'We're trying to develop the players to be adaptable' - Leeds United coach on evolution of exciting prospects Sam Greenwood and Joe Gelhardt

YOUNG GUN - Sam Greenwood was signed from Arsenal in the summer and is developing versatility in the Leeds United Under 23s with coach Mark Jackson. Pic: GettyYOUNG GUN - Sam Greenwood was signed from Arsenal in the summer and is developing versatility in the Leeds United Under 23s with coach Mark Jackson. Pic: Getty
YOUNG GUN - Sam Greenwood was signed from Arsenal in the summer and is developing versatility in the Leeds United Under 23s with coach Mark Jackson. Pic: Getty
Leeds United prospects Sam Greenwood and Joe Gelhardt are being given opportunities to develop the kind of versatility Marcelo Bielsa likes in a player.

The Under 23s pair, both signed this summer, arrived as strikers, but featured in different roles during the 3-2 win over Aston Villa in Premier League 2 action yesterday.

Greenwood, formerly of Arsenal, starred in the midfield for Mark Jackson's side and the manager was delighted to see the 18-year-old follow one impressive display against West Brom with another against Villa. He won and scored a penalty and was voted LUTV Man of the Match for his defensive work and contribution to the Leeds' attack.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Sam had a real strong performance against West Brom in the last game," said the 23s boss.

"Today again he played in that midfield role and was really, really effective. He's a strong player in that position, it's a part of a game we've been trying to work on and develop further."

It's a similar story for Gelhardt, another 18-year-old who has shone in 23s outings since his arrival from Wigan Athletic. He was able to link up with first team attackers Pablo Hernandez and Tyler Roberts, and showcased his skill on the ball and quick feet as he went close to getting on the scoresheet a number of times.

"Same with Joe Gelhardt," said Jackson. "Came into the team and played two positions today, as a nine and then as a 10. We're trying to develop the players to be adaptable, versatile in positioning."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Jackson was over the moon with the team's performance and a result that took Leeds top of PL2 Division Two. They've picked up 19 points from 10 games and hold a three-point lead over Middlesbrough and Norwich.

"Some strong individual performances but as a collective, really pleased with the team," he said."

"Difficult game, the conditions played their part. Delighted with the victory, pleased for the lads, they put a shift in and to come away with three points against a difficult opponent was really good.

"We were disappointed to go 1-0 down and then effectively 2-0 down as well because we thought we were controlling the game well, creating chances. There's a great desire within the team at the minute, the 23s and with the first team players dropping as well, they showed a real positive reaction to get a goal back, then another before half-time as well. It really helped shift the momentum of the game. We said at half-time we wanted to keep that positive momentum. We made some changes as well but Villa continued to try and cause us problems and it turned into a real battling performance in the end and we managed to get the win."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Even without the first team players battling back to match fitness like Hernandez, Jackson's team have obvious attacking prowess in the shape of Greenwood, Gelhardt and Stuart McKinstry. Safe in the knowledge that they can score goals, he wants his side to improve their record at the other end of the pitch.

"We spoke before the game about working really hard as a team to keep that clean sheet," he said.

"It didn't happen today but predominantly we defended really well, our shape and ideas of how we were going to defend were executed well at times. That's something we want to look to address going forward, keeping clean sheets. We know we have players in the team to score goals and luckily we scored three today to get the three points."

Jackson's priority is making sure the 23s players are capable of making the leap to senior football according to the requirements of the senior side but he's keen for them to maintain their current form and position in PL2 as the season develops.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"The boys will look at that, we look at that because we want to be competitive," he said of their table-topping status.

"It's about developing players and ensuring that players are ready to step up and assist the first team when needed by the manager. If we get that right and get performances right, how we set up and individual performances are good then we'll win football matches and move further up the league. We're in a good position at the minute but we're not getting carried away. We just want to go out and perform to the best of our ability every game and hopefully that'll produce a few more wins so we'll be in a strong position come the end of the season."

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.