Leeds United: ‘Old hand’ could help young guns hit targets – Lorimer

Alex Mowatt, Lewis Cook and Sam Byram.
Alex Mowatt, Lewis Cook and Sam Byram.
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A LOT is being spoken about regarding the exciting young players currently coming through at Leeds United.

For me, looking back over time when we have previously had great young players emerging, we also had great experienced people such as Gordon Strachan and Gary McAllister who were there to bring them along.

What I would like to see is for us to get an experienced proven player of that calibre who can teach these players a few things on the field because while the coach can do so much, when the young players get out there, they need guidance on the pitch.

Looking at Leeds United over the years, we have had the likes of Bobby Collins and Billy Bremner and then the Strachans as captains.

Each of those were captains at a time when young players were coming through in the side and developed onto become very successful.

I think we have a few of those quality young players coming through right now.

But I have to say, I do think we are missing that leader and old head in midfield who has been there, seen it and done it and can help these youngsters come along and become even better quicker; probably more than a coach can do.

A coach can only do it until the players get onto the pitch on a Saturday and then they need someone else to take it on.

I remember when I came back from Canada in the eighties and Eddie had a team full of great young players such as John Sheridan, Scott Sellars, Andy Linighan, Denis Irwin and Terry Phelan – you could go on and on.

But he didn’t have an experienced head and that was what we were missing. Eddie asked me to sign back on at Leeds.

And I have got to say I thoroughly enjoyed that couple of years.

One, I was back at Leeds and two, I was developing the future of the club.

Unfortunately, we sold all the young players off at that time.

But at the end of the day, you still need that old head in there to teach the young players how to be pros.

Young players can expend a lot of energy charging around the pitch. That’s just youthful enthusiasm. You have to teach them that there’s a time to go charging 40 yards sometimes. At other times, it’s time to sit off and you’ve got to tell them that.

Looking at the young players, they are just so keen to impress and be out there.

But you have to teach them when to bomb forward and when not to. Don’t forget, they have to get through 90 minutes.

I think personally we have tired in a few games recently in the second half and a lot of people have been talking about it. I do think a bit of that is down to the young lads putting so much into the first half of games. They are not strong enough yet to do it over 90 minutes of a game.

This is the type of thing you have to maybe drum into the young players; that sometimes it is about conserving a bit of energy to get through the 90 minutes.

But it will happen over time and they will learn that.

Yet it does not happen overnight and takes a bit of time to learn that and guidance. But I have got to say that I am really excited about the kids such as Lewis Cook, Alex Mowatt, Sam Byram and Chris Dawson and it is so nice to see a fair few coming through at Leeds United.

I know it has been mentioned that this current group of young players is the best since the late nineties when the likes of Jonathan Woodgate and Paul Robinson came through, but what I’d say is that it is the ‘start’ of something.

In those days, we had about six or seven who were coming through at roughly the same time and they all got in the team pretty much together. It was great to see.

It’s a good, healthy situation that we have three or four young homegrown players in and around the first team at this time and there’s one or two more also on the fringes at Thorp Arch who are seemingly not too far away who are excellent and exciting prospects by all accounts.

Looking at it, it is important we get a stabilised situation in this league at this time, so we can help bring these players through into the first team.

Obviously, those three points against Blackpool at Elland Road on Saturday will have helped. If we had not won, it would not have a good position for us looking over our shoulders towards the bottom of the league going into the international break.

When you are down at the bottom and struggling, it is not a good time to be blooding young players, so the three points has helped in that respect and were much-needed.

I also think it will help in that the youngsters had done their bit in helping us get a vital win and now they can have a rest as well for a couple of weeks after having played a few games already this season.

I am not someone who likes the fact that we have had three international breaks already in the season.

But the positive in that respect from our club’s point of view is that it gives the youngsters opportunity to rest and recover and get ready for the hard programme through December and the tough run of games throughout the winter months.

Paul Heckingbottom.

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