Marcelo Bielsa admits to guilt over Robbie Gotts situation at Leeds United
How is Robbie Gotts going to prove he’s good enough for Leeds United if he doesn’t play for Leeds United?
That was a question posed not by a fan or pundit, criticising the lack of opportunities Gotts has had, but by Marcelo Bielsa, the head coach of Leeds United.
Gotts has sat on the bench more times, without playing a single minute for the first team, than any other outfield player in club history.
Last season he was named as a substitute 15 times, including for both legs of the play-off sem-final.
This season has added another 15 to his tally of unused substitute appearances, giving him a strong claim for the title of United’s forgotten man – particularly as fellow academy graduates have made their debuts.
In the past two games Gotts has had to watch from the dugout as Olly Casey and Pascal Struijk came on for first-team debuts late against Huddersfield Town and Hull City respectively.
But the amount of time Bielsa dedicated to discussing the 20-year-old’s situation should reassure him that he remains part of the head coach’s thinking.
In fact it is a conundrum that torments Bielsa.
As he points out, reality bites – young players have to wait patiently for their turn, when senior professionals are fit, in-form and available to play in their position.
But the problem this poses for Gotts and Leeds’ other talented youngsters is one that does not sit particularly well with Bielsa.
Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
“They must be patient because they don’t have another alternative,” he said.
“The other choice is decide to not be involved in the team or the other choice is to show that they are better than the players who are playing.
“In Gotts’ position you have [Stuart] Dallas, [Adam] Forshaw, [Jamie] Shackleton and [Mateusz] Klich.
“Gotts is a player I feel guilty about because he does everything to try to achieve his goal, even though he hasn’t had minutes on the pitch.
“But the only choice I have, I have to be convinced that he is better than the options I have mentioned before.
“How is he going to prove this if he doesn’t have minutes?
“This is unfair for Gotts, it is very, very difficult for me to resolve.
“It is difficult but the reality is that they are young players and they are forced to say nothing and accept what the manager decides.
“This increases this feeling that I have, my worry about this.”
The level of empathy Bielsa feels towards Gotts would even mean he would be open to the possibility of the youngster departing.
But it is Bielsa’s desire that the right-back-turned-midfielder would stick it out at Elland Road, because he is a viable first-team option.
“Gotts is a special situation because he has got a lot less than what he deserves,” siad Bielsa.
“But at the moment he is not finding one fair solution to resolve this.
“In another moment I said to Robbie that I really wish that he stays with us.
“But I would understand if he thought at this moment it was better for him to leave, I would understand this.
“But on the other hand, I kept Gotts in the group because I believe he is an option.
“But because I think Gotts is an option for the team doesn’t mean I’m going to give him the minutes on the pitch.
“This is more difficult when you have to manage the wishes of being human.
“It is difficult to leave Leeds, it is not convenient to leave this club without thinking carefully. I understand that in some situation the timing is key.”
The good news for Gotts is that, were there any bad news, Bielsa would deliver it. And so far he has not.
“Gotts is a player I admire for his skill and his human qualities, but I can say the same of Forshaw, Dallas, Shackleton, Klich.
“If at any moment I think that Gotts has no chance to overcome those players, I would tell him.
“And if Gotts understands that he doesn’t want to stay here in Leeds, I will support him.”
The same can be said for all of the players who are coming through the ranks and hoping to make the step up from Carlos Corberan’s Under-23 side to the Championship-leading senior team.
“I express myself a lot now because it is something for a lot of players that are in the same situation as Gotts.
“I could say the same about Alfie McAlmont and other players as well.
“I realised that you [also] asked for those players about the future of the young players, this model of thinking is for all the young players.”
Bielsa has made clear that if loan spells elsewhere are, in his and the club’s estimation, the best thing for a player’s career, then they will be considered and decisions will be made in January.
There can be no doubting the value he places on the club’s production line and the young men rolling off it; 14 players under the age of 21 have made their debuts under the Argentine, so far.
If Gotts is to add to that number and prove that good things do come to those who wait, the only person happier than Gotts will be the man who selects him.