Leeds United: Hart returns to Thorp Arch as head of Academy

Paul Hart.
Paul Hart.
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LEEDS United have officially confirmed Paul Hart’s return to Thorp Arch as head of Academy - nearly two decades after his glories with the Whites’ future Champions League side.

Former Leeds defender Hart enjoyed a glittering spell in charge of United’s then fledgling Academy in the early 1990s, developing the likes of Jonathan Woodgate, Alan Smith, Harry Kewell, Paul Robinson and Stephen McPhail, all part of the squad that won the 1997 FA Youth Cup.

That quintet went on to form part of the 2001 United Champions League side and now Hart returns for a second spell in effectively replacing outgoing Academy director Neil Redfearn.

Hart, 62, will oversee the entire Academy set-up at Thorp Arch as well as taking charge of an under-21s side that have won their last two games.

Hart will be supported in the role by Adam Underwood as Academy manager with Daral Pugh appointed head of coaching and focusing on the under-9s to 16s age groups.

John Anderson has been named Under-18s coach alongside Jason Blunt with Andy Gray appointed as Under-16s coach.

Hart began work at Thorp Arch on Friday, with both his appointment and confirmation of the structure beneath him music to the ears of United’s executive director Adam Pearson.

“We are delighted to welcome Paul Hart back to the club,” said Pearson.

“Paul was an outstanding leader of the Academy in the past and he has a wealth of experience to develop not only our young players but what is now a talented group of young coaches.

“We have recruited three fine new coaches in John Anderson, Andy Gray and Daral Pugh.

“They are all good characters who I know well and who will really strengthen what is already a strong coaching team.

“We have some fine talent in the Academy with recruitment expert Terry Potter continuing to unearth talent and we are delighted that Paul is returning to head up what is now a very strong Academy set-up.”

Hart spent five years as a player at Elland Road between 1978 and 1983 and helped United’s youngsters to two FA Youth Cup victories upon his return to the Academy in 1993 and 1997.

He left Thorp Arch to enjoy more success with Nottingham Forest’s Academy, aiding the development of the likes of Jermaine Jenas, David Prutton, Andy Reid and Michael Dawson before going on to become first team boss.

Hart left Forest in 2004 and then had management spells in charge of Barnsley, Rushden & Diamonds, Portsmouth, Queens Park Rangers, Crystal Palace and Swindon Town.

Hart became Academy director at Charlton Athletic in 2011 and stayed at The Valley for three years before taking up his most recent role in a similar position at Notts County in 2014.

United’s Under-18s are in particularly good form, sitting top of the table having won all four of this season’s opening games.

Sam Byram, Alex Mowatt, Charlie Taylor, Lewis Cook and Kalvin Phillips are all recent Whites Academy graduates that have gone on to make the first team.

Cook is currently on international duty with England under-18s while Will Huffer is away with England under-18s.

Harrison Male and Theo Hudson are in the England under-16s squad while Eric Grimes is away with the Republic Of Ireland under-21s and Robbie McDaid with Northern Ireland’s under-21s.