Mark Jackson and Leeds United's under-23s relishing latest big test in repeat trip to Merseyside
The tough tests are coming thick and fast for Leeds United’s under-23s - which is exactly how they want it.
Five days after a 4-1 reverse at Tranmere Rovers, Mark Jackson’s side are heading back to Merseyside to take on Liverpool’s under-23s on Sunday afternoon.
Tuesday night’s defeat at Prenton Park came in the group stages of the EFL Trophy, in which Leeds are competing for a second consecutive season following their elevation to Category One Academy status.
As part of further progression, the Whites are now tackling the best young sides in the country on a weekly basis following last season’s promotion as Premier League Two Division Two winners which has meant top tier under-23s football this term.
Eight days after last Saturday’s 2-2 draw at home to West Ham United’s under-23s, Jackson’s Whites will take on Liverpool’s under-23s in Sunday's 2pm kick-off at the Reds Academy just outside Kirkby.
It’s a different level to what United’s youngsters have been used to - but Jackson says his staff and his players would not want it any other way.
“We are looking forward to it,” Jackson told the YEP ahead of tomorrow’s clash against the young Reds.
“We went to Tranmere on Tuesday off the back of a really competitive game against West Ham which was a really, really competitive game and the kind of game in which we want to experience every week.
“Every game we have had this season has been really, really challenging in different ways.
“Saturday was more physical and we had to cope with that but we are playing teams like West Ham at the weekend, we have come to Tranmere, we go again to Liverpool at the weekend and that’s exciting for the players and it’s exciting for the staff as well.
“Every player and every member of staff is relishing the challenges that come every week and those challenges are coming more frequently now.
“Within these games, other teams are posing us lots of different problems which is developing the players and developing the staff and how to approach different games.”
Jackson’s side have amassed seven points from their first four league games which have yielded just one defeat via a 4-2 loss at home to Tottenham Hotspur.
The Spurs reverse came either side of a 3-1 victory at Crystal Palace and a 3-2 triumph at Derby County, after which the Whites drew 2-2 with West Ham.
Jackson’s troops then fell to a 4-1 defeat in Tuesday evening’s EFL Trophy group stage opener at League Two side Tranmere in which Jackson named an extremely young side that was without the likes of Academy stars Joe Gelhardt, Sam Greenwood, Crysencio Summerville, Cody Drameh, Charlie Cresswell and Lewis Bate, all of whom were missing.
The resumption of league action now awaits against a Reds side who actually sit two points and two places behind Leeds in eighth place and Jackson will always be happy to work with what he is given when it comes to selecting his team.
The 23s boss explained: “I work closely with the manager and his staff and sometimes the most important thing is the first team and how we need to support them to prepare for their next game against Newcastle.
“If our players are part of that process then ultimately other players come into this team and make up the team. We are comfortable with that, it’s how we work, it’s nothing new to us.”
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Thank you Laura Collins