By Joe Ellis

11th Jan, 2022 | 9:10am

Leeds United breakout ace Leo Hjelde earns praise from former manager

Leo Hjelde stepped up to first-team football on Sunday (9 January) as he made his debut for Leeds United in the FA Cup against West Ham.

The 18-year-old marshalled Hammers top scorer Michail Antonio comfortably and looked like one of the most composed players on the London Stadium pitch.

His former manager at Ross County, John Hughes, says the Whites have a really good signing in the Norwegian.

“In terms of potential he plays a way beyond his age, with a maturity that is two or three years above himself,” Hughes said in Football Scotland.

“He’s only just turned 18, he’s just a baby, but he’s 6ft2 and still has a bit of growing to do. That’ll come.

“He’s an athlete, quick, nobody would run him. He had a great recovery if someone did go by him, and technically he’s very good.

“He’s still got a lot to do in terms of getting where he wants to get but it’s fantastic for Leeds, a really good signing.

“If he fulfils his potential Leeds have got a real proper centre-half on their books.

“He’s got that ‘I’m a player’ about him. It’s not in an arrogant way, it’s a belief.”

As good as any

When you looked at the two Leeds defenders on Sunday, you couldn’t tell which was making their debut and which was the established senior pro.

That is more a comment on how good Hjelde was than Diego Llorente was bad as the Norwegian slotted into men’s football with ease.

It is a really encouraging sight for Leeds United fans to see one of their own youngsters make the step up to senior football and look no less panicked or talented.

With injuries piling up for Marcelo Bielsa, players like Hjelde have been thrust into the high-pressure environment and they have all stood up to the test which is a credit to the coaches in the club’s academy.

You would imagine that Leeds fans would quite like to see Hjelde given another go when the Whites head back to West Ham on Sunday (16 January).

In other Leeds United news, the club has sent ‘groundbreaking’ data to FIFA regularly on training hours.