Noel Whelan has insisted that Jamie Shackleton is the solution to Leeds United’s defensive midfield problem this weekend.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, Whelan has urged Marcelo Bielsa to play the versatile 20-year-old in place of the suspended Kalvin Phillips.
The United midfielder will miss his first league match of the season as he sits out Saturday’s Yorkshire derby against Huddersfield after incurring a one-match suspension by collecting his fifth booking of the campaign last weekend.
Whelan has urged Bielsa to ignore the clamour to push Ben White forward into midfield, or re-deploy someone like Stuart Dallas.
“I would like to see Jamie Shackleton in the Kalvin Phillips role,” Whelan told Football Insider. “If he is fit, he would be the perfect replacement for Kalvin.
“He’s missed a lot of this season due to injury and having him back is like a new signing. He’s the answer to Marcelo Bielsa’s prayers.
“He’s got the energy, intelligence, work-rate, mobility, passing range and aggression to play the defensive midfield role.
“Kalvin is a massive loss, no doubt about that. He’s the best defensive midfielder in the Championship.
“Jamie Shackleton is good enough to replace him. He was fit last week and wasn’t on the bench on Saturday. We’re unsure what’s wrong with him, but it would be brilliant to see him back in the team.”
Shackleton, who turned 20 in October, has made only four league starts among nine appearances this season.
He has been unavailable for a big chunk of the campaign, failing to make seven of their last eight matchday squads for league fixtures.
In other Leeds United news, there are growing whispers from Elland Road that Victor Orta is looking at three potential January signings.