NEIL REDFEARN has likened Sam Byram’s stunning ascent at Leeds United to the impact made by a young Gareth Bale at Southampton.
Byram has enjoyed a spectacular breakthrough season at Elland Road in 2012-13, culminating in him scooping a plethora of awards at the club’s recent end-of-season dinner.
And United first-team coach and development boss Redfearn insists the 19-year-old has the ability to become a household name in English football in the mould of recently-crowned PFA Player of the Year and Young Player of the Year and Football Writers’ Association player of the year Bale – hopefully with the Whites.
On Byram, controversially overlooked when the PFA Championship team of the year was announced late last month, Redfearn said: “To be honest – and I am biased as well – I don’t see that there’s a better right-back in the division.
“Sam has done tremendously well and shown a lot of maturity. He has unbelievable ability and so much scope.
“For me, looking at Sam, I remember Gareth Bale coming onto the scene and looking like something similar.
“I do think Sam has got that sort of ability to go on and become that type of player. From our point of view, he is a tremendous young talent.”
Byram’s abilities have been there for all to see since he made a consummate debut for the Whites in the Capital One Cup clash against Shrewsbury Town on August 11.
And Redfearn, who has played a key role in the teenager’s development over the past 18 months or so, has cited one example in the derby victory over Sheffield Wednesday at Elland Road on April 13 as providing conclusive evidence to him that Byram is a special talent.
Redfearn added: “Sam is comfortable wherever he sees the ball. Sometimes, the hallmark of a top player is that when they receive the ball with their back to play under pressure, they can they deal with it.
“And I have seen Sam do things such as in Sheffield Wednesday game when he pulled a sixty-foot long ball out of the air on his chest under pressure and played it out like a seasoned pro to show he is a serious talent.
“As well as his ability, he also has maturity, which belies his age.He loves his training as much as playing and has so much energy and wants to be out there all the time.
“He loves his football and the good thing when young players come into the side is that they are infectious.
“Young players are great to have around the place and when you get one so talented, it’s a bonus.
“I know Sam probably wouldn’t put his finger on it as it’s maybe something he takes for granted, but his attitude is absolutely first-class. He wants to get better and is a level-headed kid and lovely guy who knows where he wants to go and knows how to get there.”
Byram, who missed United’s final two games of the campaign with a hip problem – after being an ever-present all season – picked up the Players’ Player of the Year, Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Supporters’ Club Player of the Year accolades at the club’s recent awards night.
A number of Premier League big guns, including Manchester City and Everton, are rumoured to be interested in signing Byram – and are tipped to test the club’s resolve with summer bids.
But Byram remains keen to stay at Elland Road and recently said achieving promotion to the top-flight with United is his ‘number one goal.’