Three Leeds prospects who could follow in Gray’s footsteps including “Whizz kid”

Leeds United made an impressive managerial appointment over the summer as they swooped to bring in German tactician Daniel Farke, who had left Borussia Monchengladbach earlier this year.

The 47-year-old head coach arrived with an exceptional record at Championship level as he won the title twice during his spell with Norwich City; once in 2019 and then again in 2021.

Alongside his superb results in the second tier, the ex-Canaries boss also came in with a proven track record for developing and bringing through young players.

The likes of James Maddison, Max Aarons, Ben Godfrey, Emiliano Buendia, and Jamal Lewis, among others, all hit their stride at first-team level under Farke’s management.


Maddison (to Leicester for £24m) and Buendia (to Aston Villa for £38m) left Norwich for a combined £62m during the German’s tenure in Norfolk, which illustrates his ability to get the best out of young players to increase their value.

He has already displayed this at Leeds by unearthing Archie Gray from the academy at the age of 17. The England U19 international has already had a valuation of £40m reportedly placed on his head amid interest from Liverpool.

Gray has already racked up 15 Championship appearances, including 13 starts, so far this season – as a central midfielder and right-back – despite only turning 17 in March.

Farke has placed his faith in the teenage Thorp Arch prospect and been rewarded as the English dynamo has earned himself a regular spot in the team this season.

Supporters may now have one eye on the academy to see who could be the next talented ace to follow in Gray’s footsteps to make an impact at first-team level.

With this in mind, here are three young Leeds gems who could make the senior squad if they continue to develop at an impressive rate…

Luca Thomas

The versatile academy teen – Luca Thomas – has made an impressive start to life with the U21s after being promoted from the U18s for his phenomenal form at that age group.

He has played the majority of his matches as a centre-forward but has showcased his versatility by being able to play out wide on either flank as well as in a number ten position.

Thomas burst onto the scene with the U18s during the 2021/22 campaign as the exciting youngster plundered an eye-catching 15 goals and two assists in 17 U18 Premier League matches.

The Whites prodigy followed that up with eight goals and one assist in 14 games at that age group throughout the following season, which took him to a total of 23 goals in 32 outings.

He has been a regular for the U21 side so far this season, after his incredible exploits for the U18s, and has hit the ground running with three goals and one assist in six Premier League 2 appearances.

Having scored and assisted goals at a superb rate at academy level, the next step for Thomas is to impress Farke enough to earn a shot with the first-team.

Mateo Joseph


One player who is close to making his first-team breakthrough is U21s star Mateo Joseph, who has already been given a taste of senior action at Elland Road.

The 20-year-old prospect has made six appearances for Leeds, including three in the Premier League last season, and has been on the bench for two Championship matches this term.

Joseph has enjoyed a strong start to the 2023/24 campaign with two goals and one assist in two Premier League 2 outings, along with a goal and an assist in one Premier League International Cup clash.

The England U20 international came into this season off the back of a return of 17 goals and two assists in 24 U21 matches for the club last term.

This means that the Spanish-born dynamo has racked up 20 goals and four assists in his last 27 U21 appearances for the Whites since the start of the 2022/23 campaign.

Joseph’s phenomenal form for the academy has not gone unnoticed as Farke did include him on the bench twice earlier this season, which suggests that the young gem is on the German tactician’s radar for a first-team inclusion.

It is now down to the Leeds game to prove to the ex-Norwich boss that he has what it takes to translate his outstanding goalscoring form over to the senior side in the coming months or years to follow in Gray’s footsteps.

Sean McGurk

Finally, the third Thorp Arch academy prospect who could be the next young talent to burst onto the scene at Elland Road is 20-year-old winger Sean McGurk.

Signed from Wigan in 2021, the winger did not catch the eye with consistently impressive displays for the U21s across his first two seasons with the Whites.

Despite being described as a “whizz kid” by journalist Alan Nixon at the time of his move to Yorkshire, McGurk only managed three goals and one assist across 22 U21 matches for the club during the 2021/22 campaign.

The Liverpool-born wizard followed that up with a return of three goals and three assists in 18 U21 appearances throughout the 2022/23 season.

Sean McGurk’s youth career (via Transfermarkt)


FA Youth Cup

Premier League 2










These statistics did not suggest that Leeds had a productive winger who could deliver goals and assists on a regular basis. However, his form this term has reflected his development in recent years.

McGurk has managed four goals and two assists in eight Premier League 2 matches, alongside four goals and two assists in five Premier League Cup and International Cup clashes.

This means that the 20-year-old magician has racked up eight goals and four assists in 13 U21 games so far this season for Leeds, whilst no first-team player has managed more than six league strikes so far.

He has finally hit his stride in the final third and is now thriving as an excellent winger who can chip in with goal contributions at an impressive rate, which suggests that a first-team promotion is not completely out of the question.

McGurk must now remain consistent and show Farke that he has the quality to deliver big moments at senior level for Leeds to become the latest gem to follow in Gray’s footsteps under the German tactician.

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