New Under-21 manager Michael Skubala has already told young Leeds United players what to expect from his coaching style

Leeds United Under-21 manager Michael Skubala said that he aims to empower players to make confident decisions on the pitch.

Thursday, 14th July 2022, 2:30 pm
Updated Thursday, 28th July 2022, 1:19 pm

The experienced coach left a job in development with the FA at St George’s Park this week to take up a new role spearheading the Whites’ academy set-up at Thorp Arch.

Since former young Whites coach Mark Jackson joined Jesse Marsch’s first-team backroom staff last term, loans manager Andrew Taylor has been filling in as the Under-21s boss.

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This summer, though, Taylor has returned to his original position and Leeds United have been conducting a stringent recruitment process to source a permanent replacement.

Skubala, who spent five years coaching the national futsal team, has been selected to lead the Under 21s through their first season back in Premier League 2 Division Two after the Whites were relegated in May.

His background in futsal, a fast-paced sport played in tighter spaces, has significantly shaped Skubala’s approach to coaching players.

"At the top level, [futsal] can be five or six times quicker than football, so there's no way in the world that I can make the decisions for the players,” Skubala told the FA. "They have to make the decisions, they have to play the game.

Leeds United Under 21 boss Michael Skubala.

“We will set what I call a framework, and that can be how we want to play, but I think we really give players ownership, especially at the senior level about ‘what are you going to do in this situation?’

"We're really sort of give them ownership around the tactical – but we set the framework and we set the path globally, if you like – and then within that, we try and steer them in guided discovery into becoming better players really.”

This summer, former Manchester City midfielder Darko Gyabi and highly-rated forward Sonny Perkins have been added to the pool of young talent at Thorp Arch.

The duo no doubt looked to the examples of Sam Greenwood and Joe Gelhardt, who each made significant first-team breakthroughs last season, when making their decision to join United.

GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JULY 14: Darko Gyabi of Leeds United passes the ball during the 2022 Queensland Champions Cup match between Brisbane Roar and Leeds United at Cbus Super Stadium on July 14, 2022 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Albert Perez/Getty Images)

Following his appointment as Under-21s coach, Skubala will be the man for the pair to impress, and he’s already explained that he’ll be looking to encourage independence on the pitch.

"Our job as coaches really is - we always talk about the whole group - but actually, if you make the individuals better within what you want then the group gets better,” he said.“We work really hard with individuals in terms of their game understanding, in terms of their performance understanding, and also to try and help them with their decision-making.

"If you tell players ‘for me, go and do x’, then the responsibility is no longer with the player – the responsibility is taken off the player.

“Sometimes, players want you to tell them to ‘do it this way’, because they don’t want the responsibility.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - MARCH 13: Joe Gelhardt of Leeds United celebrates scoring their side's second goal during the Premier League match between Leeds United and Norwich City at Elland Road on March 13, 2022 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

"There’s a time not to ask, if it benefits the player. Generally in battle, it will benefit the player, but you also have to be mindful that in training, taking away that is actually taking away the responsibility of learning why.

“In futsal, and in sport, for me, it’s the ‘why’ that gives the player the confidence and ability to be confident in our decision-making process.

"If they don’t understand the ‘why’, then I think it fundamentally breaks down.”