Highly-rated Leeds United youngster Stuart McKinstry is training with the first-team squad as he tries to push himself into contention for a senior place, according to Phil Hay.
The Athletic journalist was talking on The Next Big Thing podcast, which focused on the 18-year-old winger Leeds signed from Motherwell last year.
Talking on the podcast Fay Carruthers said, “[Stuart McKinstry] was earmarked for the Under-18s [when he signed] but made his debut for the Under-23s a month later. He’s already impressing people, especially his manager.”
Hay said the player was in two minds about whether to join Leeds but was persuaded to come and have a look round the club by his family.
He was still unsure after that and, in the end, it was decided his father would move down with him “effectively splitting the family in two” to give him support.
“He’s a winger, he can play on either side,” Hay said. “He’s a very confident ball carrier, he’s physically strong, good upper body strength, excellent feet, good at beating his man and creative. In his head, he probably feels he can play in other positions up front as well.”
Talking about his first-team chances Hay said, “It’s the Under-23s predominantly for him. Bielsa carries a small first-team squad but he involves a lot of the Under-23s, including McKinstry, in first-team training as he sees them as his back-up.
“It’s unlikely McKinstry, or any of the Under-23s, will see a huge amount of first-team football in the coming months but they’re training as if they’re first-team footballers. They [Leeds] wouldn’t have bought him if they didn’t think he could break through into the first team.”
Leeds: Future is bright
The Leeds academy got promoted to Category 1 status by the Premier League over the summer.
This gives the youngsters a better level of opposition and there’s been a real focus on strengthening the Under-23s ahead of this season.
Leeds brought in Joe Gelhardt (who had been playing in the first-team for Wigan), Cody Drameh (Fulham), Charlie Allen (Linfield), Sam Greenwood (Arsenal) and Crysencio Summerville (Feyenoord) over the summer, and they complement an already strong Under-23s side.
Bielsa spends a lot of time with them, watching every Under-23s game, and is more than happy at giving young players the chance to step up.
As Hay said, the Under-23s are his back-up, and Pascal Struijk is the latest to take the leap up. He started against Liverpool after Liam Cooper was ruled out and he’s likely to get another shot at the Premier League on Monday, with Cooper likely out and Diego Llorente injured.
McKinstry might be a bit further back in the pack but he’ll be hoping he can angle himself for a place on the bench later this season.
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