Leighton Clarkson: A Star on the Rise
Leighton Clarkson scored a lovely free-kick in Aberdeen’s 3-0 victory over St Mirren that confirmed their third-place finish that guarantees European football for next season. On loan from Liverpool, Clarkson has had a fantastic season, winning Aberdeen’s Young Player of the Year award and scoring six goals and nine assists in all competitions.
Born in Blackburn, Clarkson joined the Liverpool academy at the age of six, progressing through the youth ranks, and featured regularly for the U23s in the 2020-2021 season. In 2020, the midfielder signed a long-term deal with the Reds but only made three appearances for the senior team. Clarkson has five appearances for the England U20s and made his debut during a 6-1 victory over Romania U20s at St. Georges Park.
In the 2021-2022 season, Clarkson was loaned out to his hometown club Blackburn Rovers, in a season-long loan deal. It was a disappointing spell for Clarkson that was cut short with him only making seven appearances for the Riversiders. The 21-year-old said his time playing for his boyhood heroes was ‘not a nice feeling’ but has no regrets about the move.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, he said: “My time at Blackburn was not a nice feeling. I loved when I played there, and I always will. I’ll always support them. But last January, I needed to come back and get games under my belt again. Try to get six months of Under-23s football and play really well to try and get a decent loan for this year so I could start afresh.”
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“It was a really hard decision. Other than not playing, I really enjoyed everything about being at Blackburn. I lived two minutes away, I know all my family and friends are Blackburn fans, and I can say I’ve pulled on the shirt. It was always something I wanted to do at some point in my career anyway.”
“At the start, I did want to stay because I was enjoying it, I just wasn’t playing. But the people around me were telling me I needed to go back and enjoy my football again. After a few days, I was like, I need to do what’s best for me and not see it from a fan’s point of view. I don’t regret going at all. I didn’t know at the time I wasn’t going to play, and I was getting told that I would play. But the team just found a winning formula, and the three best players were probably in the middle of the pitch anyway.”
“They switched to five at the back, then ended up winning like nine games out of 12 or something like that and kept loads of clean sheets. By Christmas, they were second in the table, so I couldn’t complain about not playing because the team were doing so well. It was just one of them. It was probably not the right time for me to have gone. But I don’t look back on that anymore. I’m here now, I’m enjoying my football, and I want to keep enjoying my football.”
Manager Barry Robson believes Clarkson has all the traits to become a top player in the game. Robson told the Press and Journal what the exciting midfielder brings to his team.
“Leighton is better on the press, better on the counter-press, and is getting about the pitch better. When he brings that to the table, it releases Ryan Duncan, Duk, and Bojan [Miovski], who then start to look more dangerous. They are running in behind and starting to get fed. It brings excitement and speed to the team. That’s what top players do, and Leighton has got that. And you will start to see a lot more of it. You will start to see all the chances Leighton makes.”
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Clarkson has one year left on his Liverpool contract, and the Dons will no doubt want to sign the midfielder on a permanent basis. The Liverpool loanee dropped the biggest hint that he could be back at Pittodrie next season, sharing a video on social media stating: “Thank you for your support this season. It’s been incredible. I’ll see you in Europe.”
The Dandies won’t be the only club this summer wanting Clarkson’s signature, as it’s been rumoured that English Championship clubs are interested in snapping him up.
By: Scott Bradley / @ScottBradleyX
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Ross MacDonald – SNS Group