Has Premier League incentive benefited youngsters who have left Elland Road?


Recent years has seen Leeds United become renowned for producing exceptional talent from their academy.

The likes of James Milner, Aaron Lennon, Jonathan Woodgate, Danny Rose, Harry Kewell, Gary Kelly and the controversial Alan Smith spring to mind when contemplating the exceptional individuals that came through the rigours at Thorp Arch.

Jonny Howson, as well as Fabian Delph, are prime examples of the calibre that the youth system is capable of producing and although both didn’t have the patience to help push the Whites to the promised land, the club gave them a chance to play at the summit of English football.

After forcing his way into the first team in 2006, Howson cemented himself in the first team and even captained his boyhood club, showing his leadership qualities and his all-round ability as a midfielder before his untimely move to Norwich City.

Despite playing in England’s elite division for just over three years, the 29-year-old is back in the Championship with former Whites boss Garry Monk at Middlesbrough.

Although Howson is potentially entering the final few years of his career, he is arguably one of the biggest successes to come out of Leeds United in recent years.

Fabian Delph currently finds himself at two-time Premier League champions Manchester City and the clubs stature could prove that Delph is the biggest success to have left West Yorkshire.

However, where the 27-year-old fits in with City Manager Pep Guardiola’s plans is another thing entirely, with the England International having to settle for anything that’s made available at the moment, with left-back being the most recent position that Delph has played in for City.

Delph left the Whites to join Aston Villa in the Premier League before departing for Manchester at the end of the 2014/15 campaign.

There’s no question that the midfielder’s Leeds exit wasn’t beneficial; securing a place in a Premier League winning squad, winning the League Cup and competing in the Champions League prove that Delph can look upon his footballing adventure with pride, even if his current situation isn’t so rosy.

Sam Byram and Lewis Cook also appeared to move onto greener pastures in 2016 after securing moves to the Premier League with West Ham and Bournemouth respectively, but did it do a lot for their development?

Now 24, Byram finished his spell at Elland Road with a flourish after netting a handful of goals and proved his versatility as a winger and a full-back.

His first season at the Olympic Stadium didn’t see him make a lasting impression in a Hammers shirt and opportunities from the bench look like his best chance of involvement this season, as he is currently backup to the experienced Pablo Zabaleta.

Lewis Cook, a two-time winner of the Leeds United young player of the year award, was undoubtedly the most exciting player to feature for the first team over the past two seasons.

A quick, strong and committed midfielder who looked capable of performing with the world’s best but a persistent ankle injury last season plagued his development at Bournemouth and like Byram, Cook will have to bide his time for a chance in the first team.

Alex Mowatt took a different route to his former teammates by joining Championship and Yorkshire rivals Barnsley last season in search of first team opportunities after rarely featuring under Garry Monk.

The 22-year-old managed to make twelve appearances but like his fellow academy compatriots, the midfielder didn’t seem to make a lasting impression on Barnsley boss Paul Heckingbottom as he was loaned out to League One side Oxford United for the remainder of this season.

Full-back Charlie Taylor’s departure was certainly the sourest after refusing to play for the Whites in the final game of last season to force through a move to Burnley.

Several of United’s best talents have secured moves away from Elland Road over the past two seasons, but there is still one that remains.

Kalvin Phillips has nailed down a spot in Thomas Christiansen’s side this season and looks to be the next big thing to play in the heart of midfield.