Joe Gelhardt off to a flyer as young Leeds United star declares aims and hails perfect fit

UP AND RUNNING: Young Leeds United forward Joe Gelhardt, who netted in the first friendly in Australia against Brisbane Roar, battles it out with Crystal Palace's Nathaniel Clyne, right, in the Oz tour finale against the Eagles. Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images.UP AND RUNNING: Young Leeds United forward Joe Gelhardt, who netted in the first friendly in Australia against Brisbane Roar, battles it out with Crystal Palace's Nathaniel Clyne, right, in the Oz tour finale against the Eagles. Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images.
UP AND RUNNING: Young Leeds United forward Joe Gelhardt, who netted in the first friendly in Australia against Brisbane Roar, battles it out with Crystal Palace's Nathaniel Clyne, right, in the Oz tour finale against the Eagles. Photo by Will Russell/Getty Images.
Joe Gelhardt is off to a flyer. Literally.

Just 25 minutes into this month's pre-season friendly against Brisbane Roar in Australia, the five-foot-nine striker leapt high into the air to power home a bullet header that even the most towering of forwards would have been proud of.

Eight days later, Gelhardt would have had a couple more goals under his belt but for the interventions of Crystal Palace 'keeper Vicente Guaita as part of a 1-1 draw with the Eagles.

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Gelhardt's stunning impact upon breaking into the team last season is very likely just the beginning for a striker who made crucial goal contributions to his team staying up last term. Everything suggests that more of the same will now follow.

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Yet United's 20-year-old striker is maintaining his relaxed approach to his development at Leeds, modestly aiming first and foremost to just help the team where he can but admitting that ultimately the more goals the merrier in his second season with the Whites.

Two goals arrived during what was the young Liverpudlian's breakthrough season last term and one of those goals was particularly vital in ensuring that Leeds avoided the drop.

Elland Road sunk to its knees as Kenny McLean struck a 91st-minute equaliser for Norwich City in March's clash against the bottom-of-the-table Canaries which Leeds approached having taken just one point from their last eight games.

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Yet Gelhardt sent the home faithful inside LS11 wild by converting a 94th-minute winner that proved the launchpad to a haul of 11 points from a possible 15 that ultimately kept Jesse Marsch's side in the division.

Even so, the chances of survival looked bleak 91 minutes into United's penultimate game of the season as Brighton led 1-0 at Elland Road, only for Gelhardt to produce mesmeric footwork in injury time to set up a 92nd-minute leveller for Pascal Struijk.

Unsurprisingly, Gelhardt's upward trajectory has continued this pre-season and the exciting young forward is determined to merely maintain his same approach as always approaching the new campaign which starts with the home clash against Wolves in 11 days' time.

Pressed on whether there was an individual target for the new season, Gelhardt said simply: "Not really.

"I don't really set targets.

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"I sort of just go with the flow and try and take it game by game.

"But obviously like any other player I want to score more goals and help the team and try and get as high in the league table as possible."

In the end, even a 17th-placed finish was greeted with scenes of sheer jubilation after the final day 2-1 win at Brentford sealed a Whites great escape.

Even in spite of Gelhardt's contributions, Leeds headed for the last game of the season sat in the division's drop zone and odds on to be relegated in a two-horse race with Burnley.

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But a 2-1 victory coupled with a 2-1 defeat for the Clarets at home to Newcastle United kept Leeds' necks above water and the club looking onwards and upwards for the new campaign.

Leeds have already signed seven new recruits and the Whites are hoping to sign another striker as competition and cover for Patrick Bamford, Rodrigo and of course rapidly emerging young star Gelhardt.

The young striker was given 106 minutes of football across two outings as part of the club's pre-season tour of Australia, Gelhardt sitting out the 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa having experienced soreness.

The forward was then back with a bang in the Australia finale against Palace, replacing Whites no 9 Bamford at the interval for another impressive and lively display yet there was still a case of what might have been.

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Such are the young forward's high standards, the England under-20 international had a rather different view of the excellent save pulled off by Palace 'keeper Guaita to keep out his clever effort in this month's pre-season friendly.

Gelhardt was played through on goal thanks to a fine through ball from Sam Greenwood and attempted to dink a precise lob over Guaita only for the Eagles keeper to scramble the attempt wide.

Gelhardt, though, only highlighted the fact that he should have passed to teammate Crysencio Summerville who was bursting through the middle.

"It was my bad," he insisted.

"I should have squared it to Cree when I was through on goal."

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Harsh. Yet either way, Gelhardt was once again in the right place at the right time which is all part of the plan.

Having been signed from Wigan Athletic in August 2020, Gelhardt was finally handed his Whites first team debut in the EFL Cup clash against Fulham in September 2021

Another 21 outings, two goals and four assists later, new Whites head coach Marsch is now the one calling the orders and Gelhardt says the American’s demands are something of a perfect fit for his game.

"I think they're good, the tactics for a striker," he reasoned.

"We like to get wide and then get across the near post.

"That's what we are told to do so it's good for strikers.

"They want us in the right position, scoring goals."