Chris Dawson reflected on a year of quick and promising progress after landing another long-term contract with Leeds United.
The Wales Under-21 international admitted the 2012-13 season had eclipsed his expectations as he and Leeds agreed terms on a new three-year deal.
Dawson put pen to paper yesterday afternoon, six short months after accepting his first professional contract at Elland Road.
United tied him down until 2015 in October with the 18-year-old rapidly emerging as one of the finer assets in the Thorp Arch academy and his latest contract will keep him at Leeds until June 2016.
Dawson’s season has been one of consistent and impressive development, with the attacking midfielder heavily involved in both the Under-18 and Under-21 campaigns but also on the fringe of the first-team squad. He was given a senior squad number in November and made his full debut under former manager Neil Warnock on April 1. In between, Dawson broke into Wales’ Under-21 squad.
Dawson said: “At the start I was hoping to maybe get a one-year (deal) by Christmas and then kick-on next season but it’s obviously gone a lot better than expected. I’ve got three years now.
“I try and stay level-headed and I know what I need to do to become the player I want to be. Things don’t faze me too much.”
Dawson underwent shoulder surgery shortly before the end of the Championship term but is due to recover in time for the start of pre-season training on June 27.
“If I can play a part in pre-season then hopefully I can impress and see where it goes,” he said.
“I’ve spoken with the new manager (Brian McDermott) a couple of times and he seems like a really good guy. The style of football he plays suits me so I can’t wait for it to start.”
Leeds have shown an increasing level of commitment to their academy players, signing several to professional forms in the past 12 months.
Dawson is one of five second-year scholars who received senior deals before the end of the season and United have handed substantial contracts to Sam Byram and Dominic Poleon, both of whom made their first-team debuts in August.
Midfielder Simon Lenighan – given a squad number for the first time at Watford on Saturday – is now tied to Leeds until 2014 after the club took up a one-year option in his contract.
Meanwhile, United have dismissed reports from Africa claiming El-Hadji Diouf, their Senegalese forward, will sign for Guinean side AS Kaloum during the transfer window.
Kaloum president Boubah Sampil told local media that Diouf is poised to accept a short-term deal tomorrow but, with Diouf under contract at Elland Road until June 2014, United insisted last night that the forward would be back at Thorp Arch for the start of pre-season training.
Diouf travelled to Senegal last week having incurred a three-match suspension prior to the final day of the Championship season.
Speaking ahead of Leeds’ 2-1 win over Watford, McDermott said: “We’ve given him a fitness programme to take away with him and I’m convinced he’s going to come back as strong as he’s ever been in his life.”