Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch pays best compliment to Sam Greenwood and outlines plan for trio
Sam Greenwood has had to be patient for Leeds United first-team chances.
Nearly two years after joining the Whites from Arsenal, the England under-21s international has had just six outings for 199 minutes of football.
But opportunities look set to be more forthcoming under new boss Jesse Marsch who has issued the most glowing of compliments about the 20-year-old forward.
Greenwood is not alone in being a very talented young Whites player with strong claims to be handed more first-team minutes.
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Joe Gelhardt, his very close friend and England youth international team-mate, is in the same boat, as is 20-year-old Dutch winger Crysencio Summerville and under-23s centre-back and captain Charlie Cresswell.
But Greenwood’s progression took a notable step forward in last weekend’s victory at Watford, after which Marsch provided a clear indication that the teen forward would be set for increased involvement.
Greenwood, Gelhardt, Summerville and Cresswell all sat on the bench at Vicarage Road in addition to fellow young talents Leo Hjelde, Nohan Kenneh and sub’ ’keeper Kristoffer Klaesson, the substitutes completed by recently-returned England star Kalvin Phillips and Pascal Struijk.
With the Whites 1-0 up, Phillips was the first to be introduced as he swapped places with Mateusz Klich in the 59th minute but Greenwood was Marsch’s next port of call eight minutes on.
In what was just his third league outing, the Sunderland-born forward replaced Dan James who was having his latest outing up front, Marsch now without his main No 9, Patrick Bamford, owing to a foot injury until at least the last two games of the season.
Without him, and with Gelhardt having also missed parts of training in the week, Marsch opted for winger James up tops.
Rejuvenated record signing Rodrigo sat in behind as the No 10 but it was all change following Greenwood’s introduction as Rodrigo moved into the more advanced role with Greenwood in behind.
Just 18 minutes later, Greenwood had helped set up two goals, supplying the through balls from which Rodrigo and Jack Harrison scored in a 3-0 win but only the latter counted as an assist.
The contest marked United’s last game for 16 days, the Whites not back in action until a week on Monday when they will visit Crystal Palace.
There are, though, two opportunities for United’s youngsters to shine in between through this afternoon’s clash at Brighton and next Friday’s Elland Road date against Manchester City for the under-23s.
For Greenwood, today’s contest against the young Seagulls is likely to present his next opportunity to impress but the former Arsenal forward is already high up in Marsch’s first-team thoughts.
Marsch said: “Sam’s been really good since we’ve been here and I said to him that if I look at the entire player pool, he’s the one that’s adapting the best and understanding what we want the game to be like.
“I think he showed that [at Watford] and he also has quality.
“He has the ability to make some final plays, he’s very technical, so we’ve got to find ways to include him more, so I’ve got to find ways to include Joffy more, I’ve got to find ways to include Summerville, Cree [Crysencio] more.
"All three of those guys, for me, are going to be big players here and are important for us moving forward.”
Summerville was also handed minutes at Watford, the Netherlands under-21s international following on Greenwood as Marsch’s third and final change when replacing Raphinha in the 83rd minute.
Summerville had starred earlier in the week when netting a hat-trick for United’s under-23s in the 4-0 win at home to Crystal Palace in which Gelhardt was forced off injured in the first half with a dead leg.
But Gelhardt is now back in full training and he and his young team-mates look set to benefit particularly from an imminent rule change, clubs able to make five substitutions as from next season.
Speaking about Summerville’s hat-trick against Palace and further opportunities, Marsch said: “When I see that we are going to five substitutions in the future, I think of players like him, like Joffy, like Sam Greenwood, like Charlie Cresswell that deserve more chances to play because of the quality the have, because of the work they put in the week.
“It’s a shame for me now that I can only use three subs to impact the game.”