No concerns, it seems, about Jay-Roy Grot’s ability to settle in England quickly. Nineteen years old and arriving from Holland, he had fewer than four days with Leeds United before making his debut at Nottingham Forest.
“I felt like I’d played here for six months already,” he said. “It was really good.”
The club needed Grot at Forest and will make use of him throughout the season, but at his age and with a four-year contract in his hand, there is no pressure for him to rush his development. Leeds were down on strikers last month but signed three towards the end of the transfer window, a spree which included the £750,000 purchase of Grot from NEC Nijmegen.
The Dutch Under-19 international, in the opinion of United’s scouting department, is big on potential. That he is big in size is not open to debate: carrying a 6’3” frame which makes him look like an out-and-out centre-forward but does not preclude him from playing on the wing.
“It doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “If I play as a striker or if I play on the right wing, I do my best.”
Grot had no profile in England before Leeds’ interest in him surfaced in late August but elsewhere on the continent word of his potential and performances for NEC had spread. Fiorentina made a play to sign him in May but failed to agree a fee with Nijmegen. According to reports in Holland, the Italian club were unwilling to agree to the add-ons and clauses which Leeds are committed to funding on top of an initial payment of close to £1m.
“They (Fiorentina) were interested but they didn’t get an offer to NEC,” Grot said. “It was a little bit like 50-50. I had a good year in Holland but I didn’t know if I would leave this summer. Clubs have to buy you and at the start I didn’t know if anyone was interested.
“(England) is more physical than Holland but the football here is really good. I think it’ll suit my game. My family and some friends told me I had to play in England and it’s more my style of playing football.
“I’m still really young and the Championship is good for me, to get used to English football, to see everything and get stronger.”
There is a recurring theme among many of United’s 16 new signings: that the offer from Leeds opened the door to a country they wanted to play in. Gianni Alioski and Caleb Ekuban described English football as “my dream”. Grot felt the same and his 20-minute appearance in Leeds’ 2-0 win at the City Ground on August 26 was as quick a debut as he could have hoped for, made two days after he signed his contract.
“It was a beautiful moment, one of my dreams to play in England,” he said. “I’d been here for four days and I made my debut. Everything was so quick, not normal, but I felt like I’d played here six months already.”
The forward was 17 when he made his maiden appearance for NEC in the Dutch top flight in 2015, the first of more than 30. Nijmegen were not shy in utilising him as a winger and in his second season, the 2016-17 term, he scored five times in 20 outings. His strikes failed to save the club from a very narrow relegation in May.
The summer took him to the European Under-19 Championship, where Holland lost to Portugal in the semi-finals and England won one of several international titles picked up at different age levels during the close season. That, and a full pre-season with NEC, brought Grot to Leeds in perfect shape. Grot said he had given no thought to the impact a move to Elland Road might have on his international career or the prospect of a full cap for Holland.
“I don’t know about that,” he said. “I will see what happens. I don’t get busy thinking about it, I just play for the Under-19s and play for Leeds. That’s it at the moment.
“It’s my first year here so I’ll try to train good and get to know everybody better. I want to play in the first XI so I’ll do my best in training and show myself to the (head coach).”
Thomas Christiansen, United’s head coach, has a forward’s background and a forward’s brain. He played in four different countries in continental Europe during his career and retired through injury after a spell with Hannover in Germany.
“He was also a striker,” Grot said, “so he can make me learn smart things in front of the goal. I’m really young and he’s really experienced. I think he can help me.”