How Robbie Gotts found out he was set for dream Leeds United debut at Arsenal

Leeds United's Robbie Gotts in action against Arsenal in the FA Cup. (Pic: Bruce Rollinson)Leeds United's Robbie Gotts in action against Arsenal in the FA Cup. (Pic: Bruce Rollinson)
Leeds United's Robbie Gotts in action against Arsenal in the FA Cup. (Pic: Bruce Rollinson)
Leeds United's nearly man Robbie Gotts was finally handed his senior debut against Arsenal in the FA Cup

Robbie Gotts was tucking into lunch in the Thorp Arch canteen when he found out he was finally going to get his long-awaited Leeds United debut.

Whites boss Marcelo Bielsa stuck to formula ahead of last week's FA Cup third round trip to Arsenal, as he named his starting 11 two days early for the clash against Premier League opposition.

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For Gotts - who was sat thirty feet away in the club's training ground canteen eating his lunch - it was to be a moment he will remember for the rest of his playing career.

The 20-year-old has had to be patient for his first team opportunity, having been named in Bielsa's senior squad on thirty-five separate occasions without seeing a single minute of action over the past thirteen months.

A run that dated back to December 2018 finally came to an end in North London in the 1-0 defeat, but for the right-back turned midfielder starting against the Gunners was another milestone on a journey through United's academy that has been over 13 years in the making.

"We'd had training and, with it being a couple of days before, the starting team goes into a game scenario," Gotts revealed in the Whites matchday programme.

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"I've taken part in this before a few times, but it might be because a player is resting. I did it before the Arsenal game and people were looking at me wondering if I'd be playing and saying they thought I'd play.

"I was having my lunch in the canteen area and a few of the lads came in and started saying, 'Are you fuelling up?'. But I didn't even know! I was thinking, 'Surely not?'.

"I then looked down at my phone and there were loads of notifications coming through and people were sending me screenshots of what Marcelo had said in his press conference.

"It was a really proud moment for me."

Frustration could've set in after seeing many of his academy peers make their debut at his expense, but Gotts opted to use the experience to his advantage with patience being key before realising his boyhood dream at the thirty-sixth time of asking.

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"A week before Christmas last season I was on the bench for the first time against Aston Villa and we all know about that game," he added.

"Then I was on the bench against Blackburn Rovers on Boxing Day and it was the same in that game, winning in the last minute. I saw it all as an amazing experience - being on the bench that many times and being part of the squad.

"You just keep learning and improving by watching them before a game, in the game and after the game."

Gotts, though, has vowed to not let his special night at the Emirates go to his head: "Just because I've made my debut, it won't stop me trying to work had every day and keep improving.

"That's what you have to do as a player. There's always room for improvement."