Hot prospect turns pro

Tuesday 16 July 2002

Promising young central defender Dean Leacock has signed a three-year professional contract with Fulham Football Club, joining the growing ranks of Academy players who have made the transition from scholar to full-time professional.

In this day and age, what price would you put on an up-and-coming central defender, tipped by many to become the new Rio Ferdinand?

With the current media speculation surrounding the Leeds defender, it would surely take a sizeable bid to secure the services of such a player.

Academy Director Steve Kean is hoping that in Dean Leacock, Fulham have their own world-class central defender waiting in the wings.

Speaking to Fulham Today, Kean explained a bit more about the latest hot-prospect to emerge from the Academy conveyor belt.

"Dean's a very commanding player who has made fantastic technical improvements over the last year. He's quick and we think he's got the potential to be a player comparable to Rio Ferdinand, so we're very excited about him.

Kean continued, "When you think about Rio at Dean's age, they're every similar in stature and pace. I would actually go as far as saying that Deano looks better on the ball at this age than Rio did.

"Obviously over the last 18 months Ferdinand has developed into a fantastic player. But hopefully with another 18 months under his belt, Dean can progress even further."

Such talk is bound to wet the appetite of any Fulham fan. But the obvious question now is how long will it be before we see 18-year-old Leacock gracing the pitch?

"It depends on the opportunities he gets," said Kean. "Sometimes through injuries and suspensions, an opportunity can pop up.

"I think he wouldn't let anybody down if he got into the first team. Certainly the pace of games in the Premiership wouldn't catch him out.

"I think he probably needs a few more reserve games under his belt. Having said that, within a couple of months he should be chomping at the bit."

Dean comes across as a very reassured person, both on the pitch as well as off it. Having already played in last season's FA Youth Cup run, some fans may already be familiar with Leacock.

His composure on the ball and superb passing range was evident as the Whites progressed through last season's competition.

Speaking to Fulham Today, Leacock was delighted at signing his professional forms. However, any talk of similarities between his game and that of Rio Ferdinand was met with a flattered response.

"I suppose I play a little bit like him, it's nice to hear people saying that but I think he's a much better player than me at the moment.

"But I definitely think that I've progressed at Fulham. I used to be a very relaxed and casual person, but the coaches here trained me to have a bit more bite in my game."