Doncaster Rovers: Mallik Wilks talks his sharp yet valuable learning curve during his loan from Leeds United

Mallik Wilks
Mallik Wilks

He has quickly established himself as one of the most important players at Doncaster Rovers this season so it can be easy to forget that Mallik Wilks is still very much in the learning phase of his career.

Strong, powerful and supremely confident, the on-loan Leeds United forward has suggested he could have a very bright future provided he stays on the right track.

Should that come to fruition, his spell at Rovers will have provided some grounding and footballing lessons that should stand him in good stead.

Willks certainly has attentive teachers at the Keepmoat.

Grant McCann spoke last week about talking to the 19-year-old more than he does his own sons, such is his desire to make sure Wilks is on the right track.

And assistant manager Cliff Byrne has been working closely with the striker.

That Wilks credited Byrne's influence for his goal against Gillingham last weekend suggests he may indeed be listening and learning.

"Cliff kept telling me what to do because most of the time I'm on the keeper," Wilks said.

"When the ball gets whipped in, Cliff has told me to move because most of the time I don't.

"He said to me before the game to make sure I move. I moved off the man and took the goal."

Wilks himself said he had no desire to remain in Leeds' U23 set-up this season and was desperate for a lengthy and successful loan spell.

With learning firmly on the agenda, he believes the process is much slower in games at U23 level.

"I do learn from every game here," he said.

"Against Gillingham it was about battling until the end.

"I've got a lot of learning to do. I'm still only 19.

"Everything I do here, I'm learning.

"At Leeds, in the U23s, it's unrealistic. If you go 2-0 down in the first half, no one is really bothered. it's more about how you play than the result.

"Here it's all about the result so you have to learn how to grind.

"If you're 1-0 down in the 87th minute with the U23s, players want to get on the ball and pass it.

"Here if you're 1-0 down everyone just want to go forward and forward to get the goal.

"It's good. I like it. I've learned a lot and I want to keep learning."

Wilks himself admits he was on the end of a harsh lesson in complacency earlier this month when he was dropped to the bench for the first time in the league this season.

He was replaced in the side against Rochdale by Alfie May who was rewarded for his own impressive cameo appearances, training ground effort and two-goal performance in the Checkatrade Trophy win over Grimsby Town.

Wilks returned to the starting XI with obvious fire in his belly against Gillingham last weekend and admitted afterwards that he had got far too comfortable in his status in the side.

"Basically when I was in the team eventually I got a bit bothered like, didn't really care, losing the ball, careless on the ball," he said.

"Then Alfie May scored two goals and when I saw that I thought 'it's a bit scary this now.'

"To be fair to him he'd been doing well in training also so he deserved it.

"I was aggressive when I came back in.

"The gaffer told me to be aggressive in everything I do.

"I got left out of the team last week so had to prove a point, get myself back in the team and play well.

"It taught me that you can't get too comfortable.

"You can't be 'I'm in the team and I'm staying in.' There is always someone fighting for your spot which is good for this team."