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Should Leeds start Bailey Peacock-Farrell against Wolves?

It has been a major discussion point among the fanbase.

Derby County v Leeds United - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

“Throw the kids in”. “Blood the youth”. Every so often every football fan thinks like this. In times when a club isn’t playing well the idea of a group of young players with something to prove can be too nice a thought to ignore. This idea is particularly romanticised among the Leeds United fanbase, and with good reason.

I could go back to previous generations but just in my time as a fan we have had the side of the late 90s/early 2000s with the likes of Alan Smith, Ian Harte, and Jonathan Woodgate. We have had the unrealised (at Leeds) potential of James Milner and Aaron Lennon lost as Leeds fell down the leagues. At our lowest ebb in League One, we had Fabian Delph and Jonny Howson. Then, in the last couple of years we’ve had the losses of Sam Byram, Charlie Taylor, Alex Mowatt (not quite the same) and Lewis Cook.

In addition, and most pertinently in this case, we had the emergence of Paul Robinson in goal (and also to an extent Scott Carson, we messed that up for different reasons) to give Leeds fans hope that a young goalkeeper can be a good goalkeeper. Robinson kept a clean sheet on his debut against Chelsea and eventually went on to be England number one. Stuff like that lingers in a fans mind, and it can make a fan build up young players as potential saviours.

This article is focusing on BPF because he seems the most likely candidate to come in, he has played before and he has been named on the bench the last couple of games. Some of these arguments would also be valid for playing Will Huffer (who personally I think has looked good on my limited viewings of him), or former Poland youth international Kamil Miazek.

The case for playing BPF

The opening, and most persuasive, argument for playing BPF is quite simple: Felix Wiedwald is not very good. Andy Lonergan is not very good and is injured anyway. So even if BPF turns out to be crap it’s not like he can be much of a step down. If he does turn out to be good then it could potentially not only improve our goalkeeping situation, but also improve the problems in a defence who clearly have no confidence in the goalkeeper.

This season is already being looked at by most as over, not getting promoted, not getting relegated, let’s prepare for next season. Leeds need a different goalkeeper next season regardless of what happens this season. It is well documented that Leeds are not competing in the same financial league as a lot of the clubs they will be trying to beat to promotion so we may as well see what the club already has bubbling below the surface and maybe save a few million.

He must, at the very least, have some natural talent. Leeds had to stave off interest from Everton and (at the time still Premier League) Aston Villa to keep him at the club in 2016 and at the start of this season he signed a new three-year deal at Leeds. He has already been on training camps with the Northern Ireland senior squad so people clearly see something in the 21 year-old.

His debut match was a 1-1 draw against Queens Park Rangers FC at Elland Road. The only goal he conceded in that match was to a Tjaronn Chery penalty after a mistake by perennial shitbag Giuseppe Bellusci. This isn’t much of a reason, but for many fans it is all they have seen of BPF and he had a solid performance, which is better than can be said of our two senior goalkeepers for a lot of matches this season.

A game for BPF could also be good for Felix Wiedwald, he needs to be removed from the firing line and if Andy Lonergan was fit to play I think he would definitely drop out. The German has got on the wrong side of the fans for his performances and shipping a few goals against top of the table Wolves could lead to the fans sarcastic jibes turning truly nasty, especially if another goal comes from a simple error from him again.

The case against playing BPF

Not all youngsters who are thrown in at the deep end swim. Some drown. If BPF has a bad game, and that is possible, what happens to the Leeds fans’ confidence in him? Paul Heckingbottom’s confidence in him? More importantly, what happens to his confidence in himself? In the reasons to play him I say that there is obviously some talent there. While throwing BPF into the side could potentially be the making of him, it could just as easily be the decision that ruins him. Is that something that we should risk in a season that is probably going to finish in mid-table mediocrity anyway?

The argument that ‘we could break him’ is particularly galling as the game is against top of the table Wolverhampton Wanderers, it is liable to be a busy night for whichever goalkeeper is chosen and a bad day could mean shipping a lot of goals. This makes it a very hard game to make the call to start Peacock-Farrell, even if the manager wants to he may leave it till a later game.

We do not see him everyday in training. The Goalkeeper we think of when we picture BPF is not necessarily what the coaching staff has been seeing. This is backed up by reports from his loan spell at York City earlier in the season. The young goalkeeper played four games and conceded nine goals. That is not a stat that can be read into a lot on its own (York have had a few matches where they have been poor defensively this season) but the tweet below shows a few of the goals and they were not great.

Another problem is that Paul Heckingbottom has only just got the job at Leeds. He even said himself in a press conference that “I don’t know him well enough” when asked if Peacock-Farrell has the right mentality. He also said he “wouldn’t want to give the opportunity away because it sends the wrong message, people have to earn it.” Peacock-Farrell’s performances have not been amazing this season according to anyone who has seen lots of him so maybe now is not the time. Paul Heckingbottom said he spoke to Peacock-Farrell and they both agreed his development had become “static”.

Heckingbottom said: “I told him its down to him if he wants to push forward, it’s up to him where his career takes him. He can’t just come into training every day, train and go home. He’s coming in for a reason and with a purpose so I want to see that response from him. I want him to live up to the potential he’s showed and one of those players I’m talking about, where you’ve got earn your right to get in the team.”

Opinion

It is a tough choice, weighing it up I think the sensible choice is to pick Wiedwald and wait till later in the season to give one of the young keepers a couple of matches. Whether that is BPF, Will Huffer, or Kamil Miazek there will be less pressure at the end of the season when we will, in all likelihood, have nothing to play for. Unlike now where it just feels like we have nothing to play for.

However, I am a gambling man, I don’t think better the devil you know is always true and I think one more mistake in front of an Elland Road crowd could make things very nasty for Felix Wiedwald. For me, it doesn’t neccesarily have to be Peacock-Farrell, but someone has to come in for Wiedwald, form like his cannot be allowed to continue.

Will Wiedwald be dropped? My guess, no.

Would I drop Wiedwald? Yes!