Steve Cotterill: Khanya Leshabela Leicester loan was a ‘punt’ for Shrewsbury Town

Shrewsbury manager Steve Cotterill admits the loan signing of Khanya Leshabela from Leicester was a ‘punt’ and will be re-assessed in January.

South African midfielder Khanya Leshabela during one of his two cup starts on loan at Shrewsbury Town (AMA)
South African midfielder Khanya Leshabela during one of his two cup starts on loan at Shrewsbury Town (AMA)

The South African, who turned 22 last weekend, was Cotterill’s final signing of the summer window, checking in on a season-long deal from the Premier League outfit.

But the midfielder, who was courted by Luton this summer following a trial, has played just 20 minutes of League One football since putting pen to paper on August 19.

“He’s trained very well, no different to the other lads. Against Crewe I felt it was the time to leave him out, I had him and another player and opted for the other based on fitness levels being better,” Cotterill said of Leshabela, one of his two loan signings.

“That’s not anything against him. All the other lads that have come in after the lads that did pre-season here have all suffered from some fitness issues.

“When we took Lesh in, he was going to be a punt, to a certain degree, because he hadn’t got enough football behind him where you could look at any great history.

“He’ll be part of the squad going forward and in the window we can re-assess where we might be with it.”

Leshabela has started two games for Town, in the EFL Cup and EFL Trophy.

Cotterill feels that youngsters in the top flight face a difficult battle to ignite their careers due to the depth of quality and finances around Premier League clubs.

He added: “I think it is (hard). What sometimes happens when they come down to League One from some Premier League clubs, those Premier League clubs will have 20 players like Lesh, who don’t perhaps get the opportunity to play in the first team, there’s so much money swilling around the Premier League, those players can end up staying for three, four, five years and never play.

“It’s a bit of a problem we have in our game. Anyone who shows any sign of talent from even younger than 16 will get snapped up, and then they never get to their full potential, because they get sucked up by the Premier League and never play games.

“The best thing you can ever do with young players – and they’ve got to be good enough – is to give them game time, that’s where they will learn more than anything.”

Meanwhile, the boss has revealed how long-serving fans’ favourite Shaun Whalley must ‘tailor his game’ as he gets older.

“Shaun’s always got to do that (set an example and lead the team),” Cotterill said. “Shaun will say himself that sometimes he doesn’t always do that. He has to mentally be in the right frame of mind. Shaun has to tailor his game now compared to his last four or five years here.”

“Shaun is a different player now, that happens with age, he has to tailor the parts he can’t do anymore and be better at improving at what we think he’s got to improve on. I think it’s a learning curve for Shaun.

“He’s done 250,000 miles on the right wing for Shrewsbury. Now he’d say he’d prefer to play on the left. Trudging up and down that line game after game takes its toll. Shaun now has to adjust his game, he’s 34, he’s not going to be that nippy right winger he was when he was 28 or 29.”

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