USA Under-23s international Charlie Horton became Uwe Rosler’s first signing of the summer on Wednesday afternoon, penning a two-year deal at Elland Road following his exit from Cardiff City.
Just moments after signing his United contract, Charlie sat down with leedsunited.com to give us an insight into his career so far, how he feels about joining the club and what his ambitions for the future are...
Welcome to Leeds, Charlie. What can you tell us about your career so far and the journey you’ve been on to get to this point?
"I grew up in the States. I was born in London, England, and then my mum moved my sister and I to America. When I was 18, I was going to sign to play at university for a top programme there but I ended up signing a contract at Peterborough.
"I spent a season at Peterborough playing reserve games then, halfway through that season, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer took the job at Cardiff and his goalkeeping coach Rich Hartis brought me in there.
"I went to join Ole and I played there last season. During that season, I got called up for the first time to the United States’ Under-23s team - I’ve got three caps for them.
"I’ve moved on from Cardiff and I’ve come here to Leeds to hopefully kick on and be a part of a first-team environment and really prove myself."
How are you feeling after signing a two-year deal here then?
"I’m really excited. Any time you can come to a club like Leeds, where all the players are hungry for success and hungry to move up the table and back to where the club belongs in the Premier League , that’s every players dream.
"For me, to be a part of that is something I’d love to have on my resume."
When did you first find out about the interest from Leeds?
"I was actually away on international duty. I was out in southern France and I was riding a bike in the gym and I got a phone call. It said ‘Listen, Leeds have come in for you’ and I said ‘Well get me on a plane to Leeds then!’
"It was just a matter of waiting until we were finished over there in France and once that finished up I flew straight here."
How much of a role did our new goalkeeping coach Richard Hartis have in bringing you here? You obviously know each other well from your time at Cardiff...
"The relationship I have with Rich is huge. There were a couple of clubs interested in me in the MLS, a couple here in the UK, and it was ultimately the opportunity to work with the coaching staff here, with Rich and with Uwe, who I think is really hungry, just like the players are, to move up."
Uwe Rosler says you will play regular football for the Under-21s to start off with, but are you hopeful of getting a shot in the first-team and pushing Marco Silvestri for the number one shirt?
"The blessing for me is that I’m only 20 years old so I can still play reserve games in the Under-21s league.
"But, at the same time, Uwe and Rich both know that I want to push Marco and try to lay claim to whatever I can. My job is to continue my development and then hopefully push whoever is in front of me. Hopefully, at some point, I will get the opportunity to show what I can do."
Have you seen Marco play before?
"I saw him play one game - he actually won Man of the Match against Middlesbrough. I was actually watching my friend Lee Tomlin, who was at Peterborough with me.
"I was impressed, he’s a good goalkeeper and hopefully we can both bring the best out of each other."
Has it been a little bit frustrating not to have had that chance to prove yourself in first-team football yet?
"For every goalkeeper my age it’s hard. If you’re not the Thibaut Courtois’ of this world, you’re having to wait until you’re 24 or 25 to really get a look in at any first team.
"For me, it’s been about continuing my development and the areas of my game which need improvement, so when I do get that opportunity and when a manager puts their faith in me, I’m ready to grab it with both hands and not look back.
"I’m hoping to continue that work to get to the point where the gaffer and Rich and the coaching staff come to a decision where they think maybe I am now ready and I can crack on."
Who are your goalkeeping idols?
"Growing up, my absolute, massive idol was Oliver Kahn. I watched him play in the 2002 World Cup and he was kind of like the guy who set me onto goalkeeping. I loved Peter Schmeichel and I really like the way Joe Hart plays as well. Those are my three."
Is it true that Brad Friedel originally recommended you and brought you across to England?
"Brad and I are actually from a very similar area in the States, around Cleveland, Ohio. He was about 30 minutes down the road and he had an academy out there which has since closed. But he saw me there and, before I first signed at Peterborough, I was heading to Spurs with him.
"He had kind of taken me under his wing. I didn’t end up going there but he’s a good friend and he’s a good guy. He’s made a good career for himself."
How much do you know about the squad you’ll be joining at Leeds?
"I played at Peterborough with Nicky Ajose, who I know has been out on loan. I know Nicky but, other than that, I’m just looking to come in and get to know the lads really. I’m hoping to join a group of hungry guys who are ready to take this team back to where it belongs.
"I think through hard work and the work the manager is going to put us through, anything is possible. We’re going to give it a real crack this season."
And what about the head coach Uwe Rosler, have you had much chance to discuss things with him yet?
"I’ve spoken to Uwe on the phone and briefly just now. I think we’re going to meet later to talk some more. From everything that I’ve heard from him and from those around him, this is the place you want to be and this is the club you want to be at. Uwe’s got big goals, as I think he should and as I think anyone at this club should."
What are your first impressions of Elland Road?
"I’m massively impressed. I’ve heard nothing but good things about Leeds United as a club. I used to grow up when I was young living in England watching Mark Viduka and those kind of players play back then in the Premier League.
"The stadium is unbelievable, the training ground is unbelievable. The facilities here are first class. Now it’s our job as players to get the club back to where it belongs."
With the amount of young players we already have in the first-team, is it an exciting time to be joining Leeds for someone of your age? It must give you hope seeing the faith that gets put in the youngsters here...
"Absolutely, and I think it says a couple of things about the club and the ownership that they’re not afraid to push young talent, which for me is huge, especially in my position. I think it’s good because it’ll mean we have a lot of energy and now it’s our job to put that energy in the right places."
There’s still a couple of weeks to go before the players return to pre-season training so what’s next on your agenda?
"I’m going to head back to the States, see the family and get some rest. I’ve been away in Southern France, playing with the USA Under-23s for three weeks. I’ll get some rest and be back here for pre-season. Hopefully I’ll make some appearances with the first team in pre-season and show what I can do.
"From talking to Uwe, I’ll start this season playing with the Under-21s and getting regular games, which is ultimately what a young goalkeeper needs. Hopefully I’ll show what I can do and crack on. I have high goals for myself and so does the club. Hopefully those two can intertwine at some point and we can go forward."