Leeds United youngster using Patrick Bamford as Elland Road inspiration on path to Marcelo Bielsa's first team
Joe Gelhardt’s debut campaign with Leeds United has been somewhat of a learning experience.
The 19-year-old has been watching, waiting, developing and – perhaps most importantly – improving his understanding of the Marcelo Bielsa way in West Yorkshire.
Joffy, as he is affectionately known, has dazzled and delighted in the club’s Under-23s ranks since joining from Wigan Athletic last August.
He came with high expectations and swiftly impressed behind closed doors at Thorp Arch training with the first team following his arrival.
Gelhardt tasted success in his first term at the club, playing a key role in the Whites’ Premier League 2 triumph as they claimed promotion to Division One of elite academy football in style under Mark Jackson’s guidance.
Linking up with fellow United new boy Sam Greenwood, Joffy claimed 11 goals and four assists in just 16 league appearances.
At Elland Road the plan was set out from the very start upon his capture from the Latics; regular development football with an eye on the senior squad.
Gelhardt’s numbers tell the story of a season in which he made the PL2 very much his own but in the Premier League proper he has a role model ready made in Bielsa’s squad – and a figure who does everything required and more in the most demanding of systems.
Patrick Bamford quietened dissenting voices over his ability to be United’s No 9 this term, finding the back of the net 17 times with a further seven assists.
“If I was to pick one, obviously being in my position, it would be Pat,” Gelhardt said of who he looks up to at Elland Road as a role model, in an interview with Skrill.
“Obviously he’s had an amazing season scoring so many goals.
“What people sometimes don’t realise is the work rate that he’s got as well, how hard he works, how much he runs to get the ball back for the team, so we can go on and attack.
“His work rate and his ability to score goals is something to look up to straight away.
“It’s a motivation for yourself to ask: Could I do that? Could I try and implement some of the stuff that I haven’t got in my game that he has?
“If I’m watching a first-team game, I’m always watching Pat the most, thinking: where can I improve my game to try and get in the squad a bit more and get a few minutes.”
Close followers of United’s development side were swift in their claims to see Joffy earn some top-flight minutes across the campaign.
Bielsa, though, resisted but did name him on his senior bench on eight occasions in the Premier League.
Patience may be required but it has halted supporters getting carried away with the potential he possesses.
“No, not too much… I’ve seen a few comments,” Gelhardt added over calls from fans for a first-team bow.
“My mum sometimes sends me them on Twitter but I don’t like seeing it – I’ve had to tell her to stop sending them.
“So she’s sent me a few, but I don’t look on social media. It’s good to hear that a few of the fans like you. It is nice to hear it and see that, to be fair.”
Asked about the example being set by Bielsa’s squad after a ninth-placed finish in 2020/21, he said: “To come up from the Championship into the Premier League and do what they’ve done is amazing.
“It’s great how well they’ve done all year, every single one of them.
“As a group of 23s, we look up to them as a whole team. It’s not a team of individuals, it’s a very together team, on and off the pitch.
“When you look up to the first team, you look at it as a squad rather than individuals.”