By support

19th Nov, 2016 | 3:47pm

Andy Ritchie identifies unsung Leeds hero ahead of Newcastle clash

By Will Butcher

Andy Ritchie has lauded Leeds star Eunan O’Kane after a superb start to the player’s Elland Road career.

The 26-year-old midfielder has been one of the first names on Garry Monk’s team sheet this season, and is expected to start against Newcastle on Sunday despite a slight injury scare.

Writing in his Yorkshire Evening Post column, former Leeds star Ritchie claims that his hard work has been deserving of the man of the match award on multiple occasions.

“If Eunan O’Kane is out injured for Leeds then we might be looking at two youngsters in Kalvin Phillips and Ronaldo Vieira in midfield,” Ritchie said.

“It will be a little bit of a setback if O’Kane isn’t there. He’s one of those who pops up everywhere and I have been very impressed with his energy and what he has done for the team.

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“People may not have gone ‘wow, he was man of the match’ but there are times when he probably was in terms of what he did.”

The summer signing has made 11 league and cup appearances for the Yorkshire giants this term, and his impressive form has been noticed by Ireland manager Martin O’Neill, who handed the Leeds player a cap against Moldova in October.

O’Kane has been relied upon as one of the senior members of the Leeds side, thriving in the absence of captain and central-midfield partner Liam Bridcutt, who was ruled out in September with a broken foot.

The former Bournemouth star has been a mainstay of Monk’s side, and has been a key figure in Leeds’ change of fortunes that sees them sit in sixth place in the Championship.

A win against the Toon for O’Kane and company could see Leeds move up to a lofty third place, if other results this weekend go their way.

In other Leeds news, Bridcutt has received some bad news as he looks to recover from his injury.