Leonard: First team exposure has been fantastic

Young midfielder has been in five Premier League matchday squads this campaign.

By Charlie Hanson • 09 February 2022

By Paul Hazlewood
Marc Leonard has been training regularly with the first team this season.

A belief in his own ability has helped keep Marc Leonard involved in the first team picture, according to the young Scot.

The midfielder has been in five Premier League squads this season, making two first team appearances in the Carabao Cup.

He has been training with the first team regularly this campaign and says the demands are incredibly high.

“In your head it has to be a lot quicker; you’ve got to know what you’re going to do as soon as the ball is on its way to you. There’s no opportunity to have a touch, look up and then make your decision. You’ve got to know what’s around you and that first touch has got to set you up for the next thing you’re going to do.

By Paul Hazlewood
The 20-year-old made his Scotland Under-21 debut earlier on in the season.

“As a result, it’s demanding mentally but it went well for me from the start and I’ve been lucky enough to be involved for a while now. If you go in with confidence and back your own ability, you come out the other end well.

“There will be mistakes along the way but the coaches know you’re being confident and trying to do what they’re asking you to do.”

The 20-year-old says it’s the mental side of having to be at that level that takes a lot out of players.

“Although it might not have been a physical session,  mentally you do need a sit down afterwards because your brain is just constantly moving as everything’s got to be at it 100 per cent. But that’s the level that every young player wants to be at and why the training with the first team is so good.

By Paul Hazlewood
The midfielder made his senior debut in the win at Cardiff City in August.

“The standards are driven heavily by the players as well as the coaching staff so you can be at the levels required for a Premier League team.”

Leonard has kept his playing time up with regular appearances with the under-23s in Premier League 2, knowing full well he can’t take his foot off the pedal.

“It’s not been difficult [dropping down to the under-23s], it’s more a case of knuckling down, playing well, so you can get another opportunity to sample that first-team environment.

“The under-23s gave me the foundation to join up with the first team so I always go out with the aim of being the best trainer and making sure I’m impressing in the same way I did before.

“I don’t take my foot off the gas as I want to make sure I don’t miss out on those opportunities again. In the first team they are on it every day in training and so you take that away with you. You maintain those standards.”