By George Overhill

28th Apr, 2023 | 8:15pm

Leeds United: BT Sport pundit shares 'completely lost it' verdict on Javi Gracia amid mooted background conflict on Willy Gnonto

Lucy Ward has suggested Javi Gracia would only be leaving Willy Gnonto out for Leeds United for no reason if he has “completely lost it” amid a suggestion of behind-the-scenes issues.

The Italian teenager’s usage has been decreasing despite the Whites badly needing results, and he didn’t even get off the bench in the 1-1 draw with Leicester on Tuesday (25 April) as the manager turned to Brenden Aaronson as his second substitute and then didn’t make any more.

BT Sport pundit Ward has highlighted the issue as one that Leeds fans regularly point to when she sees them and revealed that she has heard there may be conflict behind closed doors where “it’s not all quite harmony”.

Ward said on Michael Calvin’s Football People podcast for BT Sport (27 April, 17m 10s): “We walk our dogs every morning and we pass Leeds fans, and when they’ve lost it’s, ‘Ohhh, what’s going to happen?’ and ‘Why are they not playing Gnonto? Why?’

“And there’s a reason. There must be a reason why he’s not putting Gnonto on. There must be. I don’t know what it is.

“I think there’s something gone on in the background with Leeds, and I’ve heard little whispers about some things that have gone on in the background at Leeds where it’s not quite all harmony.

“Managers don’t leave a really good player on the bench for no reason, unless they’ve completely lost it.”


Unless Gracia is attempting an incredibly counter-productive version of the Jose Mourinho tactic to freeze out a fan-favourite upon arrival there seems little reason to deprive himself of Gnonto’s ability repeatedly.

Either he truly doesn’t rate the youngster, which would be surprising when virtually everyone else loves what he can do, or something is being kept incredibly well hidden at Elland Road.

It should probably be no surprise if there are issues behind the scenes considering what has happened in the build up to this point in a chaotic season.

Very little that has happened in the past six months is conducive to everyone being on the same page at the club, but one of the silver linings had been Gnonto prior to Gracia’s arrival.

The fact that the youngster hasn’t been banished from the squad but is just being bafflingly left to back of the queue suggests it is a strange tactical viewpoint from the manager.

What the Spaniard does in reaction to losing Luis Sinisterra for the run-in may shed more light on it but Ward is suggesting there is in fact more to it than meets the eye.

In other Leeds United news, contract news has been announced in a transfer race the Whites were leading.