Leeds United's outside bet for Elland Road hero status as youngster looks set for 'champion' role

Leeds United consider themselves done with 2023 incoming transfer business, meaning that any new Elland Road heroes are already in the building.
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That might disappoint those who enjoy playing technical director with lists of free agents around this time of year but it's generally the case that anyone worth picking up or perhaps more pertinently anyone willing to be picked up by a Championship side, has already been picked up.

It wasn't until the final week of the window that Leeds boss Daniel Farke could say he was 'pretty happy' with the squad he now has at his disposal. It was in that week that Djed Spence, Ilia Gruev, Glen Kamara and Jaidon Anthony came through the door to add real strength in depth in their various areas of the pitch and completed a recruitment window that, on paper at least, bears a solid look.

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Earlier this week the YEP ran a poll on a social media site to get a taste of which new signing had most captured the imagination of Whites and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it was Ethan Ampadu. Ex-Chelsea man or not, Ampadu was always going to impress as a transfer idea because of his experience at higher levels. In practice, so far, it's working out just as planned and his rarely-ruffled demeanour on and off the ball is only adding to his popularity.

When he was pictured putting an arm around a bitterly disappointed Georginio Rutter at full-time of the 0-0 draw with Sheffield Wednesday, a game that could have been won had the Frenchman brought his shooting boots, Ampadu only enhanced his standing with the Whites rank and file. Future captain? That's what they said about Tyler Adams, so perhaps stow any such talk until at least a second season at Leeds is on Ampadu's CV. But you could see it, couldn't you, given how he's started the season and how he leads on the pitch by example and verbal output.

A safer bet in the running for newly-minted Elland Road hero status you might struggle to find than the Welsh international midfielder. And for your outside bet, why not the man Ampadu was so keen to console?

When Leeds United announced their new partnership with Leeds Children’s Charity at Lineham Farm this week, they did so with a genuinely wholesome video. There was the baby-faced Jamie Shackleton, ever in danger of being mistaken for a youngster himself. He was joined by Rebekah Bass and Paige Williams of Leeds United Women and they all appeared to be thoroughly enjoying their interactions with children from local schools and community groups in disadvantaged areas of the city.

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The star of the show, though, was Rutter. He was making pizzas and grinning. Embracing star-struck kids and grinning. Toasting marshmallows and grinning. Singing songs around the campfire and grinning. He was hitting the target, the bullseye in fact, with a bow and arrow and roaring with delight. The memes, both kind and otherwise, make themselves from that one.

FUTURE HEROES? Ethan Ampadu and Georginio Rutter are safe and outside bets respectively for Leeds United hero status at Elland Road this season. Pic: Jonathan GawthorpeFUTURE HEROES? Ethan Ampadu and Georginio Rutter are safe and outside bets respectively for Leeds United hero status at Elland Road this season. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe
FUTURE HEROES? Ethan Ampadu and Georginio Rutter are safe and outside bets respectively for Leeds United hero status at Elland Road this season. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe

Rutter, still only 21 himself, had the look of a young man rediscovering and relishing what it's like to be a kid again. The 'pure excitement and joy' that charity trustee chair Ian Hargreaves spoke of was not confined to the children.

Leeds previously had in their squad an individual who came to life on such visits. Tyler Roberts, now at Birmingham City, was twice named the club's PFA Community Champion for the sheer level of engagement he brought to encounters away from Elland Road and Thorp Arch. He asked questions of charity workers or those availing themselves of the services, the kind of open questions asked from a curiosity that would be hard to fake. When they answered, he listened. It was a conversation. Perfectly normal in the real world but not always natural for footballers living what Farke calls a 'privileged life.'

Perhaps, in Rutter, Leeds have found their new Roberts, for community visits. His enthusiasm and enjoyment of his farm trip is the kind is that impossible to fake. There are supporters who won't care about all that. Their interest begins and ends with what Rutter contributes on the pitch in what you might call his day job. That's where he cannot follow in Roberts' footsteps, not when the relative financial outlay for each man is factored in.

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Rutter, a record signing, has thus far under Farke shown glimpses, flashes and hints of why even a difficult first few months at Leeds did not dissuade European clubs from making bids this summer. Some of his touches and bits of link-up play have been thrilling. There was a fantastic example against Wednesday when he held off a defender, laid off the ball, sped off down the flank to get it back and shrugged off a man mountain's challenge. The goal he scored against Ipswich showcased what is possible from a player of such a profile. It was every bit as good as his second half miss against the Owls was bad.

Wise men like the YEP's Joe Donnohue predicted that Rutter would frustrate Whites supporters because of the things he tries, the skills he employs to beat players from a standing start and his attempts to bring audacity into games. Whether the lob he tried on Saturday falls into that latter category is up for debate. What is certain is that Farke wants to see 'brutal' finishing in such positions, and told Rutter so. Enjoy playing up front by all means son, but enjoy it by being brutal.

It's important to remember that Rutter did not set his own transfer fee. He did not sign himself and actually found it difficult to say goodbye to his previous dressing room mid-season. He is young. Younger than Joe Gelhardt. And this very young player could so easily have tried to bail on a challenge in the summer and yet where others showed a clean pair of heels as soon as the window creaked ajar, Rutter opted to stay. Even for the 'what have you done for me today?' crowd that must count for something.

By all accounts, ever since that decision was made, he has done all he can to start afresh at Leeds.

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49ers Enterprises did not consider Rutter any kind of salvage job because of his age and the short amount of time he had spent at the club prior to their takeover, so they did consider him well worth persevering with. As is the case with almost every striker, hitting the target frequently and making Elland Road roar with delight will ensure that just about everyone perseveres with him. The potential is there for an important role. Maybe even an heroic one.