Leeds United fans are itching to see U23s sensation Joe Gelhardt make his senior debut this season but the latest update by Phil Hay may leave them disappointed.
Gelhardt, 18, has been a revelation since moving from Wigan Athletic in the summer, scoring 11 goals and creating three assists in 15 Premier League 2 (Division 2) appearances for the second-string side. [Transfermarkt]
That form has led to increased calls from Whites supporters, who are known to take a huge interest in their youth sides, for him to get his debut.
Gelhardt is the closest of the current crop of Under-23s players to the first team and has been on the bench for seven of the last 10 Premier League games.
However, it looks like his wait for a debut will go on with Leeds potentially now pushing for a place in Europe.
With Marcelo Bielsa’s side secure of Premier League survival, 19 points clear of 18th-placed Fulham, the thought had been that now is the time to blood some youngsters into the team ahead of the next campaign.
However, three straight wins has shifted the dynamic and The Athletic’s Hay claims that Bielsa is now “not minded” to change things around with Europe a possibility.
“Somewhere down the line, they will want their investment to translate into regular first-team appearances,” Hay said.
“Bielsa has been sparing with his use of under-23s in the Premier League this season and with Leeds now free to chase the improbable target of European qualification, he is not minded to deviate from his current plans during the run-in.”
That means a debut against Premier League holders Liverpool on Monday seems highly unlikely, especially with Jack Harrison set to come back into the squad to swell the attacking ranks.
That’s a shame to hear as we would love to see Gelhardt and the likes of Crysencio Summerville and Cody Drameh get their chance so that we can assess their first-team credentials.
But who can blame Bielsa with a shot at Europe on the cards. No one was expecting that a few weeks ago, but our recent results coupled with the failings of others has now made it a distinct possibility and we must attack it with the same vigour and determination we have the rest of the season.
The likes of Arsenal and Everton are just above us and we don’t think they are much better, if at all, than our newly-promoted side.
With Tottenham Hotspur also in freefall things are stacking up in our favour and as the big club we are we should be looking to take advantage, irrespective of the fact we have just come from the Championship.
The prospect of Europe next season could change our fortunes in the transfer market irrevocably this summer and that is surely another incentive to give it a good go.
If we drop off in the next few games and it slips out of reach then of course we think Gelhardt and co should find themselves in contention for a few minutes in some ‘dead-rubbers’ but Bielsa sets the bar high and he clearly does not want the season to peter out to a meek conclusion.
That’s something he alluded to last month when he said that “no position in the table allows you to make less effort.” [The Athletic]
His intensity and concentration is why we are where we are, so let’s continue to place our faith in the boss.
Gelhardt’s time will come, we’re sure of it.
In other Leeds United news, 2xCL winner Guardiola once called a ‘God’ could prove pivotal in Whites chase for 19y/o left-back.