Jamie Shackleton turned 19 on Monday, a footballer with many years ahead of him, but the Leeds United youngster is already pursuing plans for a future in coaching.
Shackleton took his first step into senior football with a club debut against Derby County in August and academy staff at Thorp Arch have long been confident about a talented teenager realising his potential.
Shackleton has played only five times for United’s first team - three appearances in the Championship and two in the League Cup - but he intends to qualify for his UEFA B licence before the end of this season, beginning the process of setting himself up for the day when he retires.
Speaking to League Football Education magazine, created by the EFL and the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), Shackleton said: “I’m looking at studying for my UEFA B licence in coaching this year and get that in the bag early so I’m in a good position already for when I finish playing.
“It’s definitely something I’ll be able to use as a way of focusing my mind off my own performance and take some pressure off in that way - as well as setting me up for a future after football, which hopefully won’t be for a long time yet.
“It can also help my game right now, learning how to support and deal with players, and it makes you think about the bigger picture of the game rather than just your own individual role. It’s definitely something I’m hoping to sort out soon.”
Shackleton was a midfielder during his time in Leeds’ academy but has been used as a right-back by head coach Marcelo Bielsa, who targeted him and a handful of other development-squad players as first-team material in the summer.
“He’s spent a lot of time with me, learning different movements and different requirements for the position because I’ve never played there before,” Shackelton said.
“The manager’s obviously seen qualities in me to put me there and I feel I’ve adapted well so far. With the way we play it’s an attacking position and I like to go forward as I did in midfield so it does suit my game. “I think it’s a good quality to be able to play a few positions. I used to be a winger when I was nine or 10, then I’ve played centre-midfield ever since and now I’ve been pushed to right-back for a few games.”
Shackleton said Bielsa’s attention to detail and strict mentality had become apparent in the early days of pre-season, underlined by an order from United’s boss for his players to spend time collecting litter around their training ground.
“There were a few of the Under-23s players that were selected to train with the first team from day one of pre-season and I was one of them,” Shackleton said.
“In the second week of pre-season, we spoke about the fans and how they’re the most important people to this club, how passionate they are and what it means to them to go and watch us play football.
“Their lives involve a lot of hard work throughout the week to be able to afford a ticket for the weekend so we had our own insight into a bit of hard graft away from football by going round the whole training ground clearing all the litter from the pitches, bushes, everything really.”