Not so long ago, Leeds had a number of youngsters graduate from the academy and make the jump to the first team. Each instantly became a hit with the Elland Road faithful and were soon regularly featuring week after week. Through poor managers, cheap owners and personal greed, they each found themselves making moves out of Leeds on to a new chapter of their careers. The question is, where are they now?
The first of these youngsters to become a first team regular, Byram seemingly emerged from out of nowhere when Neil Warnock’s side travelled to the south coast for pre-season. From that point onwards Byram started regularly, mostly at right back, and became a fan favourite for his desire to push forward.
In his first full season he made 44 appearances, scoring three goals and claimed 5 assists. From that season onwards, he was Leeds’ first choice right back no matter who was in charge. Byram went through a host of different managers in his time whilst with the Whites, such as Neil Warnock, Brian McDermott, Uwe Rosler, David Hockaday, Darko Milanic and Neil Redfearn.
After three years in the first team, Byram’s contract talks collapsed and his future at Elland Road looked in doubt. After Steve Evans arrival, Byram returned to the first team after an absence and although Evans repeatedly spoke of his desire to keep quality players like Sam Byram, he was sold to West Ham United with just six months left on his contract.
Since his move to London, Byram has struggled with a number of injuries. In two and a half years, he has made fewer than thirty Premier League appearances and has only featured in the League Cup this season.
Who remembers this goal from Alex Mowatt against Huddersfield? pic.twitter.com/XcEyh2d9jM— LeedsUnitedWorld (@worldleedsutd) December 29, 2017
Captaining Leeds United’s under 18s side to win the League, Alex Mowatt was next to progress to the first team. A central midfielder, Mowatt added a more attack-minded approach to the midfield that Leeds had been used to. He soon established himself in the first team and made 29 appearances in his first season.
The following season would see United get the best out of him. Playing mostly under former academy manager Neil Redfearn, Mowatt became a focal point of Leeds’ midfield, taking pressure off him to work back and help the defence. Mowatt’s greatest weakness had always been his lack of pace but his move to the number 10 role allowed him a lot of freedom and he repaid Redfearn’s faith by bagging nine goals.
The following year, however, Mowatt found himself back in a central midfield role, where he was depended on more as a box to box midfielder, but his pace hindered him and he was soon featuring less and less.
In to the next season Mowatt was down to the final year on his contract (this is becoming a familiar pattern) and with limited first team opportunities he would leave for Barnsley FC during the January transfer window for a knock-down fee. After making just 11 appearances in the second half of the 16/17 season, Mowatt would make just one appearance this season before moving on loan to League One side Oxford United under former assistant manager Pep Clotet. He has made 15 league appearances this season, scoring one goal.
Lewis Cook drills a low ball into the box and it goes all the way through to Ake, who pokes home from close range.#BOUWHU 2-1 ⚒️ (56)— AFC Bournemouth (@afcbournemouth) December 26, 2017
Another central midfielder making the step up to the first team was Lewis Cook. Before making his United debut, Cook had already tasted success with the England Under 17 side, winning the European Championships and playing alongside the likes of Dominic Solanke and Joe Gomez. Like Mowatt, he enjoyed pushing forward but was also very capable defensively.
After establishing himself in the first team early in the season, Cook would make 37 appearances, but would have to wait until the following season to get his first goal for the club. It was a successful first season for Cook, winning the Football League apprentice of the year, Leeds’ Young Player of the Year and runner up to Alex Mowatt in the Fan’s Player of the Year and also the Yorkshire Evening Post Player of the Year.
Another successful season followed for Cook, at least from a personal perspective, which began with him signing a new deal to keep him at the club until 2017. He made 43 appearances, scoring once and claiming two assists. Cook would finish the season winning the Football League Young Player of the Year as well as Leeds Young Player of the Year as well as the club’s Goal of the Season.
Cook would be snapped up by AFC Bournemouth during the summer but, like Byram, has found first team opportunities limited. He has so far made just 23 appearances for Bournemouth and is consistently a substitute. He was also captain of the England Under 20 side that would the U20 World Cup, scoring one goal.
The final of the four to depart, Taylor had actually made debut a season ahead of Sam Byram. Making a handful of appearances for Leeds during the 11/12 season, Taylor soon headed out to a number of different clubs on loan to varying levels of success. An uneventful stint at Bradford was followed by short spells with York City and Inverness Caledonian Thistle. Following on from that he moved to Fleetwood Town in League Two for the season where he quickly became a regular for them, earning rave reviews. He was part of their side that won promotion through the play-offs.
This form was enough earn him a spot in Leeds’ first team the following season, eventually taking the place of Stephen Warnock, who owner Massimo Cellino was not a fan of. When former academy manager Neil Warnock took charge Taylor was moved forward to the left wing. He would revert back to the left back position the next season but, like Byram, his attack-mindedness would see him claim seven assists. He would win the Fan’s Player of the Year and the Yorkshire Evening Post Player of the Year.
The next season would see Taylor enter the final year of his contract and the club turned down a transfer request from Taylor amidst speculation of interest from Premier League clubs. He would still feature regularly, although missing a few games due to injury. He would withdraw from Leeds’ final game of the season with manager Garry Monk saying, I'm hugely disappointed with Charlie. I think he's been terribly advised all season."
He would leave Leeds at the end of the season and head to Burnley where he has made just five appearances in total, including a defeat to Leeds in the League Cup.
Sadly it would appear that in all cases their careers have stalled, whether it’s down to injuries, lack of opportunities, or not being wanted. I personally hope that they each can make progressions with their careers, if for no other reason than to show the quality of player that can come out of Leeds’ academy. Each of these players has showed plenty of potential and, given the opportunity, I believe they each have it in them to become a success.