By George Overhill

26th Oct, 2022 | 8:40am

Leeds United can't take advantage of potential strength amid relegation battle - Phil Hay

Leeds United have “recruited well” for their academy but are in a bad position to push talented prospects through amid Premier League struggles, according to Phil Hay.

With a second consecutive relegation battle now looking likely to be on the cards and Jesse Marsch under severe pressure the situation is starting to get desperate at Elland Road, as the heady days of the Premier League return under Marcelo Bielsa are now long gone.

And while the Whites have shown a consistent commitment to adding strongly to the talent pool at Thorp Arch, with the likes of Mateo Joseph, Sonny Perkins, Darko Gyabi and Willy Gnonto all signed in the past year, the dire situation in the first team is making it much harder for them to make the jump.

Writing in his Wednesday article for The Athletic: “The club have the third-youngest squad in the Premier League and where they have been consistent in good times and bad is in recruiting for their academy. They have spent money at that level and they have, at face value, recruited well.

“But a season like this — 18th in the table and on a streak of eight games without a win — is not conducive to pushing academy prospects through.

“In time, Leeds see several of their under-21s providing the skeleton for their first team but the Premier League gives no clemency to anyone who has a strong development squad beneath an under-performing senior side.

“How Leeds might look three or four years down the line feels less pertinent than how they look now.”


The obvious risk for the aforementioned names is that if the fortunes don’t improve for the senior side they won’t be given first team minutes and their development could stagnate.

In terms of their ability to contribute to the relegation fight there is an argument to say just give them the opportunities anyway if the first team players aren’t getting the job done.

But it will be far more psychologically taxing for youngsters to come into a situation where the team is struggling and the atmosphere among the fans is fraught.

Last year there was little alternative but to give youngsters a chance with an extended injury crisis throughout the season, and in the case of Joe Gelhardt he looked to have grasped it.

But the strategy in the first-team squad for the under-21s who have made the jump has been scattergun anyway, with Joffy given little more than the odd cameo, Crysencio Summerville suddenly elevated to regular contributor, and Sam Greenwood virtually forgotten about until his surprise inclusion as a holding midfielder against Fulham (23 October).

Gyabi would surely have made more sense to cover for the injured Tyler Adams in that game, but it could be that Marsch didn’t want to give the summer arrival from Manchester City his debut in such difficult circumstances.

A month ago Willy Gnonto looked like perhaps he would be the answer to the lack of a senior striker arriving during the transfer window when he was featuring again for Italy but he still hasn’t made his Leeds United debut either.

Joseph and Perkins are scoring for fun in the under-21s, and while it is a big step up from Premier League 2 to the actual Premier League Marsch could do with some of the same, while injuries to the likes of Leo Hjelde and Archie Gray haven’t helped either.

There’s plenty of anticipation for what some of the academy squad could become as senior players but with the previous graduating class struggling to find their place in the first team among increasing turmoil on the pitch there is a risk of a logjam building up behind.

Perhaps Marsch, or a potential replacement, throws caution to the wind and starts blooding new talent but with such high stakes it increases the risk.

In other Leeds United news, the board currently have no Plan B for Marsch despite things taking a major turn for the worse.