Sam Byram is undoubtedly Leeds United’s best player at the moment, the 19 year old right back/winger who has done monumentally well this season. Byram came from Essex but moved up north at an early age and played his football at York City Schools team. He eventually went to Leeds Academy after completing secondary school, even though he was a first year scholar he played ‘down’ a year in the Under 16’s to help his football development. He later progressed to play for his own age group in the Under 18’s where he would become a regular in the team during the 2011/12 season. He played an integral part of the team doing so well and chipped in with several goals finishing 2nd in their division to Newcastle.
Following the end of the season in May 2012 Byram and 4 other youth players earned themselves a professional contract with the club for their efforts. In the pre-season he was played along with the other youth players to give them experience. Byram shone above the others and earned himself a team spot and handed the number 25 shirt. He started the first match of the season, thrashing Shrewsbury 4-0. He retained his place in the team’s defence for the Wolverhampton Wonderers match. He had impressed so much he was offered a new contract for 3 years just 2 days after his league debut. Byram scored his first professional goal against Oxford, picking up the ball outside the box, beating 2 defenders with 2 touches and chipping the keeper inside the box to give the team a 2-0 lead. This would later be voted the best goal of the season for Leeds and the 2nd best in the League. Byram had a permanent spot in the first team during the early months of the season. Leeds legend Eddie Gray tipping him for a England U-21 call up in the near future if he maintained this form. He scored his first league goal against Bolton Wanderers on the 2nd of October. After a very impressive first season Byram has won the following awards:
Mitre Leeds United Goal of the Year 2012/13 – Versus Oxford United
Football League Young Player of the Month- March 2013
Yorkshire Evening Post Player of the Year 2012/13
Leeds United Supporters Club Player of the Year 2012/13
Leeds United Players Player of the Year 2012/13
Leeds United Young Player of the Year 2012/13
Leeds United Fans Player of the Year 2012/13
Style, Strengths & Weaknesses
Byram plays an integral role at Leeds now, he can play on the right side of both defence and midfield, a utility man. I have seen him play at right-back most of the time but pushes up when he feels necessary. He has the ability to deliver good crosses into the box which is something what Leeds lack at the moment. Since Byram has played so well at right back it has allowed Lee Peltier to play a more central defense role which I personally think is where he plays best. At right back Byram can deal with nearly anyone, including wonderkid Gareth Bale. When Leeds played Spurs, Bale did not look like he could get out of Byram’s back pocket. There was very few times where Bale managed to break but when he did Byram did well to soften the impact along with the other defenders. That game, Leeds played very well and beat a strong team who are still challenging for Champions League football. I have only ever seen Byram play 1 or 2 not so good games but he understood that and the next game came back fighting and made an impact. He showed his maturity by learning from his mistakes.
This season he has played 53 games all together including 44 in the League and scoring 4 goals in the process. He has good discipline after 53 games in mostly defence has only picked up 6 yellow cards and no reds!
Byram has good pace, to keep up with his opponent and also beat him in attack. It allows the youngster to be a useful resource going forward like many other unconventional full-backs in today’s football. His surprisingly superior strength helps him to keep challenging for the ball and breaking free from tough defenders. Something that is usually lacking in young English footballers these days.
He has the vision to pick out the passes and crosses and the ability to deliver them. This is a necessary factor for any full-back as it’s their main asset in attack. His return of four goals displays how good he is in front of goal, with a decent finishing ability, as his Oxford goal portrayed. His positioning is good too, not just for defence, inside the box and around, he knows the optimum place to be and get there to create/finish an opportunity. A few step over’s and a dip of the shoulder have furthered his cause and his ability to take on a man, and get past him. He can prove to be a nuisance to opposition defenders from the back as he advanced forward.
The only weakness I can see with Byram is a lack of aggression. He does tend to be tame at times, which is a good thing sometimes but if you got a cheeky attacker who needs to be shaken up, Byram is not always your man.
So far Manchester City and Everton have been interested in Byram apparently lining up bids between £8-10 million. For a Championship club to be offered this sort of money does not come around that often. Leeds aren’t in the Premiership, and a cash boost of those figures could definitely change fortunes. But compensating your best young talents for a cash boost could be detrimential to the club in the long run, and it’s chase of top-flight football.
The new manager and owners have the Premiership in sight. Byram too stated his desire to lend a helping hand “I want to stay at Leeds and get to the Prem with them.” With Brian McDermott also saying, Leeds fans will be hoping Byram can be convinced against a premature move to a bigger side.
The club owners may be tempted to cash in on the youngster. No actual bids have been received yet, but with the transfer window on the horizon, potential suitors will be abundant. He is contracted to the club till 2015, by then hopefully Leeds will back in the big time and Byram will be a star at Elland Road.
This article was written by Alex Chippindale. He is a Leeds United season ticket holder. You can follow him at @chiplufc.
Featured image used taken from yorkshireveningpost.co.uk