Harrogate is still putting itself on the map in footballing terms.
The town has had huge success in terms of tourism as well as it’s spa water and production of Sulfur. The town has plenty of attractions: the garden rooms at tennants are re-opening from 4th July, when visitors can enjoy its popular bistro, café and galleries.
Plus, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway has confirmed season opening on 1st August, with steam trains running seven days per week. Harrogaters of the football persuasion, therefore, have work to do to make the town be recognized for it’s contributions to that sport.
The rise of Harrogate Town under Simon Weaver certainly helps, but the town collectively is also hoping to help develop the stars of the future to help give the area more recognition.
The good news is that Leeds United, where Harrogate born-and-raised Robbie Gotts and Ryan Edmondson are on the books, are on the cusp of promotion to the Premier League. Edmondson has been training with the Leeds first team over June and has been in fine form for the Under-23s.
The 19-year-old has already gained international recognition with England Under-19s and will consider himself unfortunate not to have featured for the Whites this term.
One thought his opportunity might come when striker Eddie Nketiah was recalled by parent club Arsenal in January, or when the man who replaced Nketiah, Jean-Kevin Augustin, got injured in his first game after joining on loan from RB Leipzig.
Alas, Marcelo Bielsa has not yet trusted Edmondson to influence his side’s promotion push, which is a shame considering the Argentine’s usual aptitude for blooding teenagers.
This is not, however, a reflection on the striker’s ability. Bielsa likes his centre-forwards to run the channels and drop deep to link up play, which is why Patrick Bamford regularly starts for the Whites despite his underwhelming conversion rate when it comes to clear cut chances: 14 goals from 127 shots for a centre-forward is a poor return.
There is an argument to say Edmundson might fare better than Bamford in front of goal. The York City academy graduate is more of a poacher: he likes to run onto through balls, takes the first opportunity to get into goalscoring areas and is pretty ruthless when he does – albeit at a different level of football.
The other issue, too, is that while Bielsa proclaimed that Edmondson’s all-round “performances for the Under-23s were never enough to be considered”, he also said that “in his last training session, he was excellent – but injured his knee and needed surgery”.
Bielsa is certainly setting clear standards for his players and challenging them to improve to reach new levels and we could see that with Edmondson, although it could be that he will thrive elsewhere, when fit again, in a team that wants their main striker to operate more like how he does.
We could see Edmondson build up some confidence in the senior game with a loan spell at a lower budgeted League One club like Rochdale or Accrington Stanley, who could both do with a striker with pace.
At a push, he could be a loan option for Harrogate Town if they are promoted to League Two – the Sulphurites are currently preparing for the Play-Offs. Gotts, meanwhile, is primed to make an immediate impact higher up the English football pyramid.
The 20-year-old is an avid Leeds fan and he fulfilled a dream for himself in January, when he not only made his debut for the club, but did it against Arsenal – the team his brother, Joe, supports. Gotts gave a great account of himself against the Gunners, displaying a fine eye for a through ball and excellent link-up play, helped by his low centre of gravity at 5’7″.
Although Gotts has played large portions of his Under-23s career at right-back, he primarily sees himself as a central midfielder and that is understandable. In either position, his speed, his skill, attacking intent and willingness to track back will be hugely valuable.
That game, in which Gotts performed superbly for an hour, ended a run of 35 matches as an unused substitute, which highlights his patience – vital for a young player at a club with lofty short-term ambitions, with Leeds being 1/3 with Betway to win the Championship title as of 30th June.
Gotts is also competing with proven performers. Other midfielders such as Mateusz Klich and Pablo Hernandez have established themselves as top Championship players in 2018-19 and 2019-20:
Klich brings relentless energy and a passion for darting runs deep into the final third, as well as quality from outside the box. Hernandez, meanwhile, has one of the most creative brains in English football and can pick through balls that only a handful of players in the game are capable of.
His and Klich’s frequent selections, therefore, are hardly a bearing of Gotts’ potential, but rather a reflection on the trust they have earnt through their consistency. Plus, Gotts was sidelined with an injury shortly after the Arsenal game, but he could be in for a breakthrough season next term.
If Robbie and others are going to prove anything, it’s that Harrogate’s Gott talent.