Leeds United can be confident of relying upon Leo Hjelde again, after his debut for the club in Sunday’s FA Cup defeat at West Ham.
That’s according to the club’s former striker Noel Whelan, who was clearly impressed with what he saw from the 18-year-old at the London Stadium.
Having joined Leeds from Celtic’s academy back in the summer, Hjelde had featured solely at youth level for Leeds prior to this weekend.
But with the likes of Liam Cooper, Pascal Struijk and even Charlie Cresswell unavailable, Hjelde was handed his Leeds first-team debut against the Hammers on Sunday.
Although he was unable to prevent Leeds from suffering a 2-0 defeat, the 18-year-old nevertheless impressed for the Whites, playing 78 minutes during which he looked a largely assured presence at the back.
Now it seems as though that performance has convinced Whelan that the young centre back could be in line for more first-team opportunities, if required.
Giving his verdict on Hjelde’s performance against West Ham, the former striker told Football Insider: “It was brilliant to see him out there. He’s got a really good size to him, 19 years of age, left-sided centre-half.
“I thought he equipped himself really well against Michail Antonio. On the ball there were a few moments where the pass went astray, but at least he was trying to be brave and make the right passes.
“We’ve got another really good centre-half coming through in Hjelde, as well as Charlie Cresswell – who is out injured at the moment.
“These youngsters are impressing and I’ve got no doubt that if Hjelde were to be called upon again – he would do a good job.”
It is hard to argue with Whelan’s assessment of Hjelde here.
The teenager rarely looked out of place at the heart of Leeds’ defence on Sunday, and coped well with what was a strong West Ham attacking lineup.
As a result, you feel the Whites should be more than confident of turning to him to do a job again in the first-team in the future if neccessary.
Indeed, that could certainly be important when it comes to the club’s transfer plans, since it means they can focus their efforts on other areas of the pitch, with little need for another centre back.