£2m Leeds United exit handed instant debut in huge Championship derby

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Middlesbrough host Sunderland this afternoon and five former Leeds United players are in action.

Former Leeds United defender Leo Hjelde has been thrown straight in at the deep end after being named in Sunderland's starting line-up for their Championship clash at Middlesbrough this afternoon.

Hjelde joined Sunderland on a permanent deal earlier this week after finding regular first-team football impossible to come by at Leeds. The 20-year-old signed a four-and-a-half-year deal at the Stadium of Light for a fee believed to be around £2million.

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The defender started in Leeds' first Championship game of the season but was hooked at half-time and has not featured in the league since. That 45-minute spell has been it so far for Hjelde in the second-tier.

But he looks set to have an instant impact at Sunderland, having been named in the line-up for today's huge Tees-Wear derby. Barring another nightmare start or injury, he will almost certainly rack up more Championship minutes for his new club than he did at Elland Road.

Sunderland head to the Riverside in ninth, but victory will propel them into the play-offs with only two points between them and Hull City in sixth. The Black Cats were well beaten 4-0 in the reverse fixture at home, with Leeds loanee Sam Greenwood among the Middlesbrough goalscorers.

Hjelde is one of five former Leeds players starting at the Riverside in a game full of recognisable faces. He joined Jack Clarke at Sunderland while Greenwood welcomed Luke Ayling to the Riverside last month and Middlesbrough captain Jonny Howson spent 15 years coming through the academy and then playing for the first-team in West Yorkshire. Niall Huggins is also at Sunderland but currently injured.

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Hjelde joined Leeds from Celtic in 2021 but only made a handful of first-team appearances at the club, having been used mostly as a left-sided full-back. He had 18 months remaining on his contract at Elland Road and so Leeds took the opportunity to cash in on a player they deemed surplus to requirements.

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