'Old man' Barry Douglas on the hard work that earned Leeds United teenagers their debuts, the hard work yet to come and the feeling around Elland Road
Barry Douglas might still be in his 20s but on Tuesday night he was an old man in the Leeds United starting line-up.
The Scot, who turns 30 next week, was surrounded by men 10 years his junior as the Whites took to the Elland Road turf to face Stoke City.
Only Kiko Casilla and Gaetano Berardi, themselves barely into their 30s, could claim seniority over Douglas.
Marcelo Bielsa handed starts to five teenagers and although the kids didn’t end the evening on the winning side, there’s still a buzz around the club about the talent rolling off the Thorp Arch production line.
Veteran Douglas paid tribute to the work the likes of Jamie Shackleton have done to put themselves in a position where the Argentine head coach could consider using them in competitive games.
Nothing changes now that they’ve featured in the first team, however.
The hard work just continues.
“That’s credit to them, that’s the hard work they’ve put in day in and day out,” he said.
“The manager has got belief in them to put them in and play in these kind of games.
“They just have to keep working hard, keep learning from the other players, from the manager and keep trying to improve to get in the team and play as much as they can.”
Douglas made his first team debut at Hampden for Queen’s Park as an 18-year-old in front of a crowd of 611.
For Mateusz Bogusz and Alfie McCalmont, Tuesday’s Carabao Cup second round tie presented their own first ever senior starts.
The pair of fledgling Whites played alongside him in front of 30,002 spectators at Elland Road in midweek and the lessons the experience will give them will be hugely beneficial.
“Good game for them, good atmosphere in front of a packed crowd,” he said.
“It’s obviously a great learning curve, a great experience and it’ll give them a lot of positives moving forward.
“I know the manager has shown his belief in them, they’re both great talents. They’ll learn a lot from it and grow.”
One of Leeds’ teenagers caught the eye in particular.
Leif Davis, who played behind Douglas on the left hand side of defence, made important contributions at both ends of the pitch.
Along with a goal-saving challenge on Sam Vokes, he supplied an inch-perfect cross that beat the away defence and left Helder Costa with the simplest of back post headers.
“That was a great ball,” said Douglas.
“Sometimes people get on the end of them, sometimes they don’t.
“He’s another exciting player, I’m sure he’ll do well this year.”
All of Bielsa’s players left the pitch to an ovation at the end of the shootout that handed Stoke victory.
Jack Harrison, who struck the deciding penalty against the woodwork, heard his name sung back at him from the stands.
Leeds fans responded raucously to the stirring second-half fightback their players put on and the heady mix of hope, belief and anticipation swirling around Elland Road hasn’t passed Douglas or his team-mates by.
“There’s a great aura and buzz round about the city as a whole, the fans, the football,” said the ex-Wolves man.
“When you feel that atmosphere it instantly gives you that extra boost and that extra little bit of momentum when you sometimes need it.
“I don’t know many teams that would bring 30,000-plus to a second round Carabao Cup tie.
“It’s a credit to the fans for showing up in numbers and it’s appreciated by the players.”
The youngsters and the crowd weren’t the only plus points he took from Tuesday.
From a personal point of view, playing 90 minutes after a niggle that kept him out of the last two games, was a boost.
And speaking on the team’s behalf, turning a likely defeat back into a contest meant it wasn’t all bad on the night.
“I don’t think it was a chilled game to be eased back into but I came out unscathed, it’s positive and I can look forward to Saturday now.
“Even at 2-0 down at half-time we had the belief in there that we were going to create chances and could get back in the game.
“We managed to get back into it and it went to penalties but we sadly lost out. There’s a lot of positives to take from it.”