Leeds United winger Dan James did not expect to have to be the team’s main striker but thinks the “big learning curve” has helped his game.
Injury to Patrick Bamford left a huge hole at the top of the Whites’ formation for much of the season, and with Tyler Roberts struggling to make an impact and Marcelo Bielsa not ready to trust Joe Gelhardt, the summer signing from Manchester United has featured there frequently.
Despite some decent showings, such as his two-goal performance in the 3-3 draw at Aston Villa, it hasn’t been wildly successful, with just four strikes this season, but the 24-year-old feels positive about the effect it has had.
“It’s helped me when I do play out wide that I know what positions I want to be in as a nine, when to release the ball, what times the striker wants the ball, whether to make the front or back stick.
“It’s been a big learning curve and it’s been good. It’s definitely going to help me going with Wales.”
For all the potential long-term benefits of the emergency deployment in a central role, it is returns right now the team needs.
Roberts is now out for the season, and Rodrigo was taken off at half-time last weekend, so unless Jesse Marsch is going to hand Gelhardt a start, James may be pushed into action once again this afternoon.
The visit of bottom side Norwich represent a crucial opportunity to pick up a win that is desperately needed.
Although the former Swansea man has a big World Cup playoff in the horizon with his national team, United fans will be forgiven for hoping any goals he can come up with are in a White shirt.
The jury is probably still out on his £25million move before the season, with other areas surely in greater need of strengthening.
But he has been asked to fill in different roles in a badly struggling side.
And if he can have a telling impact between now and the end of the campaign he will instantly become a success.
In other Leeds United news, Phil Hay predicts the likely fall guy from the Villa collapse.