Academy Watch: Shackleton, Gelhardt and Greenwood are future stars

One of the most exciting things to do as a football fan is look at the young talent in your squad and contemplate where they might take your team in the future.

Right now, English football is brimming with stars of the future and Leeds is no different with a number of youngsters knocking on the door of the first team boasting impressive skills, styles and stats which could very well see them become mainstays of the first teams in the years to come.

Today, we’re zoning in on young trio Joe Gelhardt, Sam Greenwood and Jamie Shackleton all of whom could figure in a forward thinking attacking six in the years to come should Marcelo Bielsa remain or the club or at least his philosophies are maintained beyond his departure.

Gelhardt and Greenwood are both promising attackers whilst Shackleton has the potential to be a well-rounded midfielder. Together the three could establish a sturdy spine for Leeds to build around as a club once synonymous with the Premier League looks to become a mainstay in the top flight once more.

Joe Gelhardt

Despite being 18, Gelhardt has played first team football. The Liverpool-born striker debuted for Wigan’s first team back in August 2018 at the age of just 16. Athletic were sorry to see the starlet leave after he’d already impressed in 18 appearances for the club. He’s also enjoyed success at international level for the England teams from Under 16s all the way up to the Under 19s with a call-up to the Under 20s expected soon. On the international stage, he averages 1.8 shots per game and boasts an intriguing pass success rate. He completes just under 70% of his passes in an England shirt which may seem poor on paper but it suggests that the youngster is looking to create attacking opportunities for others which is a key part of being a modern striker.

It makes his comparison to Wayne Rooney all the more interesting. The link to Rooney is down to Gelhardt’s tenacity, physicality and willingness to put himself about in the box and score goals on the back of it. Thus, it’s interesting to note that he’s already beginning to evolve the passing side of his game which became a fixture of Rooney’s style later in his career. That said, it still needs some work if he wants to use that element of his game at a senior level because at the moment it leaves a lot to be desired in terms of completion rate.

That said, his long shots – another attribute we used to see in Rooney’s game – is something to behold. A skill we see less and less of in the top flight, perhaps he could see it become a prominent fixture of Leeds’ attack in the years to come.

That said, he’s also deadly in the box. Even at 16, he had a wide build making him intimidating and difficult to stop. However, his strength is complimented by a sharpness and speed of thought which often culminates in quick turns catching defenders cold.

With a killer left foot, he’s a nightmare for defences when he cuts in from the right meaning we could see him develop into a winger akin to Mo Salah or Leeds’ own Raphinha over the next few years. He certainly has the tenacity for it often showing great strength to push beyond defenders to come inside and shoot whilst we can also see his power in broken play when the ball is kicked up field and he wrestles it away from defences. This attribute could be moulded into a key facet of Leeds’ signature high press.

That said, since joining Leeds he’s played a lot of football down the middle of the field as a number nine utilising his strength to support the press from the likes of Sam Greenwood and feed others in behind whilst also dropping into spaces and seeking out opportunities himself. The best example of this is his hat-trick against West Brom last season in which he also showed his confidence from the penalty spot.

Sam Greenwood

Competing with Gelhardt or potentially complimenting him in the future will be fellow young striker Sam Greenwood. The 19-year-old is also yet to make his Premier League debut but is also highly thought of by those at Leeds United. The former Arsenal and Sunderland youngster impressed in the Premier League 2 scoring 8 times in just 15 games last season and also made his first team debut in the FA Cup.

In some ways you could argue that Greenwood is a more complete player than Gelhardt. Gelhardt clearly has an attacking mindset and often looks to feed others in behind, but his bread and butter is scoring goals and that’s why he’s excelled with the number nine shirt on his back in the academy.

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Meanwhile Greenwood wears the number 10 which of course traditionally connotes a wider skillset which we’ve since seen him show. Capable of dropping deeper and conjuring up chances for others or using the space between defence and midfield to torment teams with probing runs or long range shots, he’s become the perfect foil to Geldhart.

He’s also got a killer free kick displaying masterful technique to find the top corner again and again. Good free kick takers never go out of style and it adds another element to his already exciting game.

He’s so skilled that he can even drop deeper into midfield occupying a number eight role providing attacking intent from deep. This also speaks to his physical attributes as well as his wide skillset which includes a killer pass, vision and great dribbling ability.

When occupying this deeper role, he doesn’t shy away from his defensive duties going from box to box supporting his back four as well as those ahead of him in attack.

Jamie Shackleton

Already impressing in the Premier League is young Jamie Shackleton. The midfielder has made 13 appearances for Leeds in the top flight this year and has never looked out of place.

As you’d expect from any modern midfielder, he’s defensively sound completing over half of his tackles. He’s also very accomplished at interceptions making almost as many intercepts as tackles in the Premier League which shows the intelligence of his game.

One area he’ll hope to improve is his duals won-lost record. Currently, he loses duals over 50% of the time which is something which only worsens in the air. In the Premier League this season, he didn’t win a single aerial battle losing all six he contested.

That said, he has obvious tenacity, a solid tackle and an eye for an intercept so it’s clear that the bare bones of the defensive side of the game are already well fleshed out.

An allrounder, his attacking stats are equally eye catching. His crosses are very accomplished for a young player in the top tier reaching their target 50% of the time. He also racked up the passes even when coming off the bench averaging 14 per game.

Passing is one of the best elements of his game both for the academy and first team. He’s always looking for a penetrating pass in behind or a little lay-off which can open up the field.

His lay-offs are particularly effective when coming off the right and feeding the ball into play which was a key feature when he figured in Leeds’ Championship days.

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