Redfearn identifies the next star graduate of the Leeds academy
By Alex Stevens
Neil Redfearn has blamed cost-cutting on the wretched results of the Leeds youth teams but is confident there are still some top quality emerging stars at the club.
The former Leeds manager and academy chief identified striker Mallik Wilks, 18, as a potential first-team star of the future.
Both the club’s Under-23s and Under-18s are bottom of their respective divisions, securing just five wins apiece from 20 matches this season.
The development squad, managed by Jason Blunt, have not won for 12 matches, with their horror run stretching back to their last victory in November.
They once again came unstuck with a 1-0 defeat to QPR at Elland Road on Monday night, in which Blunt took the decision to appoint new signing Paudie O’Connor as captain in his first match.
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The Under-18s have fared little better following a forced coaching reshuffle at the end of last year, in which joint-manager Andy Gray quit amid reports he had been asked by Elland Road chiefs to take a drop in salary.
Redfearn admitted he is concerned about the poor results, but believes there are still some young players who can follow in the footsteps of the likes of Charlie Taylor, Ronaldo Vieira, Kalvin Phillips, Tyler Denton and Lewie Coyle, who have all graduated from the academy into the first team in recent seasons as well as big-money 2016 departures Lewis Cook and Sam Byram.
Speaking to Radio Yorkshire, he said: “They’ve got the players, the players are there. A lot of good people have gone from academy. There’s been a lot of change. There lies the problem.
“With regards the players coming through, Phillips, Denton, Coyle, they were around it anyway. It’s what comes through now, maybe Malik Wilks. I think there’s players there good enough to progress, but its difficult when there has been cost cutting.”
Wilks has made a single senior Leeds appearance to date, a 29-minute cameo in the club’s humiliating FA Cup defeat to non-league Sutton United in January.
The forward has been a mainstay of Leeds’ Under-23s and Under-18s this season after signing his first professional contract in December.
Meanwhile, Leeds senior side are back in action on Saturday evening when they travel to play-off rivals Reading for a Championship fixture.
Monk’s team are fourth in the division with a haul of 69 points from 38 matches and aiming to nail down a top-six finish.
In other Leeds transfer news, the club have sealed an out-of-window midfielder transfer.