When Leeds United secured a long-awaited return to the Premier League last season, first-team opportunities for the likes of Alfie McCalmont were always going to be few and far between.
During their time in the Championship under Marcelo Bielsa, the Argentine always looked to field a bench that included two or three players from the club’s academy.
Robbie Gotts, Jamie Shackleton, Leif Davis and Pascal Struijk were among those to be named on the bench on a regular basis. The latter, after featuring a fair amount towards the back end of last season, has started in Leeds’ last eight Premier League outings.
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A handful of Leeds’ youngsters, though, find themselves back in the EFL on loan, with McCalmont among those names.
McCalmont made only two appearances for Leeds last season, both of those coming in the Carabao Cup against Salford and Stoke. A loan move was soon in the offing for the Northern Ireland international.
Oldham Athletic, managed by Harry Kewell, moved to sign McCalmont on loan for the entirety of the 2020/21 campaign.
The 20-year-old has since become a key player for the Latics. Kewell’s side sit 13th in the League Two table, and sit nine points in the play-offs.
McCalmont has made 13 league starts for Oldham this season, scoring two goals and chipping in with two assists. He also scored twice in the EFL Trophy win over Bradford back in November.
Kewell has played McCalmont in a variety of midfield roles. He’s played in a deep-lying role, but most of his game time has come in the number 10 position.
At 20-years-old, there is plenty of time for McCalmont to develop, and a full season in League Two could end up doing him the world of good. He’s thriving in a system which places a lot of creative responsibility on his shoulders, which could help him thrive at Elland Road in the future.
His future very much lies in West Yorkshire, but whether he is ready for a regular first-team role at the club next season remains to be seen. Another loan move to the EFL could be a possibility, given the way he has performed this term.