Bolton, UK. 15th Dec 2018. EFL Championship football, Bolton Wanderers versus Leeds United; Jack Clarke of Leeds United applauds the visiting fans at the final whistle.

Where are they now? The 17 Leeds United kids handed their debuts by Marcelo Bielsa

Marcelo Bielsa’s tenure as Leeds United manager will forever be remembered as one of the most entertaining and enjoyable periods in the club’s history.

The Argentinian tactician was not afraid to lean heavily on youngsters during his time at Elland Road. He handed professional debuts to no fewer than 17 players from the club’s academy. We’ve checked in on each and every one of them to see where they are today.

We’re only including players that made their professional debuts at Leeds, rather than youngsters that developed in the academy but had made competitive, professional appearances prior to joining – like Illan Meslier and Ian Poveda.

Jamie Shackleton

The local lad was starting to catch the eye just prior to Bielsa’s arrival. He’d been talked up by academy director Neil Redfearn and was part of the squad that went on an ill-advised tour of Myanmar in the summer of 2018.

Shackleton featured in Bielsa’s first pre-season and appeared as a substitute in the Argentinian’s second game in charge, a 4-1 victory away to Derby County.

He went on to make a further 77 appearances under Bielsa, but the vast majority were from the bench. There was always a question of whether he’d have to go elsewhere to feature regularly, and he spent Leeds’ miserable 2022-23 relegation campaign out on loan at Millwall.

But he’s since returned to his boyhood club and has enjoyed a second wind as a utility player.

“I really love Jamie,” Daniel Farke told reporters earlier this season.

“He’s sometimes really underrated because he can play all positions. Wherever he plays, he’s always reliable, always solid, always a good team-mate, gives us everything. He’s an unbelievable piece of our squad and I’m really happy to have him.”

Jack Clarke

“I’ve never met anybody within the game as intense,” Clarke recalled of his early experience working under Bielsa in an interview with The Athletic.

“It was my debut season, so to speak, in professional football, so I just assumed it’s what it’s like when you get to this level. He was ridiculously intense, ridiculously detailed in everything he did, but obviously he brought success to the club, so you can’t question it.

Anyone who watched Clarke’s early breakthrough performances in the 2018-19 campaign will tell you that Leeds had a special talent on their hands.

The winger provided some real magic in his early cameos under Bielsa, prompting a £10million move to Tottenham in the summer of 2019. He was immediately loaned back to Leeds but struggled for minutes, which kicked off a lost couple of years of unsuccessful loans.

But he really kicked on at Sunderland, having joined the club permanently after helping them get promoted from League One in 2022-23. Clarke is now firing on all cylinders for Tony Mowbray’s Black Cats and is undoubtedly one of the best attackers in the Championship.

Will Huffer

Given an opportunity thanks to a goalkeeping injury crisis, Huffer boasts a 100% win and clean sheet record for Leeds – his first and only appearance for the club was a routine 2-0 victory over Bristol City in November 2018.

Huffer was released in 2020 and joined Bradford (Park Avenue), beginning a career of non-league football. He’s currently standing between the sticks for Isthmian League outfit Carshalton Athletic.

Clarke Oduor

A regular in Carlos Corberan’s PDL championship-winning Under-23 team during Bielsa’s first year in charge, Oduor’s only senior appearance for Leeds was in an FA Cup defeat to QPR in January 2019.

The winger left for Barnsley that summer and went on to score an iconic final-day match-winner, securing their survival in the dying minutes of the 2019-20 campaign.

He remained at Oakwell for another three seasons before joining Bradford City on a free transfer.

Leif Davis

“Very good Davis!”

In all honesty, Bielsa’s line of encouragement to Davis from the touchline left more of a legacy than anything the full-back did in his small handful of appearances for Leeds.

The Wallsend Boys Club alumnus showed some promise – his pace and energy always caught the eye – but you got the sense he needed to find regular opportunities elsewhere to reach his potential.

Davis spent the 2021-22 campaign winning promotion out on loan at Bournemouth, but it’s at Ipswich Town where he’s really flown. He was an exceptional assist king in their League One-winning campaign and now he’s starring as they punch above their weight in the Championship’s top two.

Kun Temenuzhkov

“Growing up idolising Luis Suarez, the pint-sized prospect has shown the same predator’s instinct in the penalty area as the Uruguay striker,” read a profile in The Guardian‘s ‘Next Generation’ series back in 2017.

The Bulgarian striker never quite lived up to that billing. His solitary appearance for Leeds was a late cameo in a 2-1 FA Cup defeat to QPR. Nowadays he’s turning out for Spanish lower-league outfit Navalcarnero.

Oliver Casey

Born and raised in Leeds, Casey joined the club’s academy as a teenager and progressed to sign a professional deal – and even signed a three-year extension after promotion in 2020.

But he only ever made three appearances totalling just over 90 minutes. Casey joined Blackpool in 2021.

Alfie McCalmont

Bielsa was not one for sourdough starters, zoom quizzes and rinsing through The Sopranos. The Argentinian reportedly spent lockdown analysing over 19 hours of footage from academy starlet McCalmont.

He’d only played a fringe role at that point, making the odd cup appearance, but that dedication from Bielsa caused some to suggest McCalmont could potentially be lined up as Kalvin Phillips’ successor in the midfield engine room.

Or not. The Northern Ireland international made just four team appearances amid three loans away. But he was a dedicated, well-respected and popular club servant. He joined Carlisle United on a permanent deal in the summer.

Pascal Struijk

A player with over a hundred appearances for Leeds, Struijk is one of Farke’s most entrusted defenders.

He’s come on a long way since looking shakey in his early Championship appearances for the club.

READ: Bielsa turned cloggers to champions, a miracle Leeds fans will never forget

Robbie Gotts

The midfielder’s debut was a long time coming. He was named on the bench by Bielsa over 30 times before finally getting his opportunity, starting in an FA Cup third round clash with Arsenal in January 2019.

Leeds lost 1-0 but caught the eye by going toe-to-toe with Mikel Arteta’s Gunners, while Gotts put in a perfectly decent performance. He went on to be named the club’s Academy Player of the Year for 2019-20 but only made a further two senior appearances for the club.

Gotts left Leeds for Barrow in 2021.

Charlie Cresswell

Son of former Leeds striker and Head of Academy Coaching Richard Cresswell, Charlie has broken through from the youth set-up and proven he’s no nepo baby.

The defender played a peripheral role under Bielsa and Jesse Marsch before going out on loan at Millwall for the 2022-23 campaign. He’s now back at his parent club and struggling for regular minutes but continues to be talked up as a star in the making.

“I don’t praise just the players who were on the pitch today, our centre-backs, but it’s also good that we have players like Charlie Cresswell for example,” Farke said of Cresswell.

“He makes sure that he trains each and every training session with a top class performance and top-class mentality and he holds the pressure high because the likes of Pascal [Struijk] or Joe [Rodon] or today Liam [Cooper], they know, ‘Ok, we can’t afford to play with two per cent less concentration otherwise there is a top class player [waiting].”

Cody Drameh

A player destined to be remembered as an oddity, Drameh left Fulham’s academy to join the youth set-up at Leeds back in 2020 and quickly impressed with the Under-23s.

He went on to be named as Cardiff’s Player of the Season after a half-season loan before shining in Luton’s promotion-winning campaign.

Yet he continually failed to impress in his small handful of appearances at his parent club and could never make the right-back slot his own.

Drameh is now spending the final year of his contract with Leeds out on loan at Birmingham City, who reportedly have first dibs on his signature when he becomes a free agent in 2024.

Sam Greenwood

Originally from Wearside, Greenwood joined newly-promoted Leeds from Arsenal boasting a reputation as a promising forward.

He went on to make 35 appearances for Leeds but ended up adapting his game to more of a jack-of-all-trades midfielder, a role that Bielsa’s successor Marsch continued to utilise him in.

But after Leeds made a number of signings to bolster their midfield, Greenwood fell down the pecking order and is spending the 2023-24 campaign out on loan at Championship rivals Middlesbrough.

Jack Jenkins

The midfielder made his one and only appearance in Leeds’ infamous 3-0 FA Cup defeat to Crawley back in January 2021.

Something of a forgotten man, Jenkins actually remains on the club’s books today – but he’s seeing out the final year of his contract out on loan at beleaguered National League North side Scunthorpe United.

Niall Huggins

The York-born left-back has progressed through the youth ranks at Leeds since he was a child. But his only opportunity was as a substitute as Bielsa’s injury-ravaged Leeds suffered a 4-2 defeat to Arsenal in February 2021.

Huggins is now a team-mate of Clarke’s at Sunderland. He’s had to be patient for opportunities at the Stadium Of Light but is starting to break through now – and recently made headlines for scoring an absolute belter against Watford.

Stuart McKinstry

The Athletic‘s Leeds United reporter Phil Hay once picked out Stuart McKinstry to be a breakthrough star.

Things didn’t quite work out that way for the Scottish winger, who reportedly turned down interest from a raft of clubs to join Leeds’ academy set-up back in 2019.

McKinstry made just two appearances for the club and was released in the summer after a so-so loan to Motherwell last term. He’s since joined second tier side Queen’s Park.

Lewis Bate

Former director of football Victor Orta loved to poach promising teenagers from other clubs, and former Chelsea wonderkid Bate firmly belongs in that category.

There was hope that the midfielder could kick on to become a regular fixture in Bielsa’s teamsheets, but he’s made far more appearances for the youth team than the seniors.

Bate showed lots of promise out on loan at League One side Oxford United in 2022-23 and a similar move might have done him good this year. The 20-year-old looks unlikely to feature much under Farke following the midfield reinforcements signed in the summer.

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TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every player to appear for Leeds under Marcelo Bielsa?