Joe Gelhardt reflects on first Leeds United impressions after Under-23s Premier League 2 title triumph

The Whites Under-23s secured promotion to the top tier of England's academy structure on Friday evening.

Saturday, 17th April 2021, 9:12 am

Leeds United academy star Joe Gelhardt admits he knew as soon as he arrived that Mark Jackson's tight-knit squad was a special group.

The 18-year-old Thorp Arch prospect has led the club's Under-23s title charge this season - scoring 11 goals in 16 league outings.

Leeds earned promotion as Premier League 2 Division Two champions on Friday night with a 2-1 victory over Aston Villa at Bodymoor Heath training complex.

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The Whites have played out their first season with category one status at Thorp Arch in the second tier of the elite academy structure.

Jackson's side have blown away the division this term during their debut campaign, winning 17 out of their 22 matches - including a nine-game winning streak - to secure passage into the top tier.

Gelhardt has been tasked with being at the forefront of the attack since his high profile arrival from Wigan Athletic in August - and has delivered the goods at development level.

"Obviously it's been my first season here but from the first session I could tell it was a very good group," Gelhardt told LUTV.

Leeds United academy forward Joe Gelhardt. Pic: Getty

"We're very tight. We work very hard. I wouldn't say I expected it [the title] but I knew the lads were good enough to do it."

Gelhardt is yet to be handed his first team debut by Marcelo Bielsa in West Yorkshire but has caught the eye as the next potential breakthrough star.

Leeds will now play the likes of Manchester City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea next season at academy level alongside a meeting with arch rivals Manchester United.

Asked about the achievement of winning the league and earning promotion, Gelhardt added: "It's been a great season for all the lads. We've worked ever so hard and it finally came down to this day, where we've deservedly won the league.

"I think we can give a few teams a good go [next season]. It'll be a lot harder obviously with the standard of players and what not but I wouldn't put it past the lads to give it a good go."