Leeds United youngster's permanent exit underlines success of Thorp Arch academy

Leeds United teenager Nohan Kenneh will join up with Scottish Premiership side Hibernian this summer after penning a three-year deal

By Joe Donnohue
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 11:24 am
Updated Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 11:37 am

Nohan Kenneh's association with Leeds United began at age 11, four years after arriving in West Yorkshire from his birthplace in Liberia.

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The youngster was scouted by the Whites and featured prominently at U15, U16 and U17 level for England's youth international sides, both as a defensive midfielder and centre-back.

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Leeds United youngster Nohan Kenneh has agreed to join Hibernian on a three-year deal this summer (Photo by Joe Prior/Visionhaus via Getty Images)

While Leeds' U23 side succumbed to relegation during the 2021/22 season, Kenneh's campaign was one in which he performed admirably without complaint.

Entrusted with the captain's armband on occasion, playing at Elland Road in front of scarcely-believable crowds for youth football and making 13 Premier League matchday squads, Kenneh's year was a coming of age, even if he did not make a senior appearance.

In a heartfelt message to the club, his colleagues and its supporters, Kenneh made special mention of the record that no other Leeds United player holds.

The 19-year-old is the only player to pick up a yellow card in the Premier League, despite not having played a single minute in the competition.

Kenneh was booked for sprinting across the field of play in celebration when Luke Ayling struck against Wolverhampton Wanderers back in March to seal a 3-2 victory.

Trotting back to the substitutes' bench, Kenneh was cautioned by referee Kevin Friend.

While his eight-year stay with Leeds comes to an end, Kenneh leaves for pastures new north of the border in the Scottish Premiership.

Lee Johnson's Hibernian have taken the 19-year-old on a pre-contract agreement, meaning he will join the Edinburgh club at the expiry of his contract in a month's time.

Kenneh had offers throughout the Football League and further afield, as well as the opportunity to stay at Leeds, but the promise of competitive senior football - nominally as a defensive midfielder - informed the teenager's decision.

In many ways, it is a leap of faith by both Kenneh and his new club, but one which is necessary for vast swathes of U23 players featuring regularly in Premier League 2 as Kenneh did last season.

Leeds saw Kenneh as a central defender, but with Charlie Cresswell, Pascal Struijk, Robin Koch, Diego Llorente and Liam Cooper ahead in the pecking order, the likelihood of regular football at Elland Road was slim.

By leaving at this stage in his career, Kenneh exits with his stock at arguably its highest point.

Last year, the youngster featured 25 times in the top flight of England's best youth division, and will now continue his development in a first-team environment, in his preferred position.

The success of Leeds United's academy should not be measured by how many players emerge as first-team regulars at Elland Road, but in the number of youngsters who sign schoolboy forms who go on to carve out a promising career for themselves, wherever that may be.