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.

12 Responses

  1. henry_v

    I notice Woods On Chelsea's list.
    He refused to sign for us and was 'stolen' by Chelsea!!
    Not the best thing he (or his parents) ever did!

  2. stevo

    The guys a tube though, hes from MK which is where i now live and he walks around like hes thierry henry.

  3. Rex

    Not that sure about Arsenal's wonder kids.

    Sanchez Watt came with rave reviews, but whenever I saw him play he looked lightweight and ineffective

  4. oldlufc

    Good article, I could not agree more. Why sign up expensive ‘has-beens’ with nothing to prove. Surely, it would be far better to sign a ‘hungry’ youngster with everything to prove. It begs the question as to what the Technical Director is actually doing to earn his salary.

    “Gwyn Williams stepped down as Chelsea FC’s chief scout in June 2006 after 27 years at Stamford Bridge. Prior to joining Chelsea FC as a youth development officer Williams was a teacher at Drayton Manor High School where he held the positions of Head of House and Head of Physical Education. Williams was also Assistant manager at Chelsea under manager Claudio Ranieri. He has now taken up the post of Technical Director aimed mainly at scouting for Leeds United. He continues to use his contacts to find players for Leeds United. One of the most high profile was finding Luciano Becchio in the lowly Spanish Divisions.”

    I can only assume most of his contacts have been on extended holidays over the summer.

  5. Craig

    Good article TSS – you really wouldn't think spotting talent from the fringes of a PL club would be that difficult!

  6. scarboroughwhite

    I have to admit, Randall wasn't the one which stuck out to me when I put the link up on the other thread…I had heard of him but nothing much beyond that. Then again I'm not being paid for scouting am I?!

    I suppose we could find some comfort in the fact that there hasn't really been any big news of other Championship clubs taking the more talented players from that list. Michael Woods is certainly an interesting one, I actually see it as a good bit of business with Master Bates getting a decent amount from Chelski for tapping him up only for them to now release him, no doubt he engaged in a bit of his namesake when he found out that news!

  7. Yeboahs left peg

    That's right, it is so simple picking up this obvious talent that no one has been near the kid with a barge pole, ever asked yourself that or are you just content with slaughtering our scouting policy. As far as I can tell there are currently 71 other clubs in the football league who have missed this obvious football gem from the Arsenal factory that produces one for every 20-30 they release.

  8. LeedsSydney

    think youre getting a bit full of yourself mate!

    Armchair managers………who needs em?

    naff article……1 unproven player out of how many?

    do you even know how many trialists weve had at thorp arch?

  9. Barney Rubble

    "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."


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