As the latest in a long line of Leeds United academy graduates who have gone on to make successful careers for themselves it should be no surprise that Danny Rose announced himself in the Premier League in such stunning fashion on Wednesday night at White Hart Lane.
The 19-year-old, who scored a 25-yard volley that put Tottenham on their way to a famous 2-1 win over Arsenal, left Leeds in a £2m deal in 2007 that saw him follow a well-trodden path. In the Tottenham squad alone there are two famous Leeds old boys – Aaron Lennon and Jonathan Woodgate – but the League One club has produced many more over the last 20 years, even if they have not been able to hang on to them all.
As for Rose, who was scouted by Leeds' development centre in his hometown of Doncaster, he is already an England Under-21 who has been out on loan at Peterborough and Watford. He turned down the chance to join Chelsea when they controversially signed the Leeds academy players Tom Taiwo and Michael Woods in 2006 for a combined fee that eventually rose to around £5m.
Rose, who has three years left on his contract, is not even the most recent departure from Leeds' academy. In October, Manchester City paid £800,000 for the two 14-year-olds George Swann and Louis Hutton. Everton have signed the Leeds academy left-back Luke Garbutt and Aston Villa agreed a deal last summer of up to £6m for Fabian Delph, the 20-year-old midfielder who had already broken into the Leeds first team.
At the final whistle on Wednesday, Rose said that he had made a beeline for Theo Walcott in order to get his shirt for his younger brother, Mitchell. "When I scored I just didn't know what to do," he said. "I ran one way, then another to look for my dad Nigel and all of a sudden they were kicking-off. So I forgot about it straight away and I ended up defending. I did manage to see my dad over in the corner.
"When I was at Leeds aged about 12 I hit a nice 20-yarder but that one definitely tops it. The lads helped me out massively before the kick-off. [Coaches] Les Ferdinand and Tim Sherwood both came up to me and told me not to worry about anything and just do what I've been doing in training."
With a dash of youthful exuberance, Rose even revealed that Lennon had told him before the game to "take [Gaël Clichy] on the inside because he doesn't like it." The teenager was substituted at half-time with a minor knee problem and also so manager Harry Redknapp could tighten up the right side of Spurs' midfield.
Rose's former coach at Leeds, the academy manager Neil Thompson, said that the club recognised that they could not keep players like Rose and Delph when Premier League outfits showed interest in them. The transfer fees earned for home-grown players have made it one of Leeds' most profitable aspects in recent years.
Thompson said: "Danny came to us as an Under-11 and when I joined he was in the Under-14s and you could see he was a good player. He had fire in his belly as well as being very tough and he had that ability to produce bits of magic like he did on Wednesday night. He has always been one who can score a spectacular goal or make a telling run that makes the difference.
"He signed as a first-year scholar when he left school and he played reserve-team football here. He had the opportunity to go to Chelsea when the other lads went there but he chose to stay with us. When Tottenham came in for him they were offering us a decent amount of money."
The success Leeds have had in producing young players – in stark contrast to their decline as a force in English football – was a result, Thompson said, of a good structure with two coaches for every age group from Under-9 to Under-16 and a rich Yorkshire catchment area. Ideally the club would have liked to keep their best players but they have found themselves targeted in the increasingly fierce competition to sign the best young footballers.
"We want to keep our best young players but when an opportunity arises at 15 or 16 and clubs make good offers then it is hard to stand in their way," Thompson said. "Yes it is sad to see them go because ultimately the aim is to see them play at Elland Road but we take their success as a compliment to the system we have here."
Leeds old boys: Academy graduates
Louis Hutton (15) Joined Manchester City last year for £800,000
Luke Garbutt (16) England U-17 international, signed by Everton last year
Fabian Delph (20) Went to Aston Villa for £6m last summer
James Milner (24) Aston Villa and England player
Aaron Lennon (22) Signed by Spurs in 2005, 15 England caps
Scott Carson (24) Three caps for England. Now at West Bromwich
Matthew Kilgallon (26) England U-21 defender, now at Sunderland
Alan Smith (29) Now at Newcastle after spell with Manchester United
Harry Kewell (31) Went to Liverpool in 2003 for £5m.
Jonathan Woodgate (30) Sold to Newcastle in 2003. Now at Spurs.
Paul Robinson (30) Went to Blackburn via Spurs, 41 England caps.
Gary Speed (41) Most Premier League appearances of any outfield player
David Batty (41) Part of 1992 league championship-winning sideReuse content