough.
"He can be proud of that and it gives him a platform to springboard from. He'll go back to Leeds a much better, more rounded player. To come with us is reward for having done that and had a good season. We'll see how he's developed.
"I've seen his progress over the season and he's certainly become a different player from when I first saw him play for Oldham to when I saw him a few weeks ago. I'm delighted to have him here and hopefully he can push on and try and be in this squad for the next few years."
McCalmont will join fellow Leeds man Stuart Dallas in the Northern Ireland camp.