ADAM PEARSON believes the addition of proven, experienced talent this summer can help Leeds United’s promising crop of youngsters blossom in a similar vein to how Harry Kewell, Alan Smith et al came through during his first spell at the club.
The 50-year-old, as first revealed via The Yorkshire Post’s website on Monday night, is back at Elland Road after being brought in by Massimo Cellino as an executive director.
Pearson is, effectively, the owner’s right-hand man at a club where he spent five years as commercial director from 1996.
During that time, United emerged as a force both at home and abroad on the back of a youth production line that included Kewell, Smith, Paul Robinson, Jonathan Woodgate and Stephen McPhail.
Sensible recruitment, at least in the early years under Peter Ridsdale, helped those youngsters develop and Pearson sees the current crop of Lewis Cook, Alex Mowatt, Sam Byram and Charlie Taylor benefiting from similar help.
“We have some outstanding young talent,” said Pearson, “and that is a great base to work from, in terms of building a squad capable of challenging.
“The key, of course, is making the right purchases to add to that core of young talent. I see similarities to my first time here, back in the late Nineties when the Harry Kewell generation was coming through.
“Paul Hart (then Academy director) did a wonderful job back during those years, bringing through the McPhails and Smiths to the first team.
“For about two years after that, there was a special feeling about Leeds United.
“I am not trying to put pressure on the young lads in the team now by saying we have the same again. That was a truly outstanding group. But we do have a really exciting group of young talent in the team, just as we did back then.
“Our task is to harness that talent in a similar way to what happened with the Kewell generation.
“If we get the right experienced and probably English talent to add to that then we can really go places. I am sure of that.”
The lifting of the transfer embargo, imposed on United by the Football League in January as punishment for financial losses in 2013-14 that reached £22m, was crucial to the ambitions Cellino has for United.
It leaves Leeds – and whoever takes charge of the team, amid suggestions Neil Redfearn is heading out of the club and Nigel Atkins is being considered along with Mark Warburton – free to make additions when the transfer window officially opens next month.
Pearson added: “Getting the transfer embargo lifted was a big step. The club is in good shape and Mr Cellino has spent a hell of a lot of money cleaning it up.
“Everything is ready to move forward. The Premier League is a realistic target, of course it is. It is a massive club and this city is crying out for Premier League football. For a whole host of reasons, both economic and for the good of Leeds as a whole. The owner realises that.”
Pearson’s arrival at Elland Road followed a short-lived stint at Sheffield Wednesday as a member of a three-man steering committee that also included Stuart Gray and Glenn Roeder.
Asked about his decision to leave Hillsborough, Pearson said: “It was tough to do. You don’t like to let people down but, in life, opportunities come up now and then that are simply impossible to turn down.
“For me, the chance to come back to my hometown club was just too attractive. I couldn’t turn it down. There are some good people at Sheffield Wednesday but, here, I can have more opinions and, hopefully, form a partnership with the owner.”
Rudy Austin and Aidy White were among nine players released by Leeds yesterday.
Pearson glad to be ‘back home’ at Leeds: Page 22.