Daniel Farke highlights road to Leeds United redemption for want-away star in self-inflicted saga

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Like any tricky winger Willy Gnonto is well used to getting out of tight spots but the one facing him at Leeds United is unlike any other he has faced.

The worst you could say about the Italian's situation is that on the surface it looks entirely of his own creation. It's important to point out, though, at the outset that Gnonto is 19 years of age. A teenager. This is the time in life when most of his peers are still finding their feet at university or taking their tentative first steps into the world of work. It's a time when good advice from those longer in the tooth and better versed in the ways of adult life is precious, vital even. More on that later.

The best you can say about this saga for Gnonto is that there will be a way out and probably even a way back, with Whites supporters.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Boss Daniel Farke, who this week reiterated his hardline stance on want-away players, suggested as much in his pre-West Brom press conference. Farke has seen this before.

"There was more or less a quite similar situation with Norwich after relegation," he said.

"There were two key players I left out of the squad for pretty important games and then they showed a good reaction and were back in the mix and delivered with top performances, with goals and assists.

"I had to leave them out of the squad because I got the feeling no they are not not focused, not fully committed to the group. And in the end, these two players were more like the heroes of promotion."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

So if in Farke's eyes Gnonto can still be a hero, he can still be a hero because as the German is making abundantly clear at Thorp Arch and Elland Road, it is his way or the highway.

WAY BACK - Leeds United boss Daniel Farke has experience of reintegrating players who had to be left out and has highlighted a road to redemption for Willy Gnonto. Pic: GettyWAY BACK - Leeds United boss Daniel Farke has experience of reintegrating players who had to be left out and has highlighted a road to redemption for Willy Gnonto. Pic: Getty
WAY BACK - Leeds United boss Daniel Farke has experience of reintegrating players who had to be left out and has highlighted a road to redemption for Willy Gnonto. Pic: Getty

But what does the road to that point look like for Gnonto, when both he and the club appear so entrenched in their positions? He might want to leave but Leeds are not for selling and Farke is not for turning. Removing Gnonto, Helder Costa and Luis Sinisterra from his dressing room and making them train separately is proof of the German's steel, steel he says is necessary.

As obvious a point as it is to make, it must all start with an apology.

Gnonto left his team-mates shorthanded for the game at Birmingham City, one they went on to lose. Farke put two goalkeepers on the bench and still could not name a full complement of replacements. An already difficult injury situation was exacerbated by Gnonto's decision that he could not travel or play in the game - a decision undoubtedly fueled by a desire to get out of Leeds.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Even if the Premier League is calling, in the form of interest from Everton, it was Leeds who gave Gnonto the platform to attract such attention in the first place. They didn't make him, he had already forged an impressive path, particularly at international level, but they plucked him from Zurich and placed him on the world's biggest and most viewed domestic stage.

Declaring yourself unavailable is an enormous step to take, whether you have set your mind on a move or not and for a player of such tender years and inexperience to take such an approach is remarkable. Decide for yourself if he came up with that plan all by himself.

Gnonto left Farke in the lurch and Jamie Shackleton had to fill in out wide. Leeds needed creativity to unlock the Blues, the kind of skill set Gnonto possesses. He knew the need, he saw it and he turned his back.

That's why, if he is to step onto a pitch again with the likes of Luke Ayling, who would play on one leg for Leeds, then he must look his team-mates in the eye and say sorry. That point need not be laboured too much further but there are men in that dressing room who would give their back teeth to pull on a white shirt right now and cannot, due to injury. Gnonto has the chance to do what they crave and has spurned it.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

An apology to supporters is also due and whether that comes in the form of words or goals might not matter too much. If he is selected for a game then fans will know that things have been put right behind the scenes. They will know that Farke and the team have accepted Gnonto back among their number. That, and the teenager's performances, should be evidence enough for most that a young man has put a mistake behind him and is out to make amends.

There is a right way to get yourself to the Premier League, in fact there are two. You can either play so well that someone in the top flight is so compelled to buy you that they make an offer Leeds cannot refuse, or you get your club promoted. Players with more experience and therefore, you would think, more wisdom have missed that point spectacularly this summer but unlike Gnonto they had release clauses in their back pockets. It is already too late for most, if not all, of those players to hope for any form of Elland Road redemption, whereas it is still not too late for Gnonto.

There will be those in the fanbase who do not forgive easily, or even forgive at all and that is a consequence any player who in the words of Brian Deane 'desecrates' the efforts of those who wore the shirt before, must simply live with. Unfortunately, what is done cannot be undone and what Leeds say he has said to Farke cannot be unsaid. So just like when he gets to the ball a split second before a defender, he must brace himself for some pain.

Make no mistake, though. If this situation can be resolved in a way that puts Gnonto back on the wing for Leeds and he scores a goal that helps put Leeds back on the elite level, the Elland Road roar will drown out any lingering grumbles. He can be an asset and not just on the balance sheet. If he’s too good for the Championship it will show and both he and Leeds will reap the rewards.

So if someone in a position of authority in Gnonto's life wanted to do him a good deed then pointing him down the route to redemption would be it.