Interim head coach admits to confidence issue as Leeds United prospect finally nets after boss exit

Leeds United striker Sonny Perkins grabbed the first goal of a thus-far frustrating season in Oxford United's rout of Chelsea Under 21s on Tuesday night, just hours after his manager departed.
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The teenager moved to the League One club on loan earlier this season, to join Liam Manning, whose previous work at Perkins' former club West Ham United was seen as pivotal to the deal. But things have not worked out as anticipated, with Perkins yet to start in league action and playing just two minutes in a pair of late substitute cameos. The past eight League One games have come and gone without the Leeds youngster even making Oxford United's squad.

This week did bring about an opportunity, however, in the wake of Manning's departure. Bristol City announced Manning as their new head coach on Tuesday and Grant Ferguson, chairman of Oxford United, put first team coach Craig Short in interim charge before expressing the club's disappointment. "We reluctantly gave Bristol City permission to speak with Liam after he indicated he wanted to discuss their vacant managerial position with them. The club did everything it could to keep him here, but we move on and the project continues. Our focus now is to quickly appoint Liam's successor and support Craig as interim head coach.”

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Short's first task was to lead the team in an EFL Trophy group stage clash with Chelsea U21s and the result was a resounding 5-0 victory with three late goals condemning the visiting Blues youngsters to a thrashing. Perkins got the opener, tapping in from close range on 15 minutes after good work from Josh Murphy. The goalscorer, who had a couple of other sniffs at goal, left the game just after the midway point of the second half having started to tire in Short's eyes. The interim head coach was pleased to see Perkins get on the scoresheet, admitting that confidence has likely become an issue after so little gametime. He said: "Sonny tired at the end but it was nice for him to get a goal. I’m sure he’s lacking a bit of confidence as he’ll have been expecting to play."

Perkins arrived at Leeds in July 2022 from West Ham, who released a statement revealing their disappointment and a belief that the teenager had been approached by another team, who influenced his decision to reject the offer of a professional deal from the Hammers. His first season at Leeds was spent almost exclusively with Michael Skubala's Under 21s side, for whom he scored 11 times in 18 Premier League 2 second tier outings. A senior goal did arrive in the FA Cup, when he came off the bench to equalise from close range against Cardiff City and send the tie to a replay, but despite appearing among the substitutes on two occasions Perkins did not make a Premier League debut for the Whites.

Daniel Farke was asked about Perkins' proximity to the first team back in August when Leeds were struggling to fill a bench amid a summer transfer exodus and injury issues, and responded: "He’s available if I pick him. Each player has the chance to shine in training. To show he’s ready. I pick players who convince me in training, show performances at the level that we need for the Championship. Just because there are some free spots, I pick a player. It is the wrong sign to choose a player who was not there with a top class training performances. I would rather go with less players. That’s important.”

Perkins subsequently went out on loan and Farke has since declined to comment on how players plying their trade elsewhere are progressing. He said in October: "In general I don’t want to talk too much about the players that are out on loan and not with us at the moment, because it’s then not my business. I would not expect the Tottenham manager to comment about our players and for that I respect that each and every club has their own business."