Leeds United confirm third contract boost as 'versatile defender' commits to Elland Road future

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Leeds United are expected to confirm further academy contracts in the coming weeks.

Leeds United have confirmed a third youth-level contract signing of the day with teenage defender Joe Richards signing a one-year deal.

Richards has put pen to paper on his first ever professional contract as he continues to develop through the age groups. The 18-year-old spent much of last season with Rob Etherington’s Under-18s side but also featured for the Under-21s and will hope to become a more permanent fixture in the latter age group over the next 12 months.

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A versatile right-sided player, Richards operates most naturally at full-back but can play further forward. The teenager has an appetite for getting forward regardless, as shown by his four assists in 45 Under-18 Premier League appearances last season.

A statement from the club read: “Leeds United are pleased to announce Joe Richards has signed his first professional contract with the club. The versatile defender has put pen to paper on a one-year deal, tying his future to Elland Road until 2025. 

“The 18-year-old featured in every minute of the Whites’ FA youth Cup journey last season, as Rob Etherington’s side reached the final at the Etihad Stadium. Capable of playing at full-back or in a more advanced role on the wing, Richards also made a handful of appearances for Scott Gardner’s Under-21s team, scoring against Fulham in just his fourth Premier League 2 outing.

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“The club would like to congratulate Joe on signing his first professional contract and we look forward to seeing his development at Thorp Arch.”

Richards becomes the third Leeds academy talent to sign a new contract in one day, following Under-21s goalkeeper Harry Christy and fellow defender Reuben Lopata-White. Like Richards, Christy signed a one-year deal but Lopata-White has committed his long-term future to the club, putting pen to paper on a three-year contract.

Contracts for Richards and Lopata-White are just rewards for their respective roles in last season’s excellent FA Youth Cup run. Both played every minute from the Fifth Round onwards - Christy also being ever-present beforehand - as Etherington’s young Whites made it to the final, eventually losing to champions Manchester City.

A number of other young stars are expected to sign professional contracts in the coming weeks as Leeds focus on tying down their youth talent.