The future looks bright

18 Feb 2015 01:40 pm, by theleedsmango

Many of you will have seen this image doing the rounds on Twitter. Nothing sums up my optimism for this season than this image. I think this low-res picture of nothing exciting in particular will be one of my favourite pics of the season. Something I think we will all agree on, these guys are no longer the future... they're the present!

On a Wednesday night in July, we had finished our beers and were headed to Glenavon to see this new mighty Leeds team that was assembled play a friendly. We were hopeful of capturing glimpses of some of the latest signings brought in by the new chairman and to see the new manager. It became quite clear early on that we weren't going to get to see the Leeds team we wanted. Instead it was a glorified reserves, or U21's, game we were witnessing. Still nevermind, we got to see some of the main team; Smith and Poleon were there, Paddy Kenny too, and at least we got to see one foreign signing: Berardi. And we didn't get an insight in to the new manager, we got Neil Redfearn. Whilst I felt a bit cheated, I felt more sorry for those Yorkshire folk who travelled over for a reserves game against a relatively poor Northern Irish opponent. Their dedication; foolish.

Looking back in hindsight, all these guys, bar Berardi, were on the outskirts of the team. We saw guys like Dawson, Cook, Phillips, Taylor and thought, "well the future is bright" as we watched a decent game of football. To expand: it wasn't high intensity, it wasn't technically brilliant or in any way amazing, but these guys were passing the ball. They were doing it the right way. We were disappointed, yet got to see something we probably wouldn't have otherwise seen: the reserves, the youth.

In much the same way Byram pushed his way in to the first team, ousting an actual monetary signing brought in for the right back position, Mowatt and Cook battled their way in to a team in positions which were already crowded and for which new signings had already been made to improve. Like Poleon and Kenny in hindsight, Mowatt and certainly Cook weren't in the plans this season. Perhaps the future?

Taylor is slightly different, in that his senior competition for the left back role was sold leaving Taylor as the only option. My feelings on the Warnock sale aside, I don't think the management would have been happy selling a player if they didn't have faith in his replacement. Thanks to the other youth players, Taylor wasn't just labelled as back up or one for the future... no, the management had every faith that, like the others, Taylor could replicate his form in the big leagues.

And in some sort of poetic justice, the man who helped these guys develop through the ranks, and the guy who stood in as the second rate manager for that reserve game in Glenavon, Neil Redfearn, would - within just a handful of months - become the Head Coach of the first team.

As we go on a bit of a run of form, whilst we maintain some healthy debates on the decisions surrounding the club, let's not lose sight of how great it is to see how far these guys have come. Hopefully some other players like Dawson get their break at some point, and perhaps others who I am currently unaware of.

What we need to do now is ensure we keep hold of this crop of youngsters. We need to get Cook and Byram on better contracts! Byram is our most senior player, is a regular in the first team and has the most potential in the squad - as such is probably asking, and entitled to, pretty decent wages. Certainly, there are arguments he should be the top earner. I know there have been many situations in the past months were people have used the wages as justification of player releases, but I'd assume we can all see that Byram needs to be offered a competitive wage for this league.

Cook is more interested in stability, which is fair enough. Instability has plummeted us down the table and ripped apart any good things our club has been building. As things have temporarily calmed (with respects to previous seasons of takeovers, winding up orders and failure to pay wages etc), we look stable on and off the pitch. Glad that Cook is thinking about these things as it understandably impacts on his development as a player, but just hope he can sign a new contract sooner, rather than later. Fortunately, having Mowatt, Taylor and Byram around him might encourage that. And of course, the Redfearn effect.