Joe Gelhardt: the young Leeds United striker whose star is rising at Thorp Arch
Though tipped as an exciting young prospect on his arrival at Leeds United, no one could have predicted the scale and speed of Joe Gelhardt's progress.
There was a lot of excitement surrounding the signing of Joe Gelhardt in August 2020.
The young striker boasted substantial first team experience, having racked up 19 Championship appearances at Wigan Athletic before joining Leeds.
Born in Liverpool, Gelhardt started with the Latics at the age of ten and rose through the ranks, making his senior debut aged 17 in an EFL Cup tie with Rotherham.
A week later, he was offered his first professional contract at the DW Stadium and, following a single appearance in the 2018-19 campaign, earned his stripes as a first team bench-warmer in the season that followed and even scored a goal for the Lancashire side.
In July 2020 things went pear-shaped for Wigan who, after entering administration, were handed a 12-point penalty which caused them to drop into the relegation zone.
Condemned to a season in League One and beset with financial woes, Wigan began offloading players at knockdown prices, and the Whites were a major beneficiary of the Latics' crisis.
Joe Gelhardt was sold to Leeds United for an undisclosed fee, believed to be in the region of £1m, which Wigan fans considered a snip for a player they saw a great future for. Supporters had previously drawn comparisons between Gelhardt and Wayne Rooney, owing to their shared background and preferred position.
But Gelhardt is not simply a one-trick pony. As a player, he loves a dribble and can be deployed in a range of positions. In his first season under Mark Jackson with Leeds United's Under-23s, Gelhardt played both as a number 9 or a number 10, and also appeared on the left wing.
The young player, who is affectionately known as 'Joffy', netted 11 goals for the U23s and assisted a further three as Jackson's team took the Premier League 2 Division Two title in their first season competing in that league.
His exploits earned him the attention of head coach Marcelo Bielsa, who included him in eight senior matchday squads at the close of the 2020-21 season.
Gelhardt has spoken lots about the intensity of his training at Leeds United and the way Bielsa's high-octane playing style has transformed his game and his body, revealing to the YEP that he had lost eight kilos since arriving at Thorp Arch. This season, Bielsa has already named Gelhardt in his Premier League matchday squad three times, for games against Burnley, West Ham and Watford.
The young player has scored six goals in six league appearances for Mark Jackson's side and helped them settle into a higher level of competition, with the Whites currently 5th in the Premier League 2 Division One table.
In September, he made his debut for England Under-20s in a friendly against Romania. The 19-year-old is capped for his country at Under 16, Under 17, and Under 18 level, and had scored 11 goals in 24 appearances in the England shirt before taking the step up. Gelhardt came off the bench on the hour against Romania and scored a brace. He even took the captain's armband from Nathan Wood as the starting skipper left the field of player.
After impressing on his Under-20s debut, Gelhardt got called up again for the October internationals. Shortly after, though, the young striker got promoted. Following an injury in the Under-21s squad, Lee Carsley opted to fill the gap with the Whites forward. Gelhardt could make his under-21s debut against Slovenia on Thursday night or on Monday in Andorra.
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