'He’s explosive and powerful' - the inside story on Leeds United's Joe Gelhardt from those who know him

The Whites landed the highly-rated forward last month.
Leeds United forward Joe Gelhardt.Leeds United forward Joe Gelhardt.
Leeds United forward Joe Gelhardt.

It is due to an unfortunate circumstance at Wigan Athletic that Joe Gelhardt finds himself as a Leeds United player.

The highly-rated 18-year-old had a long list of suitors and a wealth of options to choose from last month, but decided his future was best placed with Leeds United by putting pen to paper on a four-year contract at Elland Road.

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The Whites appealed most for a player who saw the bigger picture, selecting a club and head coach known for their reliance and belief in giving youth a chance.

Leeds United forward Joe Gelhardt.Leeds United forward Joe Gelhardt.
Leeds United forward Joe Gelhardt.

Gelhardt, who joined Wigan at the age of 10, arrived in West Yorkshire with a growing reputation in the game and it hasn’t taken long for those behind the four walls of Thorp Arch to realise why.

The England youth international is just a month into life with Leeds, but is already said to be making a huge impression with his new club.

The forward made his debut for the Latics in August 2018 aged just 16, before taking on a larger role in Paul Cook’s squad last term.

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Two starts and 16 substitute appearances followed as the youngster shot to prominence by grabbing his first goal for the club last September against Hull City.

His impact was swift at the KCOM, finding the back of the net three minutes after his introduction to earn his side a hard-fought point.

Those who know ‘Joffy’ say it is a trait he has always possessed; the ability to shock and surprise.

“I remember one junior game against Huddersfield, after 15 minutes, one of the coaches said: ‘Joffy could get 10 here’,” recalled Kenny Williams, Wigan’s head of academy recruitment.

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“And he did. We won something like 10-7 and he scored the lot! I’ve still got his boots and shirt from that game, as a nice little memento.

“Their manager came over afterwards and said: ‘We’re actually a good side. He’s some player that lad’.”

Comparisons of Wayne Rooney quickly reared their head as the Liverpool-born striker continued to make a serious impact with his feet in the academy set-up.

“I think it is because he is of similar stature, similar size,” Gregor Rioch, Wigan’s academy manager told the YEP.

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“He’s explosive and powerful. He likes to dribble and he can score a range of goals. He can always catch you by surprise and make you put your hand over your mouth in disbelief, so that’s where it probably comes from.

“If you’re going to get the best out of Joe you’ll put him through the middle in some capacity. He likes stretching the opposition, keeping them back.”

It says as much to Gelhardt’s nature that he swiftly donated to Wigan’s fundraising effort, as the club who gave him a footballing platform continue their search for a buyer.

Perhaps, though, it is his character that also provides an explanation as to his quick influence at Leeds.

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“He’s not a nervous type of character in the slightest,” Rioch continued.

“He’s a very confident but humble kid. One of the proudest parts of Joe is how we’ve helped develop him as a person.

“He loves playing football. When he finishes training he’s often seen in the park at the back of where he lived playing with his little brother.

“It doesn’t matter whether it’s against Premier League teams or against his brother’s mates, he just loves playing football.

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“When you have that as an intrinsic characteristic it’s a great platform to work from.”

Gelhardt has swapped a kick around with his friends and family for the guidance of world-renowned head coach Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds.

He has opted to fulfil his ambitions in LS11, and it seems there is no better fit.

“I think Bielsa has got a reputation and so much experience in different countries,” Rioch added.

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“It will be wonderful for Joffy to work with Bielsa and for him to get the best out of him at this age where he still has a lot of learning to do and a lot of growth to come.

“He’s now got to establish himself as a player that has to get more games. That’s going to be his challenge as an 18-year-old. He’s young and the good thing about Leeds United is that they’ve given him a lengthy contract.

“It’s not necessarily about what he does in the next six months, it’s over the period of the next three to four years.

“He’s had a great foundation from Paul Cook at Wigan and that next step for him is to play against better players which will be fantastic for him.

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“He’ll embrace it and take it in his stride. Leeds is a fantastic football club. It’s a giant and it’s back where it belongs.

"Over the years you only have to look down the corridors at the training ground to see the players who have come through. The way they have developed players over the years has been incredible.

“He goes with our blessing because he has been an incredible player for us and we’ll always keep an eye out for him.”