Leeds United have signed plenty of foreign young talent in recent months which former left-back Harte is concerned about.
3 Apr 1999: Ian Harte of Leeds United celebrates his goal against Nottingham Forest
Last night saw former Leeds United left-back Ian Harte post a stinging criticism of his beloved former club after going to watch them face Birmingham’s under-23s at Thorp Arch.
In case you missed it, here is what he had to say:
Fuming tonight, went to watch @LUFC Under 23s v Birmingham. Leeds is losing its identity, as all I could hear was Spanish been spoken by players and manager!!! We are a club that has over years and years brought through quality players. But what I witnessed is players lacking— Ian Harte (@ianharte23) February 2, 2018
Everyone knows I love @LUFC but too many foreign players in 23s not good enough and killing the younger players pathway!!! Andrea and Victor are very good!!! But something needs addressing ASAP— Ian Harte (@ianharte23) February 2, 2018
Leeds, who lost the match, responded with the following statement, as reported by the Yorkshire Evening Post:
“We believe that a player or a coach should be picked on their talent and not their passport.
“Additionally, nine of the 16-man matchday squad for today’s game come from the UK and Ireland and in midweek two English academy products (Romario Vieira and Tom Pearce) made the bench for our game with Hull City.
“We are proud of our academy and the players who represent us at all age groups.”
So, does Harte have a point?
His comments had plenty of people debating the topic on Twitter. Leeds have invested heavily in new players for the development side since the new management structure came into place. New under-23 boss Carlos Corberan, like first-team coach Thomas Christiansen and director of football Victor Orta, is Spanish. The club have signed fellow Spaniards Adrian Balboa, Hugo Diaz, Alejandro Machuca and Oriol Rey. They also signed Ousama Siddiki and Kun Temenuzhkov from Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively. January saw more foreign recruits come into the development team.
Harte’s concern is that the local talent from Leeds and the surrounding area is in danger of being swallowed up by this recruitment drive. Of course, the increase in competition will see some players who have come through the ranks at Leeds from a young age now struggling to make the breakthrough. Many, simply will not make it.
Former Republic of Ireland and Leeds United football player Ian Harte
Leeds have been spoilt in recent years, with the likes of Lewis Cook, Charlie Taylor, Kalvin Phillips and Ronaldo Vieira all coming through into the first-team. The concern is clear, if Leeds have other players of this talent currently coming through, is their pathway going to be restricted by the new recruits?
Harte therefore makes a good point but it is also fair to say that talent will shine through. Harte, who is an agent for some of the current young players at Leeds, was once himself a new recruit from abroad (albeit the Republic of Ireland) that made Leeds his home. He managed to break into the Leeds team and ended up calling the place home - why can’t one of the Spanish lads do the same?
Charlie Taylor of Burnley, formerly of Leeds
Is the fear that they won’t be able to have the passion and drive to be at Leeds forever? Because that stopped Cook, Taylor and Byram from leaving Leeds when the opportunity came up, didn’t it?
Football is not changing, it’s changed, and the current Leeds structure is the best they have had in a generation. Harte is right to have his concerns and his love for the club can only be appreciated and applauded. Leeds however are right to try and source the best talent for the future and will hope the cream rises to the top - regardless of whether they are from Madrid, Helsinki or Beeston.