Why Eddie Nketiah's January decision is as important to himself as Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa - David Prutton

Yorkshire Evening Post columnist David Prutton pens his latest column

Saturday, 28th December 2019, 6:00 am
Leeds United loanee Eddie Nketiah. (Getty)

It feels like Leeds United have a big few weeks ahead in their season.

A trip to Birmingham City awaits on Sunday before a humdinger of a tie at the Hawthorns with West Brom. The Eddie Nketiah situation is also going to come to a head and it could be a vital one.

It’s strange for him because he seems happy at the club but knows he needs minutes. It is as much a major decision for himself as it is for Leeds as to whether he remains at Elland Road past the January transfer window.

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I think Leeds understand they have a player who can impact a game at any moment and we have seen that when he has had his minutes he’s looked to make that difference.

It was a slight bit of misfortune that when he was finally going to get his first start he got injured, but that’s the luck of football sometimes.

He misses that game, Patrick Bamford breaks his scoring duck and that’s it.

It will be intriguing to see what happens because, with all due respect to Leeds, he hasn’t come from Arsenal to sit on the bench and replacing his quality next month would be a difficult task.

He gives Bamford competition for that starting spot which is vitally important. Everyone knows Patrick has a decisive role in the team and Bielsa even said that when he wasn’t scoring he was imperative to how they play.

But the more competition for places the better, and you just never know what might happen if he were to leave with injuries or suspensions.

Bristol City were obviously very interested in the summer and will no doubt be keeping an eye on the situation. It would be a massive kick in the teeth if he were to go out on loan to a Championship rival and start scoring because you’d be left thinking ‘what if?’

Bamford made the point of needing him for the rest of the season and it is credit to Nketiah that he has almost voiced his frustration in a very eloquent way when he’s been asked.

Eddie is a young player who wants to play but for him to be that type of character who is still part of the squad and group ethos is testament to the way he has approached being a Leeds United player.

One man we do know who has definitely departed is Jack Clarke and all you can say to him is good luck. He’s taken a decision and the plunge to join the club the size of Tottenham at his age and you hope it pays off for him.

I think it was Danny Mills who was very vocal in his thoughts of him staying, not signing anything and learning his trade with Leeds but it’s a decision that he made in good faith at the time.

It’s probably transformed his life, his family’s life and whatever he goes on to achieve in the game will be influenced by it either way.

I’m not saying Marcelo washed his hands of him after his transfer as that would be incredibly unfair but he’s got bigger fish to fry. Bielsa’s remit is promotion and if you’re a young player in that environment you’ve got to hit the ground running otherwise you’ll get left behind.

Perhaps Clarke going back might free up a spot in the squad for someone else of a different ilk to step in and help Leeds over the line instead of a youngster who is still developing his game.

The draw against Preston was a frustrating match and Leeds have obviously now gone three games without a win.

Even though it is only a little spell, it’s come off the back of a seven-game winning run where you almost get settled into a nice rhythm of turning teams over by hook or by crook.

It’s something to remind everyone not to get carried away and that there is still a big challenge ahead.

It was another game where Leeds had to push themselves through the gears and that deflection for Stuart Dallas’s goal might just be the spark they need to kick on again now.

Maybe they’ll look back on a game such as that and think it was that bit of luck needed to drag them back into form.

I don’t think you can be too critical of the players at the moment. We’re all maybe guilty of talking about footballers as robots, and especially with the way that Marcelo has built his team and moulded them into what he wants.

When you’re a footballer it can be hard to put your finger on exactly where it is going wrong because you tend to do everything the same way in terms of preparation.

Some days it just doesn’t click into gear and that’s when you get that real test of character and they’ve shown it in these last few games.

At Christmas time, it’s even more intense because of the volume of matches. As fans, we sit back and want to be entertained but for the players it’s a state of hypertension.

They’ve got to dial up the emotions before coming back down again to then quickly build back up for the next one in such a short space of time – it can be a difficult task.

The festive period is a wonderful spectacle but you have to give kudos to the players for their battle-hard nature, especially under Bielsa with what he puts them through.

They must keep that end goal in mind on those days that we all perceive as grey and murky – like the last few – and if they can go to Birmingham and get a positive result then all will be right in the world again.

Sky Bet Championship on Sky Sports – Tomorrow: Birmingham City v Leeds United, Sky Sports Red Button, 3pm.