The academy has been one much-neglected by the various managers, likely unwilling to throw the youth into such a high-stakes and high-pressure situation. However, the quality within Thorp Arch would surely have marked an improvement on some of their failing starters.
Another element that comes with relegation from the Premier League is the mass exodus that often follows, with many feeling they are too good for such a division, and those who actually are, all often departing.
Rodrigo, given he is the club's top scorer, is expected to fall into the latter category.
Football Insider reported in April that a verbal agreement had been made that would allow him to leave should the unthinkable happen. Now that mere possibility has become a stark reality, the need for a new goalscorer has swiftly returned to the top of the priority list heading into next season.
Whoever is chosen as the long-term replacement for Sam Allardyce in the Elland Road dugout needs to look no further than that aforementioned academy, with young talisman Mateo Joseph waiting in the wings.
After he moved to Yorkshire in 2022, the Spanish-born England U20 international has enjoyed a fine debut term within the youth setup as a prolific asset for Michael Skubala.
In fact, it was he who lauded the work rate of the 19-year-old, as he noted: "He’s in a good place, he’s scoring goals, he’s a character, but he still needs to keep working hard. His finishing ability is top-drawer. He’s been training like a warrior and you can see that in his game."
It was no surprise to see GOAL journalist Tom Maston credit him for such fine form, claiming in November: "Joseph & Perkins have been on fire in front of goal for the U21s this season."
Given he has only been afforded six senior appearances, it is clear that a lack of trust remains despite his domination of the U21 level.
Perhaps in the Championship, where players like him would often be loaned to streamline their development, he could finally earn his chance in the Whites' senior squad to announce himself as the heir to Rodrigo.
With the exit of the 32-year-old a foregone conclusion given he notched 13 league goals for a relegated team, there will be no better chance for Joseph to fire himself into contention to fill such a vacancy.
It could be argued he has done all he can to command such an opportunity, with his lethal touch sure to dominate the Championship if he is just handed a show of faith.2023-06-02T06:11:09Z dg43tfdfdgfd