Vastly promising performances, fulsome praise from the management, a fantastic strike for the development squad at Huddersfield – and now today a non-appearance at that same development level; these progressive steps would seem to be the road by which 19 year old hot prospect Kalvin Phillips will arrive, quite possibly as soon as the Nottingham Forest game on Saturday, as a first team squad member for Leeds United.
It’s never all that easy to say how a promising youngster will cut it at first team level, but all the talk is that young Phillips has as good a chance as anyone, shining at a level not short of promise for Leeds, with several other Academy products either having already made their mark or pushing hard for recognition. Obviously, Neil Redfearn has the advantage of knowing all these kids well, having worked with them before his elevation to Head Coach. He is also quoted as saying that he would like “if possible” to field a full first eleven comprising home-grown players. Now that would be interesting.
A nod is as good as a wink, and such has been the progress of young Kalvin this season, culminating in that blistering strike at Huddersfield Town in a 5-0 stroll, you’d have thought he’d have been among the first names on Friday’s team-sheet for the reserve match against Forest. But no – nary a sign of him, not even on the bench. What other conclusion is there to draw? It seems certain that Phillips, maybe del Fabro also, are in line for at least a bench spot for tomorrow’s meeting of the two Championship giants – a match that is assured of a crowd well in excess of 30,000.
If Phillips does manage to get some game time against Dougie Freedman‘s men, it will be just the latest in a whole string of recent first-team débuts for home-produced stars at Leeds. As this is surely the best and most effective way for the club to guarantee the quality of their first eleven for the foreseeable future, it is reassuring to see the quality that is being produced, time and time again. Such a rich seam of talent means that the Club’s future should be bright, whatever the varying fortunes of owners and directors, or the effects of what is laughably called “Financial Fair Play“.
The last really promising era at Leeds hit the peaks when youngsters were blooded en masse in the first team, the likes of Smith, Kewell, Robinson, McPhail bridging the gap and supplementing the experience already there. Only when the focus shifted to over-rated, overpaid, over-the-hill “stars” did that vast promise start to turn to dust. The lesson is clear enough and, perhaps, even more applicable today than it has ever been. The uncut diamonds in reserve at Leeds could yet form the backbone of our next great team.
Fingers crossed that this is so. It would appear that the path to Premier League glory is via the multi-million pound acquisition of an array of European and South American talent of indisputable skill but all too often dodgy temperament and questionable commitment. Success thus obtained might well be wonderful, if a little nerve-shredding – but does it really taste quite as sweet as watching a team of home-produced lads fighting and winning together, for the shirt they’ve worn since they were kids? I seriously doubt it.
Good luck to all the wearers of those famous white shirts tomorrow, and for the rest of the season. And, of course for the years ahead too – years that suddenly do seem to hold the promise of something really worthwhile, something to be genuinely proud of.
Here’s hoping such rich promise really can be fulfilled.