Joe Gelhardt on what Marcelo Bielsa has told him to add to his game at Leeds United
Joe Gelhardt already knew that hard work at Leeds United was a prerequisite upon his arrival at Elland Road.
Under head coach Marcelo Bielsa though, it is non-negotiable.
Supporters are demanding in LS11 but, if you give your all on the pitch, they will back your every move and more whilst wearing the club’s famous colours.
Joffy, as he is affectionately known, has had to be patient in his first year in West Yorkshire after his switch across the Pennines from Wigan Athletic.
It has been a year of learning ‘the Thorp Arch way’ under United’s great Argentine leader.
Gelhardt scored 11 goals and notched four assists in just 16 outings for Mark Jackson’s Under-23s outfit, leading to swift calls from those following the development ranks for first-team involvement.
Eight times he appeared on the bench in the Premier League this season and eight times he remained firmly in his seat.
Bielsa is in no rush, and Joffy isn’t either at 19 years of age.
“I haven’t spoken to him in person, not one to one,” Gelhardt told Skrill over his relationship with Bielsa.
“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.”
Trust has been key this term and is the right word. Leeds and Victor Orta sold the process to Gelhardt, as he calls it, and he’s still in the first year of that journey having penned a four-year contract.
“I’m a player who likes to get on the ball, drop low, and try to dribble past a player,” he added.
“What the manager’s told me is I need to add more in-behind runs to my game – short, sharp, and more sprints.
“I’ve tried to take that on board as much as I can, and I’ve tried to implement it. He’s a great manager with young players so everything he says you’ve got to take it on board.”
Gelhardt has been tasked with leading the line at development level and has done so to great effect amid promotion in the Premier League 2 ranks for the Whites.
Bielsa sees him as a striker and has said as much, which has led to the conversion of fellow prospect Sam Greenwood into an attacking midfielder behind.
There is no hiding place at Leeds for any leading frontman – as Patrick Bamford has shown at senior level – being United’s first line of attack and first line of defence in a high, intense style comes with a big demand and pressure.
“Once you’ve got that shirt on, you’ve got to leave everything on the pitch,” Gelhardt said.
“You can’t come off the pitch thinking ‘I only gave 75 per cent 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.”
When the inevitable debut finally comes, Gelhardt will get a taste of the support at Elland Road that has been craving his senior debut so much.
He has, though, already experienced it from an opposition viewpoint, being part of the Wigan squad that defeated Leeds 1-0 thanks to a Pablo Hernandez own goal in February 2020.
It is safe to say he is glad he is on this side of the benches these days.
“I always speak to the lads about it,” he admitted.
“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.”