10 Leeds United Academy graduates

10 Leeds United Academy graduates

We look at 10 players who have progressed from Thorp Arch.

Leeds United have been proud to produce a number of stars throughout the years, who have progressed through the Academy at Thorp Arch, since it opened in 1994.

To celebrate the club earning a Category One Academy status, we look back at 10 players who came through the ranks and went on to be hits in the Leeds United first team and beyond…


Jonathan Woodgate

Helping Leeds win the FA Youth Cup in 1997, Woodgate went on to become one of the best centre-backs in the game.  After making his Leeds United debut in October 1998, he never looked back, making a total of 142 appearances for the Whites.  He went on to have spells with Newcastle United, and Real Madrid, prior to stints at Middlesbrough, Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City.


Paul Robinson

Another member of the 1997 FA Youth Cup winning side, Robinson made his debut against Chelsea in a 0-0 draw with Chelsea in October 1998.  He went on to become first-choice goalkeeper with the Whites and made over 100 appearances.  He also scored a famous equaliser for the club in the League Cup against Swindon Town at Elland Road and went on to win 41 caps for England.


Alan Smith

Like Woodgate and Robinson, striker Smith broke into the first team with Leeds United in 1998, making a goal-scoring debut in a 3-1 away victory against Liverpool at Anfield.  He went on to make over 200 appearances for Leeds and scored some iconic goals during the 2000/01 Champions League campaign where Leeds went on to reach the semi-final stage.


James Milner

Breaking into the first team scene in 2002, on 26 December, at 16 years and 356 days, he became the then youngest player to score in the Premier League, with a goal in a 2–1 win against Sunderland.  The midfielder had a bright future ahead and at Manchester City and Liverpool he has gone on to win every domestic honour, along with the Champions League and Club World Cup.


Aaron Lennon

Speedy winger Lennon came through the ranks at Leeds, going on to make his debut in August 2003 against Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League.  He went on to join Spurs from the Whites and spent 10 years at White Hart Lane, with whom he won the League Cup.  Lennon is now at Burnley, following a spell at Everton and has won 21 caps for England.


Fabian Delph

Handed a debut on the final day of the 2006/07 season, Delph became a first team regular two years later, making 51 appearances during the 2008/09 campaign.  His fine performances helped Leeds reach the League One Play-Offs.  He moved to Aston Villa, with whom he played in both the FA Cup and League Cup final, before becoming a two-time Premier League winner with Manchester City.


Lewis Cook

Cook played 85 times for Leeds, before the midfielder joined Premier League side Bournemouth.  Barring during injury, he’s been a regular for the Cherries in the top-flight and was rewarded with his first England cap in 2018, having featured regularly at youth level.  Now just 23, he has a very bright future in the game.


Kalvin Phillips

Now one of the best players in the Sky Bet Championship, holding midfielder Phillips has excelled under the stewardship of Marcelo Bielsa.  He has been one of the standout performers for the Whites for the past two seasons and is now helping Leeds mount a promotion charge towards the Premier League.


Ronaldo Vieira

Vieira was handed a Leeds United debut on the last day of the 2015/16 season, away at Preston North End.  He went on to become a first team regular for Leeds in both the 2016/17 and 2017/18 season, making a total of 71 appearances for the club.  He went on to join Serie A club Sampdoria and won caps at Under-21 level for England.


Jamie Shackleton

One of the latest Academy prospects to break into the Leeds United side, Bielsa handed Shackleton a debut last season in the 4-1 victory over Derby County at Pride Park.  He’s continued to remain in the first-team fold and has now played 46 times for the club.  His performances at club level has also led to youth caps for England.