Tom Pearce insisted his future at Leeds United had never been in doubt and said he would look for another run in the first team this season after signing a new four-year contract earlier in the summer.
Leeds staved off interest from Bournemouth and Crystal Palace by agreeing new terms with the left-back in May, little over a month before his old deal was due to expire.
Pearce, who joined United’s academy as a 16-year-old from Everton, had initially been earmarked for release by the club but forced his way back into their plans with a run of first-team appearances under former head coach Paul Heckingbottom.
The defender played five times and scored once against Barnsley during the final two months of last season and United avoided losing him for a compensation fee by reaching an agreement to keep him at Elland Road until 2022.
Speaking after last night’s friendly at York City, Pearce said: “I was always going to stay. It’s the right club for young players. It took a bit longer than expected but it was the right decision.
“I want to cement my position in the first team now but if not, I’ll always be ready. I think everyone’s got the opportunity if they perform well in pre-season. We’ll see what happens.
“It’s serious now (stepping up from the Under-23s). You’re playing for points. But I was always ready last season and I was hoping to get my chance so I was really happy when it came. I thought I had a good end to the season.”
Pearce completed 90 minutes on his first outing of the summer at York, featuring in an advanced role on the left-hand side of a three-man defence.
United’s players are in the middle of a tactical shift under new head coach Marcelo Bielsa and Pearce said the Argentinian’s influence was already rubbing off on him.
“It’s been very good. Personally he’s helped me out a lot with my positioning and the way I play.
I was always going to stay. It’s the right club for young players. It took a bit longer than expected but it was the right decision.Tom Pearce
“Before every training session we watch videos, looking at what we’re going to do in that session and at previous sessions as well. He looks at the overall performance of the team, what we can improve on and what we can do well. He makes everyone listen and focus.”
Pearce’s brief run of performances last season earned him a first international call-up to England’s Under-21 squad for the Toulon Tournament in France. He and United team-mate Ronaldo Vieira were both involved as England claimed the trophy for the third year running.
The defender insisted he had not been overawed by the prospect of international football, saying: “I already knew a couple of players from previous years so it was fine.
“It was good and enjoyable and we came home with the win as well.”