Leeds United’s promotion to the Premier League has transformed the careers of players in ways they never could have imagined.
The likes of Illan Meslier, Stuart Dallas, Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford have seen their stock rise exponentially after passing the test of top-flight suitability.
However, for players who were on the fringes Leeds’ first-team in the Championship, promotion has brought about greater challenges and sterner competition.
Achieving top-flight status does wonders for a club’s ability to attract players of a higher calibre and the talent pool has been considerably strengthened over the last year.
This has put significant roadblocks in the paths into the first-team of players on the outskirts, such as Leif Davis, Jamie Shackleton and Ian Poveda.
The aforementioned trio are undoubtedly talented and prior to promotion, were knocking on the door and seemingly never far from Marcelo Bielsa’s thoughts.
Last season, Shackleton and Poveda were restricted to cameos from the bench whereas Davis was rarely even afforded that and they would be forgiven for thinking their days at the club may be numbered.
Davis has in fact now effectively called time on his Elland Road career, in joining Bournemouth on loan with a view to a permanent move.
This trio are all still young but the pressure to make the step up in the era of teenage breakthroughs is intense, especially when players younger or of a similar age to them are higher up in the pecking order.
Davis and Poveda are in their 20s now but the bulk of their football has been played in the under-23s, whereas Shackleton has also stepped down into Mark Jackson’s side for minutes.
However, as Davies departs, he could have looked back in the history books for an example of how patience can pay off and being held back in a certain age group does not spell disaster.
Sam Byram became a mainstay of the first-team before sealing a move to the Premier League with West Ham United but also saw himself held back within the academy in order to aid his progression.
As a first-year scholar, Byram played for the club’s under-16s despite it being the norm for scholars to represent the under-18s. It was a decision taken with what was best for his development in mind, allowing him to grow physically and offer him regular football.
Despite his rise through the ranks being initially slowed, it was a decision that helped catapult him to the very top and into the senior set-up.
Another player forced to play down an age group was midfielder Jonny Howson, who was initially deemed one of the weaker players in the cohort he was part of.
The move will have frustrated him initially but was evidently seen as beneficial for his development and he would go on to captain his boyhood club.
Byram and Howson were both held back at times in their journeys to the first-team but the decisions helped mold them into future stars of the first-team.
It will currently be frustrating for those on the periphery but history underlines the importance of patience and trusting the process.
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