For Marcelo Bielsa’s next trick, he will unleash Joe Gelhardt.
Having joined from Wigan last summer, Gelhardt has been a scoring sensation for Leeds’ under-23 side on their way to winning the Premier League 2 Division Two title.
Now, the Liverpudlian that many are tipping for the top has got his eyes on a first team place.
With 11 goals in 16 games for the under-23s, Gelhardt is now in Bielsa’s first-team squad and hoping to make an impression between now and the end of the season.
The 18-year-old sat down with Skrill to chat about his season and his goals for the future.
Q: Leeds fans are blowing up social media hoping you get your first-team debut soon… is that something you’ve spoken to the manager about?
JG: No, I haven't spoken to him in person, not one-to-one. But as a player, when you're on the bench, especially a young lad like me, you've just got to be patient. You've got to believe in whatever the manager's got to say because he's the one in charge. And obviously being the great manager he is, you've got to trust in him and trust the process.
Q: Something you’ve really been praised for is your work-rate, you seem like an ideal Bielsa-style player. Is that something drilled into everyone at the club?
JG: At Leeds it's a non-negotiable to work hard. Once you've got that shirt on, you've got to leave everything on the pitch. You can't come off the pitch thinking “I only gave 75% there.”
You have to work your hardest for your team and for yourself. I think it fits into the style of football we play as well, man for man.
If you're fitter than your opponent and you work harder, then likely we're going to have a better chance of winning. So yeah, I think it is drilled into us through the training sessions. I think you get used to the sort of high intensity work we practise as a team and then sometimes it's like the games are less hard.
Q: When did you and the rest of the U23s feel you could win the Premier League 2 Division Two?
JG: I was new in the summer – we signed a few new lads. So it was always going to take a while to get used to how each other play.
In the first game of the season, we were beaten 4-0 by Stoke. That was an eye-opener; it was like "come on now, lads, we've got to do a lot better than that”.
Once we got to know each other on and off the pitch, things got easier. Off the field relationships help when you're honest. The more you get close to someone, the more you'll run the extra yards for them.
I think it was in December, just before Christmas, when we were top of the league and thinking we can actually win it.
It has been an aim since then for me to win the league, whilst being in with the first team as well. If you travel with the first team and you're on the bench and you don't get minutes, then you're always available for the U23s game. You can be involved in both – it’s not just one or the other.
Q: Are you aware of the clamouring from Leeds fans for you to get more minutes?
JG: No, not too much… I've seen a few comments. My mum sometimes sends me them on Twitter but I don't like seeing it – I’ve had to tell her to stop sending them.
So she’s sent me a few, but I don't look on social media. It's good to hear that a few of the fans like you. It is nice to hear it and see that, to be fair.
Q: How much are you looking forward to getting fans back at Elland Road?
JG: I always speak to the lads about it. When I was at Wigan, we came and played at Elland Road and I was on the bench. Wigan were 1-0 up, but Leeds were really on top and the place was rocking.
I remember saying to one of the Wigan lads on the bench: "I hope I don't come on here!" – I was that scared!
That's something I'd like to experience – obviously being a Leeds player now!
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