Nohan Kenneh to Hibs: Why highly-rated Leeds youngster swapped EPL for Easter Road
Speak to those in and around Leeds United and Nohan Kenneh has plenty to offer the football world. A youngster with admirable attributes, they were disappointed to realise that the teenager lacked the one vital commodity needed to prolong his stay in Yorkshire - patience.
An England youth international, who is highly-regarded in Yorkshire as a hardworking and hungry rising star, those who have worked with him agree he has the potential to go far, but he is also a player who wants to do that sooner rather than later.
Not content with life on the periphery of the first team squad, he turned down a new deal with the English Premier League outfit to seek out regular first team action. Those who have worked with him and watched him since he joined Leeds’ youth academy eight years ago, say that is the Elland Road side’s loss and Hibs’ gain.
The Liberian-born 19-year-old moved to the UK when he was six and has worked hard to enhance his natural talent and the fact he is not willing to just sit on his hands accepting the kudos and wage that comes with being at an English top tier side only underlines his self-drive and the belief that he is ready to progress beyond the U-23s.
A shining light in Andrew Taylor’s U23 squad throughout the past campaign, he made 24 appearances in the Premier League 2 side, contributing one goal and an assist despite playing in the middle of defence or as a sitting midfielder.
“I've been asked a lot what I see as my preferred position and it's a holding midfielder or a number six,” said the player, who will have his three-year deal at Hibs ratified when his current Leeds deal expires on July 1. “I feel that the position brings out the best in me. I like to break up play, and play it forward quickly. That's one of my biggest strengths, so when I'm playing as a six it's easier to do that.”
An ideal fit for a side that new manager Lee Johnson wants to see setting the tempo, working hard to gain the turnover and then counter-attacking with verve and venom. Speaking last month Taylor highlighted his contribution in an U-23 victory.
“He was outstanding. His presence, his pressing and his winning the ball back were really good, but then he was good on the ball. He drove forward, he played passes.”
And, as a practicing Muslim, that energy and dynamism came on the back of a day spent fasting during Ramadan. “That adds another dimension to it,” stressed Taylor, who has also praised him as a person, hailing his work ethic and grounded approach, which will be needed to meet the demands of his Hibs boss.
But having watched him progress this term, the likes of Taylor recognised the need to keep challenging him.
That was why Kenneh was called into the first team match squad on a number of occasions by Marcelo Bielsa and then Jesse Marsch. He failed to get game time under either but Taylor hoped that getting that close to the action would be enough to keep him tethered to Leeds.
Instead it only made him hungrier to move on and swap a spectating role for something far more rewarding.
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