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Leeds: Noel Whelan backs Joe Gelhardt for key role

Leeds: Noel Whelan backs Joe Gelhardt for key role -Leeds United News

Leeds United employee Noel Whelan has backed Joe Gelhardt to play a leading role against Brighton in their crucial Premier League match this afternoon. 

The lowdown: Leeds bereft of options

Already likely to be without talismanic striker Patrick Bamford after Jesse Marsch confirmed that the 28-year-old was still being ‘assessed’ during Friday’s pre-match press conference, Dan James’ suspension leaves the Whites with little in the way of attacking options.

Rodrigo completed 90 minutes in midweek against Chelsea but the Spaniard can also play in deeper roles, whilst winger Jack Harrison was added to the injury list as Leeds succumbed to a 3-0 victory at Elland Road.

Gelhardt was chosen to lead the line recently against Arsenal before being withdrawn when Luke Ayling saw red inside the opening half-hour, and Whelan has backed the 20-year-old to be handed another opportunity…

The latest: Whelan wants Gelhardt to start

Speaking to Football Insider, the Leeds ambassador urged Marsch to opt for a more ‘natural’ centre-forward option for today’s clash against Graham Potter’s side.

The 47-year-old said: “It’s very difficult as a young player to come into any squad when you’re on the back of defeats. It’s a lot to carry on your shoulders and a lot of responsibility.

“It’s made more difficult with the injuries and the sending offs. We’re losing that experience, we’re losing players. Dan James, Luke Ayling, Stuart Dallas, Adam Forshaw, that is a huge amount of experience in these last few games we’re missing. I hope it doesn’t hurt us, I hope somebody steps into their shoes and becomes that leader. Probably a little bit earlier than they expected.

“We’ve not had a natural goalscoring striker, a number nine, all season. That’s been difficult for us. Whoever’s played there has found it quite difficult to play that number nine role. In my opinion, Gelhardt is the more natural number nine.

“He is as close as to a number nine as we’ve got at that football club and I believe he’s got to start. There’s nothing in my mind that says that kid will not thrive against Brighton. I think he can take all the responsibility, he’s got that maturity about him in his game.

“We need captains and leaders out there. It might come a little early for some but they need to rise to this challenge.”

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The verdict: Time to step up

Already a match-winning hero with a late goal against Norwich City earlier in the campaign, Gelhardt may need to come to the fore once again when Leeds need him most of all.

So far this season, the Liverpudlian starlet – who was described as ‘astonishing’ by talkSPORT’s Adrian Durham – has scored twice and provided three assists in 18 Premier League outings, impressing for the most part given his tender years.

However, it’s for the Whites’ under-23s that Gelhardt has mainly flourished, netting seven goals in just 10 matches at that level, and Marsch would be well served to turn to someone with such a clinical nature for a pivotal final two games for Leeds.

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Alternatively, the American could stand firm with Rodrigo or gamble on another youngster in Sam Greenwood, but whichever way the boss turns today, the Elland Road faithful could be looking for an out-of-sorts Raphinha to return to form.

In other news: Phil Hay claims Orta now wants to sign ‘unbelievable’ ace even if Leeds go down; club green-light sale

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