Leeds United’s Under-23s capped off a fine season on Monday by securing the Professional Development League national title at Elland Road. Here’s our season review:
How the Professional Development League title was won
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United entered this season having finished in the safety of mid-table in the PDL North at the end of the 2017-18 campaign, Carlos Corberan’s first season at the club.
The Spaniard, though, saw a turnaround in results from January onwards as the club won 10 of their last 15 league games.
Buoyed by the arrival of Marcelo Bielsa in June, United’s development side set their sights high and attempted to build on the platform they set themselves heading into pre-season.
A consistent style was deployed across all academy levels by the Argentinian and a clear identity was put in place.
Leeds began the season by winning four out of their first six games in the PDL before falling to a first defeat at Bolton Wanderers in mid-September.
A mixture of youth and experience was utilised as Bielsa took the chance to use the Under-23s to give out-of-favour first-team players much-needed match minutes.
An inconsistent run to the New Year saw five victories, three defeats and one draw but ensured the Whites opened 2019 at the top of the pile.
Leeds then took hold of the title race in style, suffering just one league defeat in the whole of the second half of the campaign.
Corberan’s charges sealed the PDL North title in late March having been powered by front man Ryan Edmondson, who ended the regular season with 18 goals in all competitions.
The end-of-season play-offs pitted United against PDL South runners-up Coventry City.
A dramatic 3-2 extra-time victory saw Leeds earn a shot at the national title with Birmingham City the visitors to Elland Road.
A near-8,000 crowd turned up for the final in LS11 as the two sides played out a 0-0 stalemate before another pulsating finish saw Leeds claim the PDL bragging rights with a 4-2 penalty shoot-out win.
Premier League Cup review
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United’s Premier League Cup campaign got off to the worst of starts.
After being drawn in Group G alongside Newcastle United, Southampton and Notts County, the Whites fell to two defeats in their opening three fixtures, leaving themselves a mountain to climb.
They fought back to end with three straight victories and qualify as group winners in what was tough opposition with category one academy talent on display.
A battling 2-2 draw with Fulham in the last 16 saw United come out on top in a penalty shoot-out after being reduced to 10-men early in the second half.
Another impressive performance in the quarter-finals saw the Whites make light work of PDL rivals Burnley with a 3-1 victory.
The win set-up another clash with Newcastle but the semi-final showdown proved to be a step too far for Corberan’s youngsters as they fell to a resounding 3-0 defeat after what had been an impressive campaign.
Apps = all competitions (more than five)
Goalkeepers – Jamal Blackman 8, Will Huffer 9, Harrison Male 5, Kamil Miazek 12.
Defenders – Gaetano Berardi 8, Leif Davis 26, Hugo Diaz 29, Aapo Halme 25, Bryce Hosannah 18, Clarke Oduor 25, Tom Pearce 7, Conor Shaughnessy 8, Pascal Struijk 28.
Midfielders – Lewis Baker 8, Izzy Brown 17, Mateusz Bogusz 10, Jack Clarke 22, Robbie Gotts 31, Jack Harrison 6, Bobby Kamwa 13, Alfie McCalmont 26, Callum Nicell 23, Jamie Shackleton 16, Jordan Stevens 35.
Forwards – Sam Dalby 14, Ryan Edmondson 32, Tyler Roberts 8, Kun Temenuzhkov 20.
Top goalscorers – all comps
19 – Ryan Edmondson
8 – Izzy Brown
7 – Kun Temenuzhkov
6 – Jack Clarke
5 – Robbie Gotts, Jordan Stevens
4 – Patrick Bamford, Sam Dalby
3 – Pascal Struijk
2 – Mateusz Bogusz
2 – Tyler Roberts
2 – Clarke Oduor
2 – Hugo Diaz
1 – Lewis Baker, Gaetano Berardi, Aapo Halme, Jack Harrison, Bobby Kamwa, Alfie McCalmont, Callum Nicell, Kemar Roofe.
Own goals – 4
Ratings (not first team players or loanees)
Will Huffer (goalkeeper) – Tall, commanding and loud. You’ll hear him before you see him. Has looked assured when called upon but is probably ready for more senior football after a loan spell to Barnet and his Whites debut in late 2018.
Harrison Male (goalkeeper) – For what he gives up in height he has in agility. Pulled off a number of great saves, one in particular against Burnley in the Premier League Cup when he tipped a long-range shot onto the bar at full stretch. An Under-18 who has stepped up and done well when required.
Kamil Miazek (goalkeeper) – A little unlucky to be pushed behind Jamal Blackman in the early part of the season. Possesses a good reading of the game and is willing to play with the ball at his feet. His penalty heroics in the PDL national final will live long in the memory for him. A good season all round.
Leif Davis (left-back) – The most assured left-back in the 23s squad. Has real pace and directness to his play. Just as good going forward as he is back towards goal. Can also play centre-back if required. Looks close to being ready.
Hugo Diaz (centre-back/midfield) – One of the older members of the squad at 22. A ball playing centre-back who can also slot into the heart of midfield. Loves a yellow card and a big crunching tackle. Has an eye for a through ball.
Aapo Halme (centre-back) – The towering defender stands at 6ft 5in. Dominates aerially and is a calm figure in the middle of defence. Enjoys a crossfield ball. Injuries hampered the early part of his campaign but has been a key figure for the side.
Bryce Hosannah (right-back) – Another who has suffered with injuries since joining the club. Came back into the fold in the latter half of the campaign and started to get back to his best. Pacey and direct.
Clarke Oduor (left-back/winger) – One that sneaks under the radar. A good winger and an even better left-back. Has a great left-footed delivery which found Ryan Edmondson’s head on many occasions. Glides past players at will.
Pascal Struijk (centre-back) – If Salim Lamrani was handing out his name it couldn’t be anything other than ‘The Beast’ for Pascal. A physical defender who dominated everything in the air but also has ball-playing ability. Has pitched in with a few goals too.
Jamie Shackleton (right-back/midfield) – The one that has left everyone yearning for more. Transformed into a right-back from his natural spot in midfield under Marcelo Bielsa’s guidance. His pace and workrate has seen calls for him to be more involved at senior level. Doesn’t look far away at all.
Robbie Gotts (right-back/midfield) – The most improved across the season. Has been moved from right-back into attacking midfield. Goals, passing, pace and a seriously bright future. One to watch.
Mateusz Bogusz (midfield) – Looks like a real talent. Made a big impact after his arrival in January and has already been included in Bielsa’s matchday squad. Craft and an eye for goal were promised and he’s delivered so far.
Jack Clarke (winger) – Just about makes it onto this list. A fine season at both levels but has made a step back into the Under-23s following his worrying collapse at Middlesbrough in February. Could still have a large part to play in the play-offs.
Bobby Kamwa (winger) – A cameo season in the Under-23s. Has real pace but is still very raw. The hype around him is big and it has been seen in patches this season. Suffered with a few injuries which has limited his minutes.
Alfie McCalmont (midfield) – Wins the ball and keeps it simple. The Kalvin Phillips role was built for him and at just 19 he has dominated a lot of games in midfield this season. Has an eye for a goal from outside the box. One at Tadcaster in pre-season sticks out. Already representing Northern Ireland at Under-19 level too.
Callum Nicell (midfield) – Another one who has stepped up this season. Looks assured in midfield and has donned the captain’s armband on occasion. Can pick a pass.
Jordan Stevens (winger) – Pacey and direct. Has really come on this season. Can play on either wing and is at his best when running at the defence. Forged a good partnership with both wing-backs and tracks his man well.
Sam Dalby (striker) – Had a bright start to the season but fell out of favour. Strong in the air but not a winger where he spent a lot of time. Moved out in the second half of the campaign to Morecambe on loan.
Ryan Edmondson (striker) – What a season. At 17 he has bullied defenders years beyond him. Nineteen goals in all competitions is a brilliant return and you’d back him to find the back of the net more often than not.
Kun Temenuzhkov (striker) – After helping the Under-18s to the title last season has made the step up. Can play either as a striker or a number 10. Has scored some important goals this season and none moreso than his wonder strike in the play-off semi-final against Coventry. Always looks busy.