Following Leeds United’s tie with Salford City in the Carabao Cup back in August, Whites fans would have been forgiven for expecting to see a lot more from Alfie McCalmont over the coming campaign.
The Northern Irishman looks to have been one of the most impressive youngsters in Leeds’s system for some time now. And he has shown for the under-23s that he is capable of playing in a holding midfield role that has often been crucial to Marcelo Bielsa’s system in the first-team.
However, McCalmont has made one senior appearance since that day – which also came in the Carabao Cup.
And based on Bielsa’s most recent team selection, coupled with some of his comments after the game, it would appear that he may have been overtaken in the pecking order by an unlikely source.
Olly Casey was perhaps a surprise inclusion on the bench for Leeds’s clash with Huddersfield on Saturday. The 19-year-old – who made his senior debut in the reverse fixture against the Terriers – has generally been a centre-back stalwart for the under-23s.
However, Bielsa suggested after the game that Casey was there to provide cover for the midfielders with Kalvin Phillips missing the game through injury (via Leeds Live).
“Stevens was sick all week. We consider Olly Casey as possession midfielder, not as centre-back,” he said, as reported by Leeds Live, when asked about Jordan Stevens’s absence. “For us, yes, Pascal [Struijk] is a centre-back necessary to be in the group of 18 players today. Pascal, [Barry] Douglas defenders, Olly, [Jamie] Shackleton midfielders, [Ezgjan] Alioski, [Tyler] Roberts attackers.”
And with the teenager starting in the ‘Phillips’ role ahead of McCalmont for the under-23s on Monday, it would appear that Casey is now one of the next in line after Phillips and Ben White.
McCalmont looks to be an incredible talent. So it would be no surprise if he has a key role to play in the first-team in future. He arguably has the vision and ability on the ball to play slightly further forward anyway.
But it perhaps says a lot about how highly Bielsa rates Casey that he is now deemed to be a midfield option for the Whites’ first-team in a role that many would have expected McCalmont to be pushing for.