By Craig Scott

5th Apr, 2021 | 9:10am

Phil Hay casts doubt on Leeds senior debut for Joe Gelhardt

Leeds United have all but assured themselves a spot in the Premier League next season with a 2-1 win against Sheffield United on Saturday.

It’s been a fantastic start to life back in the big-time for the Yorkshire giants and to see that a top-half finish could be on the cards says a lot about how well Marcelo Bielsa had done in charge of the Whites.

However, if there’s one thing we’d like to see more of from Bielsa is to see him hand senior debuts to some of the Under-23s stars who have been shining in Premier League 2.

Mark Jackson’s side have all but won the Premier League 2 Division 2 title already with 13 points separating them and second-placed Stoke with three matches for the Whites left to play. Stoke still have five games, which is why the title isn’t confirmed just yet.

Joe Gelhardt is the joint-top goalscorer in the second-tier of Premier League 2 with the Leeds forward netting 11 goals in 15 appearances this season.

The Wayne Rooney-esque youngster is someone we’re dying to see make a first-team debut for Leeds before the season is over – but The Athletic’s Phil Hay has cast major doubt upon that happening.

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Writing on The Athletic website, the former Yorkshire Evening Post journalist has suggested Bielsa might opt against using some of the Under-23s stars like Gelhardrt, Crysencio Summerville and Cody Drameh for several reasons.

Hay said: “Bielsa has been careful with [the Under-23s stars] and, to date, he is keeping the burgeoning Under-23s in their wrapping.

“Huggins has been the only debutant in the Premier League and, if anything, Bielsa’s policy hardened against Sheffield United, with a squad largely devoid of existing development players and reinforced by Rodrigo, Mateusz Klich and Pablo Hernandez. Hernandez turns 36 next Sunday but still Bielsa wants him there, just in case.

“There are factors behind those decisions, including the matter of integrity and Bielsa’s reluctance to be seen to be neglecting games on the grounds of experimentation.

“Before this season, a total of three league matches under Bielsa went down as genuine dead rubbers and the only one which saw sweeping changes was a post-promotion win at Derby County last season, where Ben White’s knowing smile at full-time spoke of splendid hangovers all round.

“Three days later, against Charlton Athletic, it was back to full strength, not least because the opponents were at risk of being relegated.”

Hay added: “It is true, also, that Bielsa shies away from token debuts.”

You have to respect Bielsa’s stance if this is the way he wants to go.

Leeds United are 11th in the table as it stands with only their goal difference keeping them below 10th-placed Arsenal.

While not many would have expected it in the summer, there’s a real chance to finish in the top-half here and we guess Bielsa won’t take any half measures in any game as long as there’s something up for grabs.

Leeds also have some very tough fixtures on the horizon.

In their next three games they’ll take on Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United while they also still have Tottenham to play next month.

Leeds do end the season with a good bunch of fixtures though with Burnley, Southampton and West Brom their final three.

If we’re going to see players like Gelhardt, Summerville and Drameh make senior debuts for the Whites then surely we’re likely to see them in those games?

However, if Leeds’ form dips amid the tough fixtures beforehand, we could see Bielsa name as strong a team as possible in those three matches in order to secure as high as finish as possible.

In other Leeds United news, this pundit names one Fulham player who could suit Bielsa’s style of play at Elland Road.