The intriguing name of Shaquille McDonald appeared on the Leeds United Development Squad team sheet today, for the away game against Coventry City at Nuneaton. Intriguing not just for the relatively exotic name – this is a lad with a serious goal-scoring record at Peterborough United – a record that persuaded the Posh to hand him, at the age of 17, a four-year contract. He was apparently regarded as “the future” by chairman Darragh MacAnthony, and there were high hopes of a young man who once scored eleven goals in just three youth games. Sadly, those bright hopes seem to have been dashed as far as Peterborough United were concerned, and the long (and some say lucrative) contract was torn up by mutual consent after only four months, following an incident in which the police were involved as well as, allegedly, a baseball bat.
That all sounds quite serious, but full details are not known; there’s a hazy smoke of hearsay and speculation around what actually happened. The whole affairs screams “attitude problem” – but the lad is seventeen, after all. I can’t think of that many seventeen year-olds who don’t have an attitude problem to some degree, although admittedly most manage to weather these without necessarily resorting to baseball bats. The outstanding statistic is that burst of eleven goals in three games – it’s hard to believe that this is a guy lacking in ability, maybe even in the kind of poaching instinct any club would be grateful for. There certainly question marks around this trial and it may well come to nothing – but it does show that Brian McDermott and his developing scouting team are casting the net far and wide in the search for rough diamonds to polish. So far, it’s difficult to question anyone’s judgement – the awesomely-effective Marius Žaliūkas was a property being avoided like the plague by many supposedly good judges, but he’s come to Leeds and looked the real deal.
Shaquille McDonald managed 60 minutes of today’s Development Squad game (a 2-1 win for Leeds) – so it remains to be seen whether the club will be looking at him further. But looking for talent they most certainly are – another young prospect recently taken on board was ex-Southampton winger Gboly Ariyibi (pictured above), about whom good things have been said. The search for more established talent will have to wait until January, and will depend upon the outcome of all this exciting talk of takeovers and daring to dream.
Any progressive club will be looking at least as assiduously for future talent as they must for ready-made stars, so it’s good to see a few outstanding prospects being – well, prospected. If the future is going to be as bright and White as we all hope, this kind of forward-thinking approach is essential – and it’s reassuring too that the club is not put off looking at raw talent by any slightly shady circumstances surrounding that talent. Even if this lad’s shot his bolt at Peterborough, he was deemed good enough to be offered a long contract and that goal record rather speaks for itself. It’d certainly be a good one to snatch from under Fergie Junior’s nose, if he DID turn out to have what it takes.
Exciting times at all levels at Elland Road. They promise to get more exciting still over the next few days and weeks.