By Noel Whelan

1st Feb, 2020 | 5:15pm

'Massive' - Exclusive: Whelan raves about Leeds player who started today

Noel Whelan has claimed that Pablo Hernandez “is “massive” for Leeds United in their bid for promotion, despite his unfortunate own goal against Wigan Athletic on Saturday.

Speaking exclusively to Football Insider the former Elland Road striker claimed that the veteran Spaniard is a “magician”, and that his presence could be key for the Whites over the rest of the season.

The 34-year-old was in the starting XI in today’s Championship clash against Wigan Athletic, but garnered the wrong kind of attention after he got the last touch off a Latics corner to inadvertently divert it into his own net to give the visitors the only goal of the game.

The own goal came after he hit his first strike since returning from a hamstring injury that ruled him out for a month over Christmas in the dramatic 3-2 midweek win over Millwall at Elland Road.

And Whelan is delighted to have him back in the side, even after today’s calamity.

“He’s massively important – is experience, his calmness on the ball, his leadership out there on the field, but more to the point, his quality that he brings to the team,” he told Football Insider

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“He’s a player who is involved in everything, he always wants the ball, he makes things happen. When Pablo Hernandez is clicking and firing, we’re firing.

“You can’t keep special players like that down for too long. He’s getting back into the groove again, you can see that, and he’s the one player with that exceptional bit of quality that can change the course of a game.

“To have him back, and to get a goal [against Millwall] as well, hopefully that gives him even more confidence because you know what he’s like, he’s a little magician.”

Hernandez’s goal against the Lions was his fourth of the season, and he also has four assists in his 21 outings for Marcelo Bielsa’s side. 

Since arriving at Elland Road, the playmaker has registered 31 goals and 34 assists in 142 appearances.

In other Leeds United news, ‘A farce’ – Exclusive: Fuming pundit urges EFL to take action after Whites win v Millwall.