Leeds United coach reveals left-back solution as 'crash' hands youngster new position

Leeds United Under-21s head coach Michael Skubala is in the process of converting attacking midfielder Charlie Allen into a wing-back for the club’s development squad
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Charlie Allen signed improved terms at Elland Road in July as the Northern Irish youth international pledged his future to Leeds United until summer 2024. Four weeks later, the 18-year-old began working with new Under-21s head coach Michael Skubala, whose side remain unbeaten in league fixtures three months into the season.

Partly due to circumstance, Skubala has elected to use Allen as a hybrid wing-back in recent fixtures, due to injuries sustained by Keenan Carole and Leo Hjelde – both of whom are more natural fits at left-back. Carole began the season in defence after impressing for the Under-18s as a left-winger, but has been ruled out lately with a knee problem, while Hjelde has spent much of the past month recovering from an appendectomy, nominally featuring as a centre-back.

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Leeds’ lack of depth at left-back, both at senior and Under-21 level, threatened to jeopardise the club’s on-pitch endeavours but as Pascal Struijk has shown in the first-team, Allen may soon become the development squad’s solution. As United’s youngsters looked to close out the game away to Sunderland a few weeks ago, Skubala told the YEP he took the decision to move Allen to left-back, in the absence of a better-suited alternative, doing so for a specific reason.

YORK, ENGLAND - JULY 07: Charlie Allen of Leeds United looks on during the Pre-Season Friendly between Leeds United and Blackpool at LNER Community Stadium on July 07, 2022 in York, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)YORK, ENGLAND - JULY 07: Charlie Allen of Leeds United looks on during the Pre-Season Friendly between Leeds United and Blackpool at LNER Community Stadium on July 07, 2022 in York, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
YORK, ENGLAND - JULY 07: Charlie Allen of Leeds United looks on during the Pre-Season Friendly between Leeds United and Blackpool at LNER Community Stadium on July 07, 2022 in York, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

"Charlie's a right footer, they've got a left footer who ducks inside, so it causes a crash. And Charlie's really nimble and quick, so actually, going out there, getting pressure on the ball really quick and just stopping their threat.

"He's out of position definitely, but as a sub for five minutes [it] just takes the sting out of the winger. And I thought he did really well. I thought he came out with the ball because the winger kept coming inside onto Charlie's right foot and Charlie's quick off the mark. So, even though he's out of position actually I thought he did well when he came on,” Skubala said.

The coach reiterated his point, clarifying that Allen may well be used in that position more frequently following his performance against Bolton Wanderers in the Papa John’s Trophy: “Charlie Allen again today, we've moved from a 10 into a wing-back, I thought he had a great performance again.”

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Since moving onto the left flank, where he also featured in the 21s’ most recent win over Middlesbrough last weekend, Allen has produced some of his more impressive performances in a Leeds shirt. Much like the positional change Sam Greenwood has undergone since joining Leeds, the Northern Ireland teenager may prove to be the next youngster who finds greater opportunities in his new role.

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