Former Leeds United forward Noel Whelan believes that midfielder Jamie Shackleton could be the man to replace Kalvin Phillips in the Leeds first team while he serves a suspension.
Phillips was sent off in the latter stages of Leeds’ 1-0 defeat at Queens Park Rangers on Saturday, with the Whites set to be without the 24-year-old for the next three games.
Speaking to Football Insider, Whelan suggested that Shackleton could be the one who is called upon by Marcelo Bielsa to fill the void in their upcoming games – but admitted the 20-year-old may have his work cut out to step into the shoes of first-team regular Phillips.
He said: “Shackleton probably could [replace Phillips]. I think Jamie Shackleton has that kind of energy, that tenacity which is needed, but it’s a big role to play. It’s big, big, big boots to fill when it comes to covering Kalvin Phillips, so that is the million-dollar question.”
Phillips’ absence will likely be a solid test of Leeds’ depth, with the midfielder only missing one game prior to his sending-off in west London. The last time Phillips missed a league game – at Huddersfield Town back in December – Bielsa opted to install Ezgjan Alioski into a midfield berth – though he played a different system at the weekend, which leaves it to anyone’s guess as to how the manager will look to solve this particular dilemma.
Is Kalvin Phillips good enough for England?
Whelan’s shout of Shackleton looks a pretty safe bet in that they play in the same position and potential alternative Adam Forshaw still seems some way off making a first-team comeback from injury. However, Shackleton has not played since November, while he has not started a game since a run of appearances in early autumn. That said, Leeds are stretched at the moment, and Shackleton could well be best-placed to stand in for Phillips having been called on previously by Bielsa this season.
With another full week to go before their next game at home to Millwall, we may not get an answer for a while yet, though Shackleton’s chances of some first-team action have surely increased since Phillips’ foolish red card.
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