By Peter Lynch

30th Mar, 2023 | 10:40am

Archie Gray debut on the cards at Leeds United as Phil Hay shares update amid crisis

Phil Hay has suggested that Leeds United manager Javi Gracia could hand a debut to young midfielder Archie Gray very soon.

The potential appearance could come amid an injury to star midfielder Tyler Adams, whose season could be over after he had surgery on his hamstring.

While Gracia looks set to rely on Weston McKennie and Marc Roca as his midfield pair for the rest of the season, minutes could be handed to 17-year-old Gray to keep things fresh.

“Gracia, who has been in charge for four Premier League games, has discussed the fact that in the system he preferred, he was essentially picking two midfielders from three: Adams, Weston McKennie and Marc Roca,” said Hay, as quoted by The Athletic.

“Leeds’ head coach went through every combination in his early weeks but pairing McKennie and Roca in a 4-2 win away to Wolverhampton Wanderers before the international break was a decision brought about by Adams’ injury.  It felt as if a short time in the job had already indicated to Gracia that whichever XI he went for, Adams should be in it. But now, with the 24-year-old rehabbing after his operation, the axis of McKennie and Roca will be crucial.

“There are alternatives, including two talented youngsters in Darko Gyabi and Archie Gray, but the older crop of Adams, McKennie and Roca is where the experience lies. What is notable about the three is they all possess different qualities. Even Gracia might not yet be able to give a definitive answer to the question of what Leeds’ most natural pairing is, but results from here are bound to depend on McKennie and Roca dovetailing nicely.”

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Losing Adams is a massive blow to Leeds United, who were going well under Gracia before the international break, with Adams starring in midfield.

But with injuries to first-team regulars come opportunities to impress, with that burden seemingly falling on Roca, who had only recently lost his place in the starting XI to McKennie.

The pair performed admirably together against Wolves, and are undoubtedly Gracia’s strongest midfield duo going forward.

But that doesn’t mean that the manager will not turn to youth and fresh legs, particularly when the games are coming thick and fast.

And falling into that fresh legs category is teenager Gray, who has found himself sitting on the Leeds bench three times in the league this season, most recently against Wolves at Molineux.

The talented midfielder also watched on from the bench against Chelsea earlier this month and at home to Wolves on the opening day of the campaign. Due to injury, he has made just six appearances in Premier League 2 this season, registering two assists for his side.

An experienced Under-21s and Under-18s player, the youngster will be desperate for first-team action this season, but that will depend on how much he can earn the trust of Gracia behind the scenes and indeed how Leeds do in their upcoming matches.

That said, with McKennie expected to be very tired after featuring for a total of 147 minutes in the USA’s two matches over the international break, Gray could even be handed a debut much quicker than expected. Gracia will not be thanking USA interim coach ​​Anthony Hudson anytime soon.

Currently sitting just two points above the relegation zone, the Whites have a very tough task ahead of them in their fight for safety.

In other Leeds United news, Jeff Stelling has made his prediction for the Premier League clash between Arsenal and the Whites at the Emirates Stadium on Saturday (1 April).