'I had three minutes to think about it' - Leeds United's Leif Davis on Aston Villa debut, Marcelo Bielsa and life at Thorp Arch

For Leeds United fans, the club's trip to Aston Villa two days before Christmas is remembered fondly as one of the great comebacks in recent years.

Friday, 22nd February 2019, 10:34 am
Updated Friday, 22nd February 2019, 10:42 am
Leeds United defender Leif Davis speaks to LUTV.

Kemar Roofe struck in the fifth minute of stoppage time to spark wild celebrations and ensure that the Whites were top of the tree when Santa came to visit.

Invention from Jack Clarke and a bullet header from Pontus Jansson helped United along the way as they cancelled out a two-goal deficit after half-time.

One storyline, though, from an afternoon full of festive miracles was almost overlooked amid the full-time celebrations.

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Leeds United's Leif Davis (L) and Robbie Gotts (R) at one of the club's foundation soccer schools.

Leif Davis, an academy acquisition from League Two side Morecambe last summer, was thrust into the cauldron of Villa Park - the Championship's biggest stadium - with virtually no warning after Barry Douglas fell ill during the warm-up.

"I didn't get time to think about it," Davis revealed of his senior debut.

"I only got told three minutes before kick-off. We came in and got dressed and I was getting ready to be on the bench. Then Marcelo said 'you're starting' and it was all a big rush."

The 19-year-old's arrival at the club seven months ago was seen as an investment for the future but with Bielsa's tight-knit squad suffering from injuries, it has very much been all hands to the pump at Thorp Arch.

Davis, who grew up in Newcastle, admits he has had a whirlwind start to his United career.

"I wasn't expecting to have my debut this year having come in last summer," he said. "I thought I'd just get myself settled with the Under-23s and work with them to try and push into the first-team.

"I certainly didn't expect it to come this quickly."

The left-back turned centre-half has reaped the rewards of his move to Elland Road having featured on five occasions under Bielsa. He was handed a second start at Queens Park Rangers in the third round of the FA Cup last month.

Bielsa has had a major impact already in his short time at Elland Road. "Training with a world class manager has been huge," Davis said. "It's great to work with a coach of his standing and training alongside players like Pontus (Jansson), who has played at the World Cup, is obviously massive.

"It's a boost to be able to draw on the experiences and learn from them. There's probably about six people who've made their debut from the younger lads and it just shows that he (Bielsa) is willing to trust us and drag us through."

The way that United's youngsters have stepped up this season is as much a compliment to themselves as it is to those who prepare them for such days.

Carlos Corberan, the Whites Under-23s coach, has played a key role in his newly acquired position under Bielsa, ensuring that continuity between the senior side and the development squad is maintained.

The Under-23s sit top of their division and Davis, along with a host of others, is one of those seeing the benefits of having a coach with a foot in both camps barking instructions on a daily basis.

"It's great," Davis said of Corberan's coaching.

"When we have him with the Under-23s he knows the ins and outs of what's been going on with the first-team. The staff we have at both levels are fantastic. Carlos drags what the senior lads have been working on down to the development group and it only benefits us.

"I think it's a big reason why we're doing so well."

Like many others, the former Shrimps man has had to somewhat reinvent himself since he arrived at the club. He has moved across from his preferred role at left-back into the middle of defence, adding another string to his bow.

"I like the position because you get a lot of the ball at centre-back," he said.

"But as a full-back I like to attack whereas in the middle you can't really do that. I like getting on the ball, passing the ball and trying to build from the back."

Leif Davis was visiting one of the Leeds United Foundation Soccer Schools that are held during every half-term holiday at various locations across Leeds. They are available to children from 5-12 years old and delivered by FA-qualified coaches - the next lot of soccer schools will be available during the Easter half-term break and you can book online here.