Imagine a world where aspiring young footballers could be taken in as pimple faced teens with a tad bit of bum fluff on their chins and nurtured into complete and successful professional footballers with their airbrushed faces on billboards in countries they have never considered frequenting while they sip cocktails in Ibiza with their significant other, who just happens to be an aspiring supermodel… Well dear friend and reader, such a world does exist in the football realm; although many in our fraternity tend to behave as if young stars pop up at random like a cannabis plant and bring euphoria after being allowed the opportunity to light the scene up. We at GSV have roped in your mate Uncle Bob and asked him to dust off his PhD in Development Football and become the Dean of our newly founded School Of Academies, where we enlighten, inform and entertain you with all the insight he has on development sides across the fraternity. In no particular or meticulous order, for that matter, we present to you The GSV Institutions List.
Leeds United Football Club
Location: Elland Road, Beeston, Leeds; West Yorkshire
Head of Development & Recruitment: Terry Porter
Youth Academy Director & u/21 Manager: Paul Hart
Notable Graduates: John Lukic (GK), David Harvey (GK), Gray Sprake (GK), David Seaman (GK), Nick Byrne (GK), Paul Robinson (GK), Scott Carson (GK), Byron Stevenson (Def/ Mid), Norman Hunter (CB), Paul Medeley (Def/ Mid), Simon Grayson (Def/ Mid), Neil Aspin (Def), Matthew Kilgallon (CB/ FB), Jack Charlton (CB), John Charles (CB/ CF), Jonathan Woodgate (CB), Peter Hampton (LB), Frank Gray (LB), Terry Cooper (LB), Grenville Hair (LB), Ian Harte (LB), Danny Rose (LB/LW), Paul Reaney (RB), Gary Kelly (RB), Denis Irwin (FB), Terry Yorath (Mid), Terry Hibbit (Mid), Mick Bates (Mid), Billy Bremner (Mid), David Batty (Mid), Gary Speed (Mid), Stephen McPhail (Mid), Alan Smith (Mid/FW), Tommy Knarvik (Mid), James Milner (Mid), Jonny Howson (Mid), Fabian Delph (Mid), Peter Lorimer (AM), Harry Kewell (AM), Eddie Gray (Wing), Scott Sellars (Wing), Aaron Lennon (Wing), Jimmy Greenhoff (FW), Noel Whelan (FW), Andy Gray (FW)
Fresh Out The Oven: Eric Grimes (GK), Bailey Peacock-Farrell (GK), Ross Killock (Def/ Mid), Jake Skelton (Def), Tyler Denton (FB), Luke Garbutt (LB), Charlie Taylor (LB/LW), Sam Byram (RB/ RW), Alex Mowatt (Mid), Lewis Cook (Mid), Kalvin Phillips (Mid), Alex Purver (Mid), Chris Dawson (AM), Tom Lyman (AM), Eoghan Stokes (FW), Frank Mulhern (FW), Luke Parkin (CF), Dominic Poloen (AF), Simon Lenighan (AF)
Training facilities: B+
Training methodologies: A
Player development: A-
Opportunities for growth: B
The true football history of this legendary institution and its success at youth development can be traced back to the Don Revie Era, a time where Yorkshire’s finest football club was built upon a solid foundation of talented young home-grown footballers and the shrewd acquisition of promising youngsters to be developed at United; this grand ideology has lead to the club attaining a level of pedigree and esteem that their financial troubles threatened to, yet ultimately failed to erase or fully tarnish. Despite the fact that The Whites should truly be a major force in global football purely based on their history, ideology and support base, the club has had to reclaim their legacy somewhat after years of under management and financial instability. This gradual rebuilding process has been constantly stalled by the insecurity regarding club ownership & management, yet there seems to be a greater degree of calmness around the club and that harmony will create the atmosphere required to nurture young talents into top class footballers, all while ensuring they secure promotion into the EPL in the coming seasons.
As a football club, Leeds United do not own many assets; the legendary home stadium, Elland Road, was sold to ease financial constraints and is now leased back to the club for their usage, the club’s picturesque training compound, Thorp Arch, was also sold as a result of the financial difficulties and it has been leased back to the club at a tune of £600 000 per annum. There is no denying that the one true asset owned by the club, is the good young talent they have on their books and their potential to develop even more talented youngsters, provided that they invest accordingly into their highly commendable and extremely efficient youth academy.
It may have taken a while for genuine stability to come to Elland Road and The Peacocks, yet methinks that it may only a matter of time before we see United consistently producing the level of talent they have begun to show glimpses of churning out over the past couple of seasons; the re-appointment of Paul Hart as Academy Director, the man who helped nurture Leeds protégés like Alan Smith, Ian Harte, Paul Robinson, Harry Kewell and Jonathan Woodgate, will be a major boost for the club as he will bring great experience and knowhow as a former Leeds united footballer and youth team manager.
While many will remain sceptical over United’s ability to retain the services of their talented footballers long enough to afford all parties an opportunity at genuine and lasting growth, achieved via success through promotion back into the big-time, where the players will be allowed to truly showcase their talent and earn moves to clubs that reward their parent club for the great investment they make towards the development of talented young footballers, while looking after the talent, which would have had more time to fully develop and play regular competitive football at a good level.
The only way a football club like Leeds United can return to their glory days, is through a return to their club ethos and a reestablishment of their modus operandi as a football club; The Whites should count themselves lucky to have such a “system restore point”, as other football clubs were not as fortunate as they have been in many regards, and actually lack an identity that they can return to after years of waywardness. Success requires a push and Ian Harte will need to call upon all his knowledge of youth development and youth player management, as a 2 time FA Youth Cup winner in his first stint at Leeds in the mid 90’s, as Leeds United really need to push past this final frontier and build a young squad ready to earn promotion back into the Premier League off the back of United-esque mouth-watering displays and re-establish Leeds United as a dominant force in world football, on their own free-flowing attacking terms.