Spotlight on Jordan Stevens as Marcelo Bielsa calls for Leeds United teen amid Jack Clarke absence
LEEDS UNITED winger Jordan Stevens was handed 18 minutes in Saturday's Championship clash at Fulham with head coach Marcelo Bielsa turning to the teen for the first time this season.
Signed from Forest Green Rovers in February 2018, Stevens returned from a six-week FA ban for betting when named among the United substitutes for last month's 4-0 win at home to Middlesbrough.
Four games on, the 19-year-old notably appeared on the bench for Saturday's clash at Craven Cottage for which Tottenham Hotspur loanee winger Jack Clarke failed to feature amongst the substitutes.
Rather like in the case of Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah, Whites head coach Bielsa has repeatedly said in his recent press conferences that he could not be sure if Spurs were planning on recalling Clarke when the transfer window reopened in January.
Clarke has had just 19 minutes of Championship action on loan at Leeds so far this term with the 19-year-old brought on as a 71st-minute substitute in last month's 2-1 win at Luton Town.
But the weekend's clash at Fulham saw Bielsa call for Stevens for just the second time with the winger also handed 14 minutes in the Championship loss at Stoke City last January following Pontus Jansson's dismissal.
The FA ban handed to the winger in September threatened to derail progress with the teen fined £1,200 by the FA, after accepting a charge over 59 bets, which cost him a total of £510.12.
The midfielder was banned from all football activity until October 10 with Leeds strongly critical of the teen's punishment and the unhelpful nature of it.
But Stevens has responded by working his way back into two of Bielsa's recent match-day 18s and United's head coach looked for the Gloucester-born footballer to help produce the goods three minutes after Leeds had gone 2-1 down at Fulham.
Playing on the right flank after Luke Ayling was taken off, Stevens only had eight touches of the ball with four of his attempted six passes successful.
The winger was unable to fire in any shots at goal or complete any successful dribbles but Bielsa has frequently spoken glowingly about Stevens in the past.
Even if his performance was unspectacular, his mere outing was another step in the right direction at a time when doubts continue about Clarke's future and United's Spanish magician Pablo Hernandez is injured.
Another option, Tyler Roberts, is set to return to training on Monday following a hamstring issue but he will naturally take time to regain fitness and Stevens is clearly fast becoming an option that Bielsa is keen on exploring.