More depressing than Leeds United’s actual activity in the transfer market is the Premier League’s free transfer list, showing all the players either released or whose contracts expired at the end of the 2010/11 season. 

Several of the names on the list have been linked with Leeds United over the summer such as Jason Brown (released by Blackburn Rovers), Lee Bowyer (released by Birmingham City) and Jonathan Woodgate (released by Tottenham Hotspur).

Those are arguably the cream of the crop, or at least the more well-known players from the list. But it’s the youngsters that interest me most.

Arsenal – well known for their ability to produce quality youngsters – released three this season. Defender Thomas Cruise had a brief loan spell with Carlisle United and was also part of the FA Youth Cup winning side of 2009 whilst 19-year-old striker Roarie Deacon was quickly snapped up by Sunderland.

But it’s Mark Randall that caught my attention as he’s the only one of the three I’ve actually seen play. He featured in our League One clash against MK Dons in April 2010. As MK Dons fell apart and had three players sent off, Randall still looked pretty composed and was one of the very few positives Franchise MK could take from that fixture.

He made 13 appearances for Arsenal which suggests to me that Arsene Wenger saw something in the midfielder, but standing out amongst the competition at Arsenal and making that final leap to first team regular is notoriously difficult.

After joining MK Dons on loan in the second half of the 2009-10 season, Randall became an ever-present in the squad. Whilst that was only at League One level, it proves that the potential is there.

Randall is but one example of the youngsters on this list, and whilst some may think he wasn’t worth the risk, I can’t help but think signing 21-year-old players that have graduated from Arsenal’s Academy and been on the fringes of first team selection at The Emirates, would benefit the club more in the mid to long-term than signing 34-year old’s with a penchant for mistimed tackles.

And that’s not a dig at Michael Brown – I happen to think that as far as temporary fixes go, he wasn’t a bad signing –  it’s more a dig at our scouting department which seems to consist of an old man in a rocking chair watching recordings of matches from the early 00’s.

The obvious argument here is that with Michael Brown you know what you’re getting, whilst Randall is still a relatively unknown player. But isn’t that why we have a scouting department? Not so we can sign players everyone knows can rough-up the opposition, but to find those hidden gems discarded by Premier League clubs with too many players and not enough places

Even if Randall couldn’t cut it at Championship level, his wages will be next to nothing and we can sell him on to a League One club to recoup most of our expenses. There’s very little you can lose signing youngsters – hell, sign four of them, the combined total of their wages would still be less than Billy Paynter’s and I’d bet good money they’d produce more goals.