By Noel Whelan

10th Jan, 2022 | 4:45pm

Whelan salutes 'next Van Dijk' after 'brilliant' Leeds development

Leo Hjelde “equipped himself really well” on his full Leeds United debut, according to Noel Whelan.

The former Whites striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, suggested the 18-year-old could do a “good job” if called upon again in the near future.

Hjelde was among three youngsters to be handed their first Leeds United starts as Marcelo Bielsa’s side fell 2-0 against West Ham in the FA Cup third round yesterday (9 January).

Lewis Bate and Sam Greenwood also featured from the start for the first time but were withdrawn on half-time with the Whites chasing the game.

Whelan hailed the “impressive” trio and singled out the Norweigan for praise.

“It was brilliant to see him out there,” he told Football Insider‘s Ewan Kingsbury.

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“He’s got a really good size to him, 19 years of age, left-sided centre-half.

“I thought he equipped himself really well against Michail Antonio. On the ball there were a few moments where the pass went astray, but at least he was trying to be brave and make the right passes.

“We’ve got another really good centre-half coming through in Hjelde, as well as Charlie Cresswell – who is out injured at the moment.

“These youngsters are impressing and I’ve got no doubt that if Hjelde were to be called upon again – he would do a good job.”

Hjelde signed for Leeds United from Celtic in August 2021.

John Hughes, who managed the centre-back at Ross County, branded him the “next Virgil van Dijk” in April of last year.

In other news, Leeds United star tipped to finalise new deal after update on Saturday.