By George Overhill

23rd Feb, 2022 | 3:12pm

David James expects Joe Gelhardt to leave Leeds United if club get relegated

Joe Gelhardt will be playing in the Premier League next season regardless of whether Leeds United are there, according to David James.

The young striker has proven to be one of the most popular up-and-coming talents at the club this season, but has struggled for game time under Marcelo Bielsa.

The club are in some danger as recent poor results have pulled them closer to the relegation battle, and former England number one James thinks in the event of disaster the man capable of the “extraordinary” according to ex-White Noel Whelan (Football Insider) will be gone.

The former Liverpool, West Ham and Portsmouth keeper told Sky Sports, via Leeds Live: “Oh man, there’s something about him from the first time he came on this season and just completely changed the game.

“I think he’s a game-changer. Unfortunately for Leeds against United, it changed one way then it kind of flipped the other.

“But this guy, if Leeds – and it is an if, and I think there is a reality to there being an if still – if Leeds weren’t to stay up this season, then he’ll be one player who will still be playing Premier League football irrespective of Leeds’ position next season. He is a young talent.”

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The unthinkable

It is not quite time to panic yet but the prospect of a return to Championship football next season is becoming uncomfortably real.

One point out of the last 12, which has seen damaging defeats to both the sides immediately below them, Everton and Newcastle, has ramped up the anxiety.

While Bielsa should be capable of steering his side clear of the drop, there is currently only a five point gap between them and Watford in 18th.

And with title-chasing Liverpool next up tonight (Wednesday 23 February) games are beginning to run out.

The boss is rightly revered at Elland Road for the revolution he has brought about at the club but he has made some baffling decisions this term.

In the face of an unprecedented injury crisis he has refused to bring in any signings and has been reluctant to turn to some of the exciting youngsters available.

Although he finally called Gelhardt’s number against Manchester United at the weekend he has previously persisted with the underperforming Tyler Roberts.

As Patrick Bamford’s absence draws on it may take some more opportunities for the likes of teenager from Liverpool to turn fortunes around.

In other Leeds United news, the club have been sent a major relegation warning by Gary Neville.