Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa appears to have identified his next Ben White, as United are monitoring the development of Hamilton Academical prospect George Stanger, according to the Glasgow Evening Times.
Stanger is yet to make his senior debut for the Accies, but is said to have caught the admiration of clubs across the country with his efforts in Hamilton’s youth ranks, for whom he has represented in the UEFA Youth League, Scottish League Cup and Challenge Cup.
Leeds are believed to be keen on striking a permanent deal for the teenager, and intend to monitor his progress north of the border now that the transfer window is closed for Championship sides until the New Year.
But the 6 ft 3 centre-back is expected to leave New Douglas Park this summer on loan, as Hamilton see the 19-year-old as a hot prospect for their future and would prefer to retain his services, even though manager Brian Rice does not consider Stanger as part of his first-team plans.
Rice has awarded the highly-rated talent a spot on his bench just once, with the Melrose, Scotland-born defender listed on the teamsheet for Motherwell’s trip to the Accies last December.
Stanger is a New Zealand U20 international, however, as he qualifies through his Auckland-born mother Bid, and made his debut on the international stage in May following a late call-up to Des Buckingham’s squad for FIFA U20 World Cup in Poland – playing all bar 45 minutes as the junior All Whites were eliminated on penalties in the Round of 16.
Bielsa may have identified his next White in Stanger, as the boss has shown he is willing to place his faith in a relatively unproven talent like the Brighton & Hove Albion loanee, who had never played in a competition as highly-ranked as the Championship before his one-season move to Elland Road.
The Hamilton prospect, meanwhile, has already built a reputation for being a ball-playing defender with excellent physical abilities to fall back on, as he acknowledges that playing with the ball at your feet is now a must-have component of the game for any centre-back worth one’s salt.
“Always, always, always make sure you defend first,” Stanger noted earlier in the year, as quoted by The Times. “But for the modern centre-back, it’s crucial to be able to play out from the back, to have the ability and passing range to do that.”