Joe Gelhardt will have to leave Leeds United if Jesse Marsch's words continue to ring hollow
Joe Gelhardt is fast becoming the nearly-man of Leeds United as the actions of his manager don’t tie up with his positive words.
Jesse Marsch has only had positive things to say in press conferences about the young forward, but rarely plays him and often cuts short the opportunities he does hand out in confusing ways.
Amid an unprecedented injury crisis last season Joffy made the most of his 732 minutes in the league to score twice and assist four times, including his injury time winner against Norwich (13 March), and equally late assist for Pascal Strujk against Brighton (15 May), both of which proved crucial in avoiding the drop.
Patrick Bamford was missing for the vast majority of the campaign while both Tyler Roberts and Dan James were given more time up front and were less effective.
With those two now out on loan and Gelhardt rewarded with a new contract in the summer as the club saw him as central to their future, there was much anticipation of a significant role supporting or filling in for Bamford.
Marsch suggested as much in his press conference before the opener against Wolves, saying, via Leeds Live (4 August): “I would call it more support, rather than competition, we’re going to need Joffy to come off the bench at times and help him. I think we can play with both of them at times.”
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Yet Bamford then Rodrigo have largely led the line, and eventhough both got injured this season Gelhardt has just 130 minutes in the top flight and recently even lost his place on the bench to deadline day arrival Willy Gnonto.
It is true that Gelhardt seems to have the incredibly untimely habit of picking up small knocks at the same time that the senior man is out, which takes away some opportunities but it doesn’t explain how few he is afforded overall.
If the manager just didn’t rate him it would be one thing, but he talks so positively about him so often that it is all the more perplexing to see how he then treats him in practice.
Marsch was still praising him two days after he had replaced the injured Rodrigo against Everton (30 August) before suffering the indignity of then being taken back off later on, with the manager saying ahead of the Brentford game, via Leeds Live (1 September): “We could start with both Joffy and Patrick, it’s something we are speaking about as well. I thought Joffy played well.”
So why give him 34 minutes and take him off again? And why only give him and Bamford 14 minutes together against the Bees (3 September) before removing Gelhardt when he wasn’t playing badly?
When the academy product was left off the bench in favour of Gnonto for the goalless draw with Aston Villa, Marsh was still filled positivity, saying after the game, via Leeds Live (2 October): “I look at it as I really like Joffy, his mentality is great.
“I think you can see that a lot of our players need some match time. Please don’t take it as a negative on Joffy, I believe in him and I really like him and we’re going to keep pushing him.”
Again in his pre-match press conference on Friday (14 October) ahead of the Arsenal game the manager said, via Leeds Live: “I think Joffy has been pushing whether it’s with the 21s or with the first team to try to get more minutes”.
And yet it would be a major surprise if the youngster was given more than a cameo appearance at best against the Gunners, as time and time again the manager says one thing and does the other with the attacker.
It’s not as if the other options are banging goals in, as Bamford hasn’t netted at all yet this year and top-scorer Rodrigo hasn’t since the Chelsea win on 21 August, so if he isn’t getting a proper chance then but the manager never has a bad word to say about him then something is off and he will want to move on.
Unless Marsch is being far more straight with the player behind the scenes, the American has done nothing but talk him up ever since he scored the winner for his new boss’ first win back in March, yet he appears to be moving backward’s in the rotation.
He’s at an age where it would be invaluable to give him regular game time, and even though there have been opportunities to do so they haven’t been taken, so unless he gets a run soon he will have to go before he’s fighting Sonny Perkins and Mateo Joseph for scraps in the first team as well.
In other Leeds United news, the manager of one Whites player who is already on loan has admitted things aren’t fair on that man either.