I’m going to start off by stating that I’ve never seen Laurens De Bock play. Neither have many Leeds United fans. De Bock has only seven appearances to his name for Marcelo Bielsa’s side since his move in January of last year. Still, seven appearances isn't enough to judge a new player in general, especially a player that also needs to acclimatise to playing in a new country.
Before his move to Leeds United De Bock had played all of his football in Belgium, featuring in well over one hundred games for Club Brugge after moving from Lokeren as a twenty-year old for €3.5 million. His form in Belgium gained him international recognition at every age group from U16’s to U21’s.
Signing for Sunderland on deadline day on a season long loan, Jack Ross was pleased to bring in a left sided player where we’ve clearly needed to strengthen this summer:
Getting some competition into our left side has been a priority for a while now.
We have had to work hard to get Laurens in because he’s a player that’s got a really good pedigree in terms of Champions League and Europa League experience.
Considering it is well known that Denver Hume is highly rated at the Academy of Light, the wording that Jack Ross used in commenting on the deadline day loan could be telling. De Bock clearly has a good pedigree, and at 26 is highly experienced - and in most cases would be coming into what is most players peak years.
As much as this pedigree could clearly be useful to slot into most League One sides, this signing could also provide Denver Hume the competition and incentive he needs to focus on cementing his place, and start to develop into the player the management and fans hope he can become.
At the beginning of last season, Josh Maja looked on as Sunderland went out and signed Charlie Wyke for big money, in League One terms, as well as Jerome Sinclair on loan. This was motivation enough for Maja to seize the initiative and take his opportunity when it was presented on the opening day of last season.
Maja didn’t look back and some of this was down to his reaction to being placed under pressure from other players knocking on the manager’s door for a place in the starting XI.
Last season, Denver Hume made eight starts for Sunderland and was mainly used as backup to Bryan Oviedo in a year interrupted by injury. Although most fans saw enough in those games to rate Hume highly, I’m still not convinced but he certainly showed enough that with the right development he could be the next academy product to make it through to secure his place as a permanent starter.
This season, in the role as our first choice left-sided player, Hume has had an indifferent start to the campaign - not helped by a change in formation where Hume clearly looks more comfortable at left back in a four-man defence. That said, some of the early descriptions of De Bock as a left back who isn’t as comfortable going forward may suggest that our experiment with three at the back may have run its course, mainly due to the players available to negotiate that left wing back role.
Despite De Bock’s pedigree this could be the opportunity that Denver Hume needs in terms of playing with the pressure of competition for his place. It was clear to anyone that McLaughlin isn’t a viable option on the left side and is much more suited to the right of a back four - and now two recognised out-and-out left backs can hopefully push each other on.
De Bock, at 26, has a move that the Belgian needs to get his promising career back on track coming into his peak years. His move to England has so far left his reputation at a fairly low ebb, not only here but possibly across the north sea in Belgium, where his next move would surely be if things don’t work out at the Stadium of Light.
Both players have something to prove at different stages in their careers and the jury is still out on what level Hume can operate, and what course the career of Laurens De Bock’s will now head - it’ll certainly be interesting to see how our long term struggles at left-back develop over the course of this season.