Leeds United’s summer recruitment has been weighted towards the burgeoning under-23 squad.
Last year, the Whites brought in marquee additions Rodrigo Moreno, Diego Llorente, Robin Koch and Raphinha – however this time around, Junior Firpo is the only new face expected to play regularly within the first-team.
By contrast, Amari Miller, Sean McGurk and Lewis Bate have arrived to supplement the under-23 squad, with more business still to be done.
Oliver Casey’s departure for Championship outfit Blackpool means the under-23s are rather light at centre-back.
Casey and captain Charlie Cresswell forged a strong relationship in the heart of defence last season, often bludgeoning fellow PL2 Division 2 attacks into submission.
Cresswell has remained at the club, but is likely to be partnered by either Nohan Kenneh or Kris Moore. Kenneh – a defensive midfielder – is less comfortable playing out of position, while Moore’s under-23 experience is rather limited at just 17 years old.
For this reason, Leeds are said to be pursuing a deal for Celtic’s Leo Hjelde, who despite being the same age as Moore, already has comparably vast experience at first-team level.
Norwegian youth international Hjelde featured regularly for Scottish Premiership side Ross County last season, and has returned from his loan period to find himself on the fringes of the first-team under new boss Ange Postecoglou.
A first-team berth may not be forthcoming under the Australian manager however, and given the level of opposition Celtic’s B team face on a regular basis (the squad most recently defeated Vale of Leithen 10-0), Hjelde may seek a challenge south of the border.
Having been named in the squad list, but not on the bench, for each of Celtic’s Europa League qualifiers with Czech outfit Jablonec, Hjelde has been left off this week’s list to face AZ Alkmaar.
New addition James McCarthy has replaced the teenager amid mounting speculation that he is close to an Elland Road move.
Interest in Hjelde is likely to be strong from a number of clubs, but Leeds’ unique position of being able to offer him a starting place in their up-and-coming under-23 squad is certainly a strong hand to have in any potential negotiations.
Leeds’ U23s kick-off their PL2 Division 1 campaign this evening away to Crystal Palace, who they were beaten 2-0 by in March.