Luke David Ayling (born 25 August 1991) is an English professional footballer who plays for Leeds United as a defender. Although normally playing as a right back, he can also function as a centre back or as a defensive midfielder.
Ayling was born in Lambeth, London and began his career at Arsenal joining the club at the age of 10. He was part of Arsenal youth team's double-winning side of the 2008–09 season, before signing his first professional contract in July 2009. Ayling was loaned out to Yeovil Town in March 2010 and played four matches. At the end of the season he agreed a permanent deal with Yeovil, after four seasons with the Glovers, Ayling signed for Bristol City.
Born in Lambeth, London, Ayling joined Arsenal at the age of 10, despite being a loyal Chelsea fan, progressing through the Arsenal youth sides, playing alongside Jack Wilshere, before signing scholarship forms with the club in the summer of 2007. Ayling featured in the Reserves whilst he was still a schoolboy, and was an integral part of Arsenal youth team's Premier Academy League and FA Youth Cup double-winning side of the 2008–09 season forming a crucial defensive partnership with Kyle Bartley. In June 2009, Ayling signed his first professional contract with Arsenal.
Ayling's only call into the first team squad came during the 2009–10 season. Awarded the number 46 shirt, Ayling was an unused substitute for a dead rubber 1–0 UEFA Champions League group stage defeat to Greek side Olympiacos on 9 December 2009. Ayling departed the club in June 2010 after his contract expired.
In March 2010, Ayling joined Football League One side Yeovil Town on loan for an initial month, and on 2 April 2010, made his professional debut as a second-half substitute in a 0–0 draw away at Southend United. Ayling's loan was extended until the end of the season, Ayling played four games in total including his first league start in the final game of the season against Brighton & Hove Albion, on 8 May 2010.
On 20 May 2010, Ayling agreed a permanent deal with Yeovil. He linked up with Yeovil Town for pre-season training on 1 July 2010, subject to a successful medical. Ayling made his debut in a 2–1 victory over Leyton Orient. Ayling made forty appearances in his first full season with Yeovil but had discipline issues receiving thirteen yellow and two red cards. Early in the 2012–13 season, Ayling reached a milestone 100 games for the club, having established himself as a consistent player and a fan favourite. On 19 May 2013, Ayling played in the 2013 League One play-off Final as Yeovil beat Brentford 2–1 to secure promotion to the Football League Championship.
After relegation from The Championship during the 2013/14 season with Yeovil Town. His contract expired at the end of the season in June 2014 and after rejecting the offer of a new deal at Yeovil, he left Yeovil Town.
Following his departure from Yeovil Town, Ayling signed for fellow League One side Bristol City on 8 July 2014 for an undisclosed compensation fee, signing a three-year deal. Ayling made his debut for Bristol City, on 9 August 2014, in their opening day victory over Sheffield United.
During the 2014–15 season, Ayling won the Football League Trophy, with Bristol beating Walsall 2-0 at Wembley on 22 March 2015. On 18 April 2015, Ayling impressed for Bristol City playing 58 games that season in all competitions as they were crowned League One champions following a 0-0 draw at home to Coventry and earned promotion to the Championship. Playing 33 times either playing right back or centre back during the 2015/16 season in The Championship, Ayling's form at the back helped Bristol City retain their Championship status.
On 11 August 2016, Ayling joined fellow Championship side Leeds United for an undisclosed fee signing a three-year contract. He was given the number 2 shirt. Ayling made his debut for Leeds in a 2-1 loss to Birmingham City on 13 August 2016. With first choice right back Gaetano Berardi out injured, Ayling started the season as the clubs first choice right back, his impressive form also kept Berardi out the side despite Berardi's return from injury in October.
On 7 November, Ayling was named in the EFL Team of the Week after his impressive performance in Leeds' 3-2 victory against Norwich City.
Former Guardian sports writer Steve Claridge lauded Ayling for his "reading of the game, communications skills, organisation skills, aerial prowess, two footedness and use of the ball" in his scouting reports column.
|Club||Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Other||Total|
|Yeovil Town (loan)||2009–10||League One||4||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||4||0|
|Yeovil Town||2010–11||League One||37||0||1||0||1||0||1||0||40||0|
|Bristol City||2014–15||League One||46||4||5||0||1||0||6||0||58||4|
- Premier Academy League: 2008–09
- FA Youth Cup: 2008–09
- Football League One play-offs: 2012–13
- Football League One: 2014–15
- Football League Trophy: 2014–15