TYLER Denton still beams from ear to ear when reflecting on his Leeds United debut.
And why not? The left-back had been on the pitch for just 23 minutes when powering home what proved a stunning winning goal in August’s second round EFL Cup clash at Luton Town.
Comparisons were quickly drawn with his agent Ian Harte, yet with another talented left-back in their ranks in Charlie Taylor, Denton’s dream debut remains his only appearance for Leeds three months on.
Rather like his famous agent did, the 21-year-old now hopes to make the Leeds United left-back spot his own.
Five years after being capped for England’s Under-17s against the Faroe Islands in 2011, Denton became the latest Leeds Academy graduate to make a deep impression in the Leeds first team when bagging the only goal of the game in August’s EFL Cup win at Luton.
A new promising young star was born, but the Dewsbury-born footballer has had to be patient since, with the left-back slot since monopolised by Taylor – last season’s player of the year.
Taylor, whose Leeds contract expires next summer, handed in a transfer request back in August but Leeds retained the 23-year-old’s services past the closure of the summer transfer window and head coach Garry Monk insisted only last month that United would not change their stance on keeping the defender until the end of the season.
Taylor continues to set the standard as the club’s first-choice left back – a standard Denton admires – but the 21-year-old is hopeful of eventually becoming first-choice left-back at Elland Road
“I have always said that Charlie is a great lad and a great player,” Denton told the YEP.
“But at the end of the day my job is to push Charlie as far as possible, to eventually hopefully get the place.
“I have just got to carry on working hard, impressing the right people and, fingers crossed, I can get there.”
Reflecting on his progress at Leeds so far, Denton continued: “It’s been great and ever since he came through the door on day one, the gaffer has been really supportive. He said he liked me and just that itself is a massive confidence boost.
“To make my debut and obviously score was unreal and I can’t really describe it but the main aim now is to kick on but first and foremost the team is everything.”
A versatile and talented footballer, Denton ought to prove a valuable asset to Leeds in the years to come.
The five-foot-eight star has also played in just about every position in midfield through his progress with the Leeds Academy and Denton captained the club’s under-21s side in 2015-16.
Given the no 33 squad number for the current campaign, the young Yorkshireman then signed a new three-year-deal at the club on August 26, just three days after his dream debut at Kenilworth Road.
Taylor was then back in the team for the following Saturday’s Championship clash at Nottingham Forest and has played every game since, bar the epic EFL Cup last clash with Norwich City in which the returning Gaetano Berardi was used as a left-back.
That clash came during a month when Denton injured his ankle ligaments, with the 21-year-old set to return to training at Thorp Arch tomorrow, giving head coach Garry Monk yet another option, be it at left-back or in any of the various roles that Denton can fulfil in midfield. But Denton admits he is first and foremost a left-back and sees himself as a similar type of footballer to last year’s player of the year Taylor. Denton reasoned: “Charlie and myself both like to attack and I think that’s a big thing for full backs these days. We both know that defending is the most important thing but I think getting forward is a massive thing. Through the ranks I have played midfield - centre midfield, right midfield, left midfield so wherever needed I’d be happy to play if it’s for the benefit of the team.
“I do see myself as a left back but I think I can do a job going forward as well.”
Reflecting on his recent injury, Denton said: “It’s getting there and it was an innocuous thing in training. I just slipped over and my ankle swelled up so I went for a scan on it and it turned out to be a bit of ligaments but I should be back training this week.
“That was about 25 days ago now so it’s been a while but we are looking back at hopefully getting back training on Wednesday hopefully.
“It’s been frustrating, especially when this team is doing well.
“You want to be a part of it but the boys have been supportive, the gaffer has been supportive so that’s great.”
Champing at the bit to return to the fold, Denton will now resume training four days short of the eagerly-awaited clash with Championship leaders Newcastle United at Elland Road. Leeds have now picked up 22 points from their last possible 30 – a tally only been bettered by Newcastle and second-placed Brighton over the last 10 games.
Having signed off for the international break with an impressive 3-2 victory at Norwich City, the Whites now sit sixth and in the Championship’s play-offs for the first time since Boxing Day 2013, a season in which United eventually crumbled to finish 15th. This time, though, Denton sees no reason why the thriving Whites cannot stay where they are, or even better their current position of sixth.
“The place is absolutely buzzing and the atmosphere around it is different class,” beamed Denton. “The thing is now, though, is that we have got to keep it up. I think we have got every chance. Obviously, to beat Norwich, that is a huge result away from home – such a tough game. That just shows how good and how far we have come really so there’s every expectation that we can stay there. We have set the bar and the sky is the limit.”
Assessing United’s prospects of ending a 12-year exile from the Premier League, Denton pondered: “That is the dream isn’t it? And everyone around the city, especially this year, the buzz has been phenomenal.
“That’s the main aim and, hopefully, we are going to get there.”