Leeds United are responsible for producing a number of world class players over the years. There was a point in time when their academy seemed like a never-ending talent factory, with a constant flow of future England internationals bursting onto the scene in a style even Micah Richards would be proud of.
In recent times, that talent factory has slowed down ever so slightly, with the modern game more focused on improving via the transfer market, and not the option closer to home in the form of academies. Those at Elland Road will still be hoping to discover the next best thing in the next few years, however.
With that said, we’ve ranked the 10 most successful academy products in Leeds United history.
10) Fabian Delph
Going onto captain Aston Villa after graduating from the Leeds United academy, Fabian Delph was one of the most talented young England midfielders at one stage, even earning himself a move to Manchester City.
At The Etihad, Delph picked up two Premier League titles, one FA Cup and three League Cups, playing a part in the famous ‘Centurions’ team.
He went on to play for Everton before eventually retiring at the end of last season.
Delph also racked up 20 caps for England between 2014 and 2019.
9) Kalvin Phillips
Someone who will look to replicate Delph’s success at Manchester City, Kalvin Phillips was a fan favourite at Leeds United, where he helped the club back into the Premier League.
Phillips also played a key role in helping Leeds survive in the Premier League, and he earned himself a move to City.
He has also been an England regular under Gareth Southgate, and was a member of the squad at both Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup.
If he can become a key player at City, he’ll climb this list.
8) Gary Kelly
One of the best right-backs in Leeds United history, Gary Kelly made an incredible total of 501 appearances for the Yorkshire club, even playing for the side that reached the Champions League semi-final in 2001.
Kelly was as consistent and loyal as they come, and more than deserves his place on this list.
Kelly also won 52 caps for the Republic of Ireland, playing for his country at the 2002 World Cup.
A true one-club man and Leeds legend.
7) David Batty
Never one for the spotlight, David Batty quietly enters this list as one of the most successful players to come out of the Leeds United academy.
The midfielder made an impressive 228 appearances for his boyhood club, and also played for both Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers, where he won the Premier League title.
He bookended his career at Elland Road, playing for them between 1987 and 1993, and between 1998 and 2004.
A player who loves Leeds, and was loved right back by the fans.
6) Paul Robinson
One of the most consistent goalkeepers to ever grace the Premier League, Paul Robinson played for Leeds United, Blackburn Rovers, Tottenham Hotspur, and Burnley, keeping a total of 88 Premier League clean sheets in 375 appearances.
His legacy as an English football and Leeds United legend still remains to this day.
He was good enough to become England’s No.1, a player who represented his country on the very biggest stage.
It could be argued he was more successful elsewhere, but at Leeds, he truly blossomed into an excellent goalkeeper.
5) Jonathan Woodgate
The fact that Jonathan Woodgate became a Galactico at Real Madrid should instantly cement his place as one of the most successful academy graduates in Leeds United history, even if it didn’t work out in Spain.
The central defender remains one of the best defenders to ever play for the Yorkshire club.
He represented Leeds with distinction between 1998 and 2003 but left as a financial crisis engulfed the club, moving to Newcastle United.
He would go on to win the League Cup with Tottenham, scoring the winning goal in the 2008 League Cup final against Chelsea.
4) James Milner
If this was a lactate test, then James Milner would be clear as the number one.
In a list of successful Leeds United academy graduates, however, he finishes a more than respectable fourth.
The Liverpool midfielder has won it all in what has been an illustrious career, and he doesn’t look like slowing down either, even at 36.
A regular England international and a truly unbelievable athlete, Milner has been superb for decades.
3) David Seaman
One of England’s best ever goalkeepers, David Seaman didn’t actually make an appearance for Leeds United’s first-team.
Instead, he went on to have incredible success elsewhere, mainly at Arsenal, where he kept 218 clean sheets in 509 games.
At the North London club, Seaman also won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, and one League Cup.
He also played for England at multiple major tournaments, including the World Cup.
2) Gary Speed
The late, great Gary Speed remains one of the best players to grace Elland Road.
In total, he made 226 appearances for his boyhood club, even winning a league title in 1992, and Community Shield in 1993.
He also starred for Newcastle United, where he made 285 appearances during his time at the club.
Speed is greatly missed, and retired with a huge cabinet filled with trophies.
1) Denis Irwin
One of the greatest players to ever play for Manchester United, it’s with great irony that we place Denis Irwin top of our list of the successful academy graduates to come out of Leeds United.
The left-back only made two appearances for Leeds, before joining Oldham Athletic and eventually making the move to Old Trafford, where he won seven Premier League titles, one Champions League, three FA Cups, and one League Cup.
He goes down as one of the best left-backs English football has ever seen.
It’s a real shame for Leeds that they didn’t know what they had with Irwin.
So, there you have it, our list of the most successful academy products in Leeds United history. Do you agree with our picks? Or do you believe that we’ve missed out some deserving players? Let us know in the comments!
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