Leeds United: O'Connor may be handed chance, says Heckingbottom

Paul Heckingbottom.
Paul Heckingbottom.
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Leeds United boss Paul Heckingbottom has revealed he could hand a first-team debut to 20-year-old defender Paudie O'Connor on Saturday afternoon against Championship strugglers Sunderland as the Whites injury crisis deepens.

United have a total of nine players sidelined through injury for the visit of the Black Cats this weekend which may force Heckingbottom's hand into delving into the youth ranks at Thorp Arch.

Loanee Matthew Pennington limped off in the 2-0 defeat to Fulham on Tuesday night joining Liam Cooper on the injury table leaving the Whites with just a single fit centre-back in Pontus Jansson.

Heckingbottom though revealed that 20-year-old O'Connor has entered his thoughts for selection after playing a starring role as captain in Carlos Corberan's under-23's side this season and impressing in senior training in recent weeks.

"He could do," the Leeds boss said of the young Irishman's chances of featuring this weekend.

"We've had Paudie with us all week for that reason because we're light in that position. If he is needed we want him to be as comfortable as possible and understand what we want from him.

"All the players understand his role and it gives him the best possible chance to succeed."

Fellow defender Jansson has also been impressed with what he has seen from O'Connor so far and said he would have no problem in helping guide the youngster through his first Championship match if required to do so.

"Really good to be honest," revealed the Swede.

"I've seen him in a couple of training [sessions] and I've seen him also in an under-23 game. He is good, he has confidence. He looks like me when I was young wanting to take risks with the ball which is good.

"He is clever, strong and fast. He can be a good defender and if I play with him I will take my responsibility and help him and try to have a good game."