Mark Jackson issues verdict on Leo Hjelde's Leeds United Under-23s debut against West Ham United

Leeds United's latest academy recruit Leo Hjelde was handed a first chance to impress for his new club this weekend.

Saturday, 11th September 2021, 7:19 pm
Leeds United defender Leo Hjelde. Pic: LUFC

The Whites signed the 18-year-old defender from Scottish Premiership side Celtic on a four-year deal last month and the development visit of West Ham to Thorp Arch offered the opportunity for competitive action.

Hjelde swiftly headed away on international duty with Norway's Under-18s after joining the Elland Road ranks on a permanent basis.

He was, though, selected to start against the Hammers in the Premier League 2 encounter, beginning at left-back before moving into his more natural home of central defence in the second half of the 2-2 draw.

Sign up to our Leeds United newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The former Ross County loanee grew into the game and really came into his own following the half-time interval.

Hjelde was commanding in the air and claimed one of the standout moments of the afternoon, producing a perfectly-timed last-ditch tackle to deny the Hammers a goalscoring opportunity inside his own area.

He also showed he is bright with his feet after beating three men with a mazy run into the opposition half before feeding in striker Max Dean.

Jackson - who was happy with the fight shown by his side in earning a point - was left pleased post-match by a first outing for his squad's latest addition.

"It's always a challenge for a player to come in and make their debut at the club when they've not been with us long," Under-23s boss Jackson told the YEP.

"He signed and went away on international duty, so he's not trained a lot with us. We know he can play left-back. He played there during his loan spell with Ross County - but ultimately he is a centre-back.

"He showed that in the second half [against West Ham] and I thought his second half performance was really pleasing. He was finding his feet in the first half and he found it tough but he stuck at it.

"Overall it was a good performance."

Asked about Hjelde's visible growth in confidence as the afternoon wore on, Jackson added: "That's important. I spoke to him before the game and he slotted into a left-back position at the start.

"It's not natural to him but he's played it. In the second half I thought he was commanding in the air. We said at half-time we needed to be. He was commanding and he stepped in well with the ball and showed his range of passing."