Top Row: Chris Dawson, Alex Mowatt, Dominic Poleon
Bottom Row: Sam Byram, Tom Lees
Far Right: Bruce Forsyth
Article by Colin Sowerby

With Leeds United 7 points off the Play-offs and only 8 games to go, Leeds’ season is all but over for 2012/13. Sure, it’s still mathematically possible to reach the Play-offs, but anyone who has followed the team’s recent form knows that it would require a turnaround of Lazarus sized proportions to achieve promotion. Unfortunately, that just won’t happen.

So, what next?

Ever present Sam Byram has been exceptional this season. Tom Lees has also impressed and looks just as assured and composed in defence as his much more senior and experienced colleagues. I suggest it’s time to blood some of our young academy players, and here’s why:

They have the ability?

18 year old Chris Dawson has been described as a real talent, and has already spent time with the first team – he has a squad number and has featured on the bench. Alex Mowatt has also impressed. Are they good enough? Well let’s play them and find out!

Injury Crisis

With a number of players, either injured or struggling for fitness from a busy schedule (Prior to the Huddersfield match the same team played the last 6 games over 20 days), the Academy players give an opportunity to fill in the gaps that injuries have left. Here’s an example - Let’s take a look at the Leeds United Forward line. Warnock does not seem to be convinced of the abilities of Habib Habibou and Davide Somma is out for the remainder of the season. That leaves Steve Morison and Ross McCormack. In Tuesday’s match against Peterborough, Morison was taken off at half time with a calf injury and Ross McCormack forgot the whole of the second half due to a blow to the head and is receiving a brain scan today. Although El Hadji Diouf is an attacking player, that potentially leaves Leeds United without a striker. Or does it? What about 19 year old Dominic Poleon? He’s already featured in a handful of games for Leeds in league and cup matches and scored a neat finish against Nottingham Forest. So that’s one more goal than Habib for a start!


One thing every young Academy player aspires to is putting on a first team shirt and representing their club. Sure, there may be a few nerves, but you can’t doubt the enthusiasm that locally grown players would show on the pitch. They would be pumped up on adrenalin and their passion would be there for all to see.

Learn from your mistakes

No-one expects a perfect performance from a rookie. But young players have to get their chance at some time. With the season effectively over, now is the chance to see how they adapt to Championship football. Giving a young player a handful of games now would allow them to learn from their mistakes now. Since promotion is all but a pipe dream, any errors on the pitch won’t have an impact on Leeds’ success this season. In addition, if our management plan to use some of the younger players next season, then let them get the mistakes out of the way now and not at the start of next season. Furthermore, Leeds United fans will support youth players. Sarcasm is reserved for the likes of Michael Brown. You won’t see or hear anything but 100% support for a young Leeds player giving it his all. If he misses open goals, if he makes mistakes, that’s just fine. As long as he’s putting in the effort, he will get nothing but praise from the Leeds United fanbase.

The current crop just ain’t good enough

A lot of the current first team have reached their peak. Michael Tonge won’t get any faster. Paul Green won’t become a better passer of the ball. Luke Varney will never be a top striker. The first team just don’t have it. Their level is mid table Championship and that has been proven by their performances this season. Age and time is against them. They will not get any better. They will only be the same or get worse.


There have been barely few shining lights in Leeds United shirts in recent times. For me, they have come from the likes of Delph, Howson, and more recently Lees and Byram. It’s time to give the kids a chance. Unfortunately, the man at the helm is Neil Warnock, a no nonsense character with an approach that has failed to either appeal to fans or be successful. At no point have Leeds United been in the Top 6 this season. Neil Warnock is the guy who could not accommodate a place for Everton starlet Ross Barkley as he could not “guarantee him a place in the first team” and thus sent him packing back to Merseyside.

That was the same first team that accommodated 36 year old Michael Brown. This is the same man who stumbled across Sam Byram, the only ever present for Leeds, as during a pre season warm-up, he needed a player to make up the numbers for a training exercise. That player was Sam Byram. Warnock’s assistant Mick Jones said “This kid’s alright.” And that is how he made the first team.

Leeds United may not have a great squad of quality players at the moment, but what it does have is a very productive Academy setup, with young players chomping at the bit for their chance to play in the infamous all white shirt. Give them the chance. There’s nothing to lose. Maybe they won’t be good enough, but you’ll never know until you give them the chance. Now’s the time to find out if Leeds United have another player as good as Tom Lees or Sam Byram. And maybe just maybe, there’s a player who’s even better than those two. But if we don’t play them, we’ll never know.

My message to Neil Warnock?