Leeds United have a history of success when it comes to bringing youth players into the first team.
In recent years, there’s been Ronaldo Vieira, Lewis Cook, Charlie Taylor, Sam Byram and, going a bit further back, Fabian Delph and Jonny Howson.
This season, Bailey Peacock-Farrell has been given a chance in the problematic goalkeeper position and done well. Tom Pearce was handed a debut at Sheffield Wednesday in which he was mostly steady with a couple of moments of quality.
The sense of a dead rubber season, as well as the upturn in form from both the under 23 and under 18 teams, has led fans to call for Paul Heckingbottom to hand a few more debuts out.
While I understand the argument that unveiling another star from the youth ranks would add value to a season with nothing to fight for, throwing in too many young players too soon could be detrimental for them and the club.
Leeds fans are expectant at the best of times, even though we’d hope to be patient with young players, Elland Road can be a difficult place to flourish.
Throwing a player into that environment before they’re ready could crush their confidence before their Leeds career got properly started.
Chris Dawson earned a lot of plaudits for his performances in the youth ranks, but he became a famous example of a player being thrown in too early.
Neil Warnock brought him into the squad for a game at home to Derby in April 2013. Dawson was taken away from title celebrations with the under 18 team to be named on the bench. He came on for Ross McCormack in the 55th minute and struggled.
His Leeds career never really took off after that and he was released in January 2016.
Another example is Alex Cairns, who was handed a debut against Blackpool as a half-time substitute for Paul Rachubka in 2012, following a torrid half for the American in goal. Cairns came in and didn’t fare much better.
That proved to be his only senior appearance for Leeds, but a step away from the club allowed him to finally develop into a senior player at Fleetwood Town, and he was linked to a Premier League move to West Ham last summer.
Some players take to first team football immediately when thrown in, but not every player who is in form for the youth teams is ready for first team football.
In the current under 23 setup, Oriol Rey looks composed on the ball in midfield and seems great defensively, Sam Dalby is proving to be a natural finisher, Jack Clarke is showing the ability to beat a man and commit players.
All of them are showing things that the first team are missing, but it’s up to Heckingbottom and his staff to decide whether they’re ready to replicate it at senior level.
Throw them in too early and they may never replicate it in the senior ranks.