Noel Whelan has claimed Leeds United youngster Joe Gelhardt is close to earning a place on Marcelo Bielsa’s bench.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge, the former Leeds United striker and boyhood Whites fan insisted that the 18-year-old could turn out to be a “gem”.

As quoted by Leeds Live, Bielsa said on Friday that Gelhardt is “progressing” and that “around fifty per cent of the players in the under-23s can apply for a place on our team.”

The young forward moved from Wigan Athletic during the transfer window after the Latics entered administration.

Gelhardt has scored three times and provided one assist in six games for Leeds’ Under-23s in Premier League 2 this season.

And Whelan has been left impressed by the Englishman’s performances in the competition.

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He told Football Insider: He’s been fantastic with the Under-23s.

“I did think that when we bought him that he would be somebody that would be pushing for that first team.

“Marcelo Bielsa has seen exactly what he wants to see from him after what we paid for him.

“He’s in the Under-23s, progressing, scoring goals and pushing to get in that first-team squad.

“We don’t have an abundance of choices at centre-forward cover for Patrick Bamford and sometimes it’s nice to have that little bit something different, sitting on the bench.

“He looks a gem, hungry, and when you’ve got a hungry young player like that sitting on the bench he can be a matchwinner.”

Gelhardt was one of six young players that Leeds added to their Under-23 side during the summer after their academy was upgraded to category one.

He played 19 times for Wigan last season but only two of those were Championship starts.

In other news, Kevin Campbell has been wowed by a Leeds United 24-year-old who’s taken the Premier League by storm.