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Master and Apprentice: Joe Gelhardt on Bamford, Bielsa and learning from the best

In a recent interview with Skrill, the Leeds under 23’s forward professed his admiration for a striker in the form of his life, and admitted learning a a lot from him throughout an incredible season.

Leeds United v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Photo by Lynne Cameron - Pool/Getty Images

38 games, 17 goals, 7 assists. A talismanic front-man for a newly-promoted Leeds United team that took the league by storm and finished 9th. The second most goal involvements (24) by an English player behind Harry Kane. Many fans, and pundits, shout for a call up to Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2020 squad in June. Not bad for someone who “wasn’t good enough to be a starter” eh?

Patrick Bamford’s first full season in the Premier League with Leeds has been nothing short of a revelation. Pre-season scepticism, whilst understandable to an extent, was almost instantaneously relinquished as the Whites front-man scored in the opener at Liverpool, then in the next two games against Fulham and Sheffield United, before slamming in an emphatic hat-trick a few weeks later at Aston Villa.

Putting goals and assists to one side, however, and those watching Bamford throughout the season have witnessed him develop into a truly all-round forward. Work-rate, positional intelligence, link-up play and run appreciation have been but a few areas in which the footballing world has lauded Bamford as one of the best in the league season. A season in which some have been watching closer than most.

Aston Villa v Leeds United - Premier League
Patrick Bamford claims the match ball after an emphatic hat-trick in Leeds’ 3-0 against Aston Villa.
Photo by Nick Potts - Pool/Getty Images

In a recent interview with Skrill, Leeds under 23’s striker Joe Gelhardt has opened up about a studious first season in West Yorkshire in which he has quickly become a talismanic figure himself for Mark Jackson’s side, scoring 11 goals during the Whites’ Premier League 2 Division 2 title winning season.

After signing for £1 million from Wigan last summer, as part of a major investment into the Leeds youth side that also included long-time friend Sam Greenwood and Cody Drameh, Gelhardt’s impact on the side’s attacking output has fuelled calls for the 19-year old to get his chance in the first team.

Yet to make the breakthrough, however, Gelhardt has been keeping his head down, working hard and arduously studying the man directly above him in the pecking order.

“His work rate and his ability to score goals is something to look up to straight away,” Gelhardt said when speaking about Bamford.

“It’s a motivation for yourself to ask: Could I do that? Could I try and implement some of the stuff that I haven’t got in my game that he has?

“If I’m watching a first team game, I’m always watching Pat the most, thinking: where can I improve my game to try and get in the squad a bit more and get a few minutes.”

Leeds United U23 v Wolverhampton Wanderers U23 - Under 18s Premier League
Gelhardt’s goals in Leeds’ under 23’s side have lead to calls for a first-team debut
Photo by Robbie Jay Barratt - AMA/Getty Images

The hard work is clearly paying off the young Liverpudlian - who has been likened in stature and skillset to fellow scouser Wayne Rooney - and his goals have been vital this season, but Gelhardt knows that the bar for first-team football is incredibly high and he is constantly absorbing information, from both Marcelo Bielsa and Bamford, to try to exceed expectations.

“I’m a player who likes to get on the ball, drop low, and try to dribble past a player,” says Gelhardt.

“What the manager’s told me is I need to add more in-behind runs to my game – short, sharp, and more sprints.

“I’ve tried to take that on board as much as I can, and I’ve tried to implement it. He’s a great manager with young players so everything he says you’ve got to take it on board.”

When it comes down to it, however, it’s often Bamford who becomes the main point of focus. “Obviously he’s had an amazing season scoring so many goals. What people sometimes don’t realise is the work rate that he’s got as well, how hard he works, how much he runs to get the ball back for the team, so we can go on and attack.” Gelhardt said.

With the summer break and subsequent pre-season training comes a fresh chance for Gelhardt to impress Bielsa, and opportunity to learn from Bamford as he has done all season. Leeds under 23’s will be in the Premier League 2 Division 1 next season, alongside the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea youth squads, and Gelhardt will no doubt play a pivotal role in Jackson’s plans for the season.

He will be hopeful of making that long awaited first-team debut also, and if he keeps developing at the rate he already has, that call up is bound to become inevitable.