By Alex Stevens
Ashley Fletcher has got all the attributes to be a top centre-forward, according to a specialist striker coach who has worked with him.
Forward guru Allan Russell has singled out the Leeds target’s touch, technique, size and speed as key weapons in his armoury.
The Manchester United striker is a firm target of the Championship big-hitters after scoring nine goals while on loan at Barnsley in 2015-16.
The Yorkshire Evening Post claim Leeds are increasingly hopeful of persuading Fletcher to leave United and join them next month after he rejected a new contract from the Premier League giants.
It is said the United man is due to start pre-season at Old Trafford as he weighs up his options but with just a week remaining on his current deal it would represent somewhat of a U-turn if the youngster were to opt to stay in Manchester.
Fletcher has been working with Russell at his Superior Striker training camp after following a path trodden by forwards of the calibre of Andre Gray, Saido Berahino, Aleksandar Mitrovic and Toulouse striker Martin Braithwaite.
“Ashley’s got a great attitude,” said ex St Mirren and Airdrie striker Russell, as quoted by the Daily Mail. “He comes here of his own accord to see what he can improve and I’d like to think his finish to the season showed how he has benefited. He’s got all the attributes, a great touch, technique, size, speed to be a top player.”
Leeds have been keeping a close eye on the 18-year-old striker over the previous weeks, although there is also interest from a number of Championship rivals after Fletcher’s starring role in Barnsley’s promotion from League One.
Owner Massimo Cellino is thought to be open to a loan move or a permanent deal for Fletcher, but wants him at Elland Road next season either way after witnessing him score a second-minute opener in the play-off final.
United are entitled to compensation for Fletcher on account of his age and could return to him with an improved proposal but the forward is aware of the serious interest from Elland Road.
Fletcher signed his first professional contract at United in May 2014 but still awaits a first team appearance at the club.
The forward has also been involved with the national set-up, scoring a goal on debut after just 10 minutes for England’s Under-20 team.
In other Leeds news, target Kane Hemmings will not leave current club Dundee unless their valuation is met.