Leeds United plan fresh round of recruitment for Under 23s with loans out and permanent exits possible
Leeds United plan another round of recruitment for Mark Jackson’s newly-promoted Under-23s side, with loan departures possible for a number of last season’s squad.
Just like the summer of 2020 the Whites are planning to add three or four new faces to the squad that will take its place in the Premier League 2 top flight.
Promotion will pit the Thorp Arch youngsters against elite Category 1 academies including this season’s runaway Under-23s champions Manchester City, Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool and Manchester United.
Although their place in the top division will represent a step up in the level of competition and the quality of opposition, some of Jackson’s title winners could spend the 2021/22 season getting first-team experience at senior level in the English Football League.
Players like Oliver Casey, a centre-half who started 17 games in the league for Jackson and contributed to eight clean sheets, could follow in the footsteps of the academy graduates who have recently returned from loan stints elsewhere after a season away from Thorp Arch.
Leeds may also listen to loan offers for striker Sam Greenwood, signed from Arsenal last summer, who scored a dozen times in 18 Premier League 2 fixtures this season.
The YEP understands there was Championship interest in the 19-year-old’s services during the campaign but head coach Marcelo Bielsa wanted him to develop at the club.
Greenwood spent time as the lone striker as well as a number 10, often tucked in behind pal and attacking partner Joe Gelhardt. His only first-team action came in the FA Cup defeat at Crawley, as a second-half substitute, although he was named among Bielsa’s substitutes for the Elland Road Premier League clash with Manchester United.
The Under-23s top scorer has been shortlisted for the 2020/21 Premier League 2 Player of the Season award, alongside defender Charlie Cresswell.
Nominees were selected by the Premier League Football Development Panel after PL2 club coaches nominated the best performances by opposing players throughout the season.
Some of Jackson’s other 23s, namely Nial Huggins, Leif Davis, Crysencio Summerville and Gelhardt, have been close to the senior side this season and will hope to make further in-roads in the 2021/22 campaign.
As for the players who were allowed to go and gain senior experience in the EFL this season, Bielsa recently revealed he had been mulling over the next step for all of them, having monitored their progress closely.
“I’ve followed all of the performances of each of them,” he said.
“And I’m conscious of the evolution that they’ve had and how I can imagine the immediate future for them.”
The YEP understands it’s very possible there could be permanent moves away from Leeds this summer among the group who went out on loan, if the right fee and a substantial sell-on clause are put on the table by an interested party.
Jordan Stevens, Ryan Edmondson, Bryce Hosannah, Mateusz Bogusz, Alfie McCalmont and Robbie Gotts all tasted first-team football in the men’s game, with varying degrees of success.
McCalmont hit double figures from midfield for Oldham Athletic in League Two, suggesting he might be ready for another step up in level next season and Gotts finished off his campaign strongly with Salford City.
It seems highly unlikely that Bogusz will feature for the 23s at Leeds next season. The Polish attacker was loaned to Spanish second-tier side Logrones and Leeds are open to the idea of a permanent move.
The difficulty for any of the players who spent time away from Thorp Arch not only lies in how hard it would be to break into the Leeds first-team plans, but in how good their 23s replacements have proved and how determined the club appear to be to continue building for the future with fresh recruitment.
Edmondson, for example, has had the benefit of game time in the top flight north of the border with Aberdeen and in League Two with Northampton, but returns to find both Gelhardt and Greenwood positioned just outside the first-team options.
Likewise for Hosannah, whose season was again disrupted in the most frustrating fashion by injury and surgery, with last summer’s signing Cody Drameh looking for all the world like a long-term successor to Luke Ayling.
There will be big decisions in the coming weeks for a large number of Leeds youngsters and some may have to cut the apron strings for good.