“This is real football now.
“It isn’t youth, anything else, this is proper.
“The tempo here is very fast as well.
“You’ve got to be on the ball, concentrate for the 90 minutes, otherwise you’ll get punished.”
It would be very understandable for Dylan Levitt to be feeling low on confidence after his loan experiences last season.
Highly rated since he joined the United Youth Academy at the age of just eight, Levitt finally stepped away from the academy comfort bubble, spending time at Charlton Athletic and NK Istra 1961 as he looked to take those first steps into senior football.
The Bodelwyddan-born midfielder would make just five appearances at Charlton and a further nine in Croatia as he got an eye-opening look at senior football and what it really takes to make it in the professional game.
Ever since being a child, that has been the dream.
Like many children in North East Wales, Levitt grew up as an avid supporter of Manchester United, idolising Paul Scholes as well as Andreas Iniesta as he made his own initial steps as a central midfielder.
During his own fledgling career, he has been lucky enough to learn from some of the best. At club level, it has been Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic, while others have been the likes of Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey on the international stage.
It was after those two loans that he worked closely with Michael Carrick and Darren Fletcher, another two of the players he used to idolise as he grew up in Flint, hoping to spark his own footballing career alight.
“I hope that can continue,” he told the Manchester Evening News. “I learned a lot from them as well. Fletcher and Carrick were a big part of developing me, especially last pre-season as well. They were pushing me. I was always doing extras with them. It is always good to know they are there.
“I will never forget when they won the Champions League in 2008 against Chelsea. That sticks in my memory so much. What they have done in their careers as well. For them to try and give me something to build on is a massive bonus as well. They both still trained, and you could see that they had still got it.”
It’s been two years since the Welsh youngster embarked on his first loan to Charlton, with the plan to join them for the entire season. However, things didn’t exactly go to plan.
The following January, Levitt was recalled by United early, having made just five first-team appearances for the League One club. He spent another month back in Manchester evaluating his options before an interesting opportunity arose.
“I didn’t really play much at Charlton, but you still pick up little things. You are learning on and off the field to move on to your next loan. It all builds up, and you know how it is going to go because you’ve done it all before.”
With the English transfer window closed, an offer from Croatian side Istra 1961 came in, offering the youngster a chance to get his confidence back as they fought to avoid relegation from the top-flight.
“I enjoyed it! It was only for four months, but I enjoyed it. It was obviously a life experience as well. It was good to get the experience of living away from my family, where they couldn’t even travel because of the Covid situation. I thought I learned a lot there, living by myself in a foreign country so young. It paid off towards getting into the Euro 2020 camp.”
Levitt’s reward was a place in the Wales squad that reached the knockout rounds of the European Championship, making it onto the pitch as Rob Page’s side were defeated by eventual winners Italy in their final group match.
Having impressed at international level, he featured for United in their first two pre-season matches last summer before a loan offer from Dundee United came in. It has proven to be third time lucky for the player, lovingly known by fans at his new club as ‘the silky Welshman’.
“I am really enjoying it at the moment. It is benefiting me as a player and as an individual. Every loan has got better as they’ve gone on. I think this one has been the best by far. It is always good to know that you are doing well. I learned a lot at Charlton and in Croatia as well, and that has helped me here as well. They set me up for what I had come to Dundee United for. “
Locals are quick to point out that Dundee is the sunniest city in Scotland, which is rather fitting as Levitt has brightened up Tannadice with his own displays this season. His experience in Croatia has helped him settle well in the City of Discovery, which again is rather apt as he discovers the best form of his professional career.
If you happen to be at Tannadice on a matchday, your ears might even pick out a North Walian twang at one of the supporters’ bars, with Levitt often supported by family members who make the 315-mile trip to watch him play.
“They have been up to quite a few games now and every chance they try to come up, they will. It has given me a boost to know that someone is always here. The club has helped me settle in so easily too. I could tell from the moment I walked in that it was a real family club.”
It is a credit to Levitt that he has settled into his new surroundings so well, too. Those at the Scottish club have been keen to stress just how popular he has been since joining and how he has gone above and beyond expectations to become familiar with his new surroundings.
The Welshman resides in the peaceful seaside town of Broadferry with neighbours who happen to support Dundee United too. Often, on a non-matchday, he will socialise with his community, regularly joining them to watch other matches on TV.
Supporters have also shown their appreciation of the new signing by adapting Belinda Carlisle’s hit ‘Heaven Is a Place on Earth’ to a chant declaring ‘Dylan Levitt Is the Best on Earth’. It’s safe to say he approves.
“I am a massive fan of it! Sometimes I am on the corners and you get the chants when you are going to get the ball. It gives you a little buzz, a boost to liven up the team and do it for the fans. I love the song.”
Hearing his name chanted by a devoted following has given Levitt a new appreciation for the game, and after so many years as a promising youngster, he is now experiencing just what it is really like to be a top-flight footballer.
“I think over the last six weeks or so we had two games a week, one every three or four days, and that was good to get into a rhythm. This is real football now. It isn’t youth, anything else, this is proper. The tempo here is very fast as well, so you’ve got to be on the ball, concentrate for the 90 minutes, otherwise you’ll get punished. I think that’s helping me develop as a player too.
“I think all-round. I’ve just become more confident. I am here and I am going into every game confident, hoping to play ninety minutes and really win the game as well. I said at the start of the season that I wanted to score goals. I don’t want to be in midfield without getting numbers; I want to be up there scoring as well. I think that has given me a boost. I set goals before the season and, hopefully, at the end I can look back and say I’ve reached them.”
Speaking of goals, last month, Levitt went viral when he netted an incredible drilled effort against Motherwell, sweetly striking a bouncing ball into the back of the net as he raced onto it from the edge of the box.
“Definitely the best moment of my club career so far. I have been waiting for that moment. I scored in the cup as well, but it wasn’t as good as the Motherwell one. We really needed to win that game as well, so that was a big bonus.”
Levitt is still in a group chat with his former U18 teammates at United, including the likes of Angel Gomes, James Garner and Tahith Chong, a testament to the strong bonds forged at youth level. Last month, he faced another upcoming United hopeful when Dundee United held Rangers to a 1-1 draw.
“Rangers and the Celtic ones are obviously the biggest games. Playing at Celtic away, that was a massive stadium, with a massive atmosphere, and it was so good to step on a pitch that big. Surreal.
“I just focused on the game and what we were going to do. I spoke to Amad briefly after the game, nothing much, that was it really. I think he was a bit disappointed that they didn’t get the win, but so was I!”
Levitt speaks to United’s loan team twice a week in order to discuss various aspects of his development, with his parent club also keen to ensure he is settling in well to his new surroundings.
The proof is in the pudding for the silky midfielder, and he believes going out on loan is an eye-opening learning experience that more youngsters should explore.
“I think we should just get out there and experience what it is like away from the U23s. Obviously, when you’re in your first year at the U23s you want to prove yourself, but I think once that was done, I personally needed to get out there and make a name for myself.
“Get as many games under your belt as possible and experience different cultures, getting out of your comfort zone. I think loans are beneficial. Even when I didn’t play at Charlton, I learned some things that have stuck with me. You will always learn something.”
It looks certain Levitt be named in the Wales squad for this month’s crucial World Cup playoff fixtures, and he is heading into the next international break in arguably the best form of his career.
“I think, touch wood, this has been the best I have played in a long while at a football club. I think just confidence has played a massive part for me. Hopefully, I can get called up for the playoffs in March and hopefully we can get through. That would be the dream.”
Victory against Austria would see Wales play a one-off match in Cardiff for the chance to qualify for their first World Cup since 1958. As fate would have it, Scotland are their potential opponents for that match.
“(laughs) It would be a really good game. I think the atmosphere would be electric as well. Put it that way, it would be a very good game to watch!”
A place at the World Cup later this year would give him the chance to prove he really is The Best on Earth.