Leeds United midfielder Jamie Shackleton not losing sight of next task in hand

JAMIE Shackleton has had to be patient for his first “big chunk” of Premier League minutes.

Tuesday, 27th October 2020, 11:45 am

Initially, the young midfielder was handed a top-flight debut to remember as a late substitute in United’s opening day 4-3 loss at champions Liverpool but thereafter four league games staying on the bench followed.

Six league games into the new campaign, a much more significant role presented itself in Friday night’s clash at an Aston Villa side sitting second in the table following four wins out of four.

With Kalvin Phillips out injured and his replacement Pascal Struijk already booked and walking a disciplinary tightrope, Shackleton was called for as a very early 21st-minute substitute.

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ENERGETIC: Leeds United midfielder Jamie Shackleton chases down John McGinn during Friday night's 3-0 victory against Premier League hosts Aston Villa. Photo by Nick Potts - Pool/Getty Images.

Sixty-nine minutes of Premier League football followed with Shackleton and United excelling in a hugely impressive 3-0 victory that, at the time, sent Leeds third.

Yet Academy graduate Shackleton has become used to being patient and, similarly, the 21-year-old midfielder says big movers United will continue to tick off fixtures one game at a time.

Thanks in no small part to the efforts of Shackleton, Marcelo Bielsa’s newly-promoted Whites sit sixth ahead of the latest round of fixtures next weekend.

With Shackleton’s energy causing Villa all sorts of problems in midfield, United’s sixth fixture of the new Premier League season proved one to savour as a Patrick Bamford hat-trick temporarily sent United up to the dizzy heights of third.

Liverpool and next Monday’s visitors Leicester City then jumped above Leeds with their respective wins over Sheffield United and Arsenal.

Tottenham Hotspur also lined up for last night’s clash at Burnley knowing victory would send them one place above United into fifth and duly recorded a 1-0 victory but first impressions suggest Leeds might be capable of rather more than the initial aim of staying up in their first season back in the top tier.

But, rather befitting of his own approach, Shackleton says his side will still look no further than the next game - even when quizzed if the immediate target would be to secure the usually-required 40 points to stay in the division.

“It’s just one game at a time,” Shackleton told LUTV after helping Leeds to 10 points after just six games.

“We come into every game to compete. We knew the sort of form that Villa were in but, in every game we participate in this league, we’re looking to get all three points and we’re just happy to have done that at Villa.

“It was good to get my first big chunk of Premier League minutes, a great place to do that and an even better place to come and take three points.

“There was a lot of space for me and Rodrigo to get on the ball in between the lines and I was asked just to do that as much as possible; keep the ball ticking over and turn the ball over as well off the two midfielders we were marking as well.”

In what was still only his 51st appearance for the Whites of any kind, Shackleton answered head coach Bielsa’s call emphatically by slotting into a fairly advanced role in the middle of the park as Mateusz Klich initially dropped deeper to fill the void left by Struijk.

Bielsa had already been forced into shifting personnel into different roles even before kick-off with United missing Phillips, skipper Liam Cooper and Spanish international centre-back Diego Llroente through injury as well as long-term absentee Adam Forshaw.

It meant Bielsa was effectively without four players who ply their trade in a similar area of the field as either centre-backs or holding midfielders.

Yet United held firm in defence and caused chaos at the other end of the pitch as part of a night in which Bielsa’s side mustered 27 attempts at goal.

After a goalless first half, a clinical 19-minute hat-trick from Bamford ensured United bagged their third win of the new campaign.

“We did well in the first half and created a few chances but, in the second half, Pat put the chances that we have created away,” said Shackleton.

“We did brilliantly in the second half and even better seeing the game out in the way we did.

“We’ve shown what sort of football we can play in the games previous to this and again going forward we played some really nice stuff which resulted in three brilliant goals to win the game.

"It was three top finishes from Pat - he put them away brilliantly. He’s on top form at the minute.”

As too, when required, is a certain young midfielder sitting just in behind.

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Thank you Laura Collins