Leeds United midfielder Lewis Bate made his debut against West Ham at the weekend, ending what has seemed like a long wait to see him in action.
Leeds’ under-23 investment since promotion has been exemplary, sourcing brilliant talent from across the country and beyond to bolster the youth squad.
Not only that, but it looks like it could save Leeds millions in the transfer market in years to come.
Arguably the most eye-catching piece of business Leeds have concluded in that sector was capturing highly-rated Chelsea midfielder, Lewis Bate.
The 19-year-old has been shining in the under-23s since moving to West Yorkshire, and a key question upon his arrival was how long it would take for Marcelo Bielsa to hand him his debut.
We’ve seen Southampton make a similar swoop from Chelsea’s youth ranks with Tino Livramento joining, but he’s been a guaranteed starter for months now.
So, why has Bate been kept out of the firing line for six months before heading him his first minutes against West Ham in the FA Cup?
The Athletic’s Phil Hay has revealed that it is a decision that has been down to Bielsa, with staff at Thorp Arch not exactly sure why he’s been made to wait this long.
Writing about both his and Leo Hjelde’s debuts, Hay had this to say on Bate:
“So if Leeds were down on numbers, central midfielders most of all, and Bate was ticking boxes at Thorp Arch, why the reluctance to push him on?
“In short, it was his decision based on his judgement and his prerogative to make it.
“But, closer to home, other people at the club wondered the same. What was it about Bate that was keeping him mothballed when dispatches from the academy said he had settled in so well?”
Settling in is one thing, but I can see the logic behind Bielsa’s restraint.
We are in no rush to force him into the first-team when there are viable options in front of him, whether that be first-team players or other youth options like Jack Jenkins.
That being said, I’m glad that we did get to see him in action, because he fared quite well in possession, moving the ball swiftly while rarely losing the ball too.
We only need to look at Gelhardt’s emergence after over a year in the 23s to see that there is method to what some might think is Bielsa’s madness.