Mark Jackson reveals Leeds United’s newest dressing room leader after Charlie Cresswell debut

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Leeds United’s under-21s arrested their Papa John’s Trophy slump with victory over Oldham Athletic in Greater Manchester on Tuesday night.

Mark Jackson’s side ran out 3-2 winners over their EFL Trophy opponents, who currently occupy bottom spot in the English Football League.

Despite troubling league form, Oldham had beaten Salford City in their opening Papa John’s Trophy fixture this season, while Leeds under-21 had fallen to defeat at Tranmere Rovers.

It followed three successive defeats to Football League opposition in last year’s competition.

With Jackson able to call upon more senior under-23 players at Boundary Park, the Whites controlled this fixture and carried out their duties with more poise.

Sean McGurk, Lewis Bate and Crysencio Summerville were the Whites’ leading lights, but the defensive performance of Kris Moore, Nohan Kenneh and Leo Hjelde at centre-back was equally impressive and showed considerable improvement.

Hjelde was replaced by Kenneh at half-time in what was a pre-planned substitution, said under-23s boss Jackson, but the Norwegian who only joined United last month took the captain’s armband from the start.

The 18-year-old featured at left-back on his PL2 debut, but has been a mainstay in central defence since then; the position Jackson claims is preferred by Hjelde.

Leeds United announce the signing of 18-year-old Norwegian defender Leo Hjelde
(Image: Leeds United)

Speaking after his side’s 3-2 win, Jackson spoke of the decision to hand Hjelde the armband: “I see good leadership qualities in Leo [Hjelde]. I have done for a while when I’ve been watching him throughout the summer, before he signed for the club.

“It was a test for him tonight, to come in and take the armband and lead the team. I challenged him to lead the team and organise, it’s a new system of play for him to get used to so that challenge as well is going to be difficult for him but I’ve got full confidence and I see the qualities in him, which hopefully I can help nurture.

“I did that a lot with Charlie Cresswell throughout the time I worked with him from when he was an U-16, through the 18s and in the 23s as well and I see certain qualities in Leo as well.”

Leeds United defender Charlie Cresswell challenges for a header with Michail Antonio
(Image: Getty Images)

Cresswell made his Premier League debut in the 2-1 defeat to West Ham United last weekend, and is expected to feature more prominently in matchday squads this season after his handling of Fulham’s Rodrigo Muniz and the Hammers’ Michail Antonio last week.

Hjelde’s summer transfer could prove to be a smart addition if Cresswell is promoted to more regular first-team action.

Already, Hjelde appears to have integrated well with the under-23 squad, having sealed his move from Celtic in August.

Jackson’s latest show of faith, both through his words and actions, suggests there are hopes to emulate the likes of Pascal Struijk and Charlie Cresswell, with Hjelde’s gradual progression.

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