Leeds United youngster Sam Byram admits it feels a bit weird to have the club’s Academy players looking up to him.
Byram who finished his Apprenticeship at Leeds in June has played made 23 appearances for the club this term since making his debut in the Capital One Cup win over Shrewsbury in August.
His most recent outing came in last night’s home win over Leicester while on Saturday he put the shackles on Wilfried Zaha as Leeds ended a dismal run of form to beat Crystal Palace.
“It is strange to think that the other Academy lads are now looking at me and thinking ‘if he can do it then maybe I can’,” Byram told the club’s match-day programme, ‘WE ARE LEEDS’.
“Playing in front of that crowd at Elland Road has been brilliant.”
“Being at a club where a lot of lads have come through the Academy always gives you hope. The ones I looked up to were Aidy White and Tom Lees because they were the newest. Jonny Howson was also here and Fabian Delph, so I’d seen them go from the youth set-up to the first-team.”
“Charlie Taylor and Zac Thompson also got their chance last season so that was great as it showed that people do make the breakthrough.”
Byram’s ability to slot in at right-back or on the right of midfield have made him a valuable asset to Neil Warnock this season who elevated him to the first-team squad after seeing him impress in a training match during pre-season.
His rise through the ranks hasn’t always been that straightforward though. During his first year as an Apprentice, Byram was told that the club believed it would be best for him to continue his development by playing for the Under 16 side.
“When I was first told that they wanted me to play down a level with the U16s I wasn’t too keen,” recalled Byram.
“But the staff sat me down and explained their thinking. I was small and quite under-developed at the time so they thought it was the best idea for me.”
“Neil Redfearn was great about it and told me that I would get my chance in the second year. He added that sometimes there’s a player the year above in your position and that means you don’t play many games and it would be better for me getting 90 minutes for the U16s than sitting on the bench for the U18s.”
“The thing that really convinced me was being told that Jonny Howson (Now Norwich City) had done the same thing. Like me he’d been small for his age.”