Leeds United have confirmed the return of Paul Hart as the club's new academy head and U21 manager. The experienced 62 year old has had two previous stints at Elland Road, making almost 200 league appearances in a five-year stint as a player between 1978-83 and also guiding a promising young team to two FA Youth Cup victories during a hugely successful coaching spell during the 1990s.
Since leaving for the second time, the former Blackpool defender has managed the likes of Nottingham Forest and Barnsley with varying degrees of success. A forgettable four months in charge at troubled Portsmouth in 2009 was quickly followed by an even worse period with Queens Park Rangers, although Hart did manage to keep Crystal Palace from suffering relegation to League One five years ago.
A three-year spell as academy director at Charlton came to an end in May 2014, and he also performed similar duties in an acting role at Notts County before taking charge of the first team for three matches in a caretaker capacity prior to the appointment of Ricardo Moniz. Having been brought to Meadow Lane by former manager Shaun Derry, Hart claimed to not want the role on a full-time basis.
Having nurtured the talents of Paul Robinson, Jonathan Woodgate, Harry Kewell and Alan Smith among others during his last spell in West Yorkshire, Leeds will hope that he is able to continue the club's development of youngsters and help the next wave of youngsters join the likes of Alex Mowatt, Sam Byram, Lewis Cook and Charlie Taylor in Uwe Rosler's first-team squad.
Executive director Adam Pearson told the club's official website: "We are delighted to welcome Paul Hart back to the club. Paul was an outstanding leader of the academy in the past and he has a wealth of experience to develop not only our young players but what is now a talented group of young coaches.
"We have recruited three fine new coaches in John Anderson, Andy Gray and Daral Pugh. They are all good characters who I know well and who will really strengthen what is already a strong coaching team. We have some fine talent in the academy with recruitment expert Terry Potter continuing to unearth players and we are delighted that Paul is returning to head up what is now a very strong academy set-up."
Former head coach Neil Redfearn oversaw the youth setup before his six-month stint ended in May. He was offered a chance to return to his former job, but resigned in July after claiming the offer was not genuine and that the club had made his position untenable.
Leeds' prized academy at Thorp Arch was awarded category-two status last year under the Elite Player Performance Plan (EPPP) and their U21 side currently sit fourth in professional development league 2 following arecent 2-1 victory over Birmingham City. The senior team, meanwhile, lie 10th in the Championship after one win and four draws from Rosler's first five matches in charge. They host Brentford next on 12 September.