Leeds United should reignite their interest in teenage centre-back George Stanger
However, the Whites didn’t really firm up their interest in the teenager and he ended up completing a deadline-day loan move to East Kilbride, just a few days after making his senior professional debut for Hamilton Academical.
Stanger started in an unfamiliar left-back position in Hamilton’s 3-1 defeat to Motherwell in the Scottish Premiership last month and, despite ending up on the losing side, the starlet’s performance in the Lanarkshire derby earned him plaudits from fans and pundits alike.
The 19-year-old, though, wasn’t apparently in manager Brian Rice’s first-team plans moving forward in the campaign and a temporary spell at East Kilbride, who compete in Scottish non-league football, should guarantee him plenty of regular minutes until January.
A youth product of Scottish League Two club Stirling Albion, Stanger joined Hamilton on January 2018, although he was immediately loaned back to his boyhood club until the end of the 2017-18 campaign.
Having made his senior debut for Stirling in the fourth-tier, Stanger returned to his parent club and played for Hamilton’s youth teams, featuring in the Scottish Challenge Cup and the UEFA Youth League.
The 19-year-old is held in high regard by the youth coaches at Hamilton Academical and has been tipped by many to go on and play at the highest level in his country.
The teenager has earned rave reviews for his powerful 6ft. 3-inch frame and ability to read the game to perfection, while his technical qualities on the ball have also caught the eye.
Born in Melrose to parents of Kiwi descent, Stanger impressed with his performances for New Zealand at the 2019 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Poland earlier in the summer.
To put things into perspective, George Stanger looks like a real talent at this stage of his career and the teenage starlet seemingly has all the attributes as a defender to fit into Marcelo Bielsa’s system at Elland Road.
And, with that in mind, it should be an absolute no-brainer for the Whites to reignite their interest in the 19-year-old.
The Championship promotion-hopefuls lost Pontus Jansson, who was one of the mainstays of their backline in the previous campaign, to Brentford this summer, while another top young prospect Aapo Halme also departed West Yorkshire to join newly-promoted Barnsley.
In response, Leeds brought in Ben White on loan from Brighton to plug the gap at the back and, while the youngster has done well thus far in the league alongside Liam Cooper, Bielsa is likely to be aware of the lack of depth in his defensive ranks.
Indeed, the likes of Gaetano Berardi, Ezgjan Alioski and Stuart Dallas are capable of doing a job in multiple positions at the back but they are only stop-gaps at best and Leeds need more depth in the defensive options, keeping in mind their long-term goals.
Leeds, of course, have Kalvin Phillips who can play as a central defender, as well as academy product Leif Davis, who can slot into both left-back and centre-back, but bringing in another top young talent like George Stanger would only increase competition for places and add much-needed quality to the club’s youth ranks.
Even if Leeds do go ahead with their interest in January and manage to get a deal over the line for Stanger, he would probably only link up with the U-23 side, with a view to playing for the senior team in the future.
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Historically, Hamilton Academical have a good record of exporting quality young talents south of the border, with James McCarthy and James McArthur amongst those in recent times to have carved out a prominent reputation in English football.
All in all, Stanger apparently has all the makings of evolving into a top-quality centre-back and one that Leeds simply cannot afford to miss out on.