Whelan tips Leeds 'Kid' for starting XI early next season thanks to Koch

Noel Whelan has tipped Pascal Struijk to be battling for a place in the Leeds United starting XI from the start of next season.

The former Leeds striker, speaking exclusively to Football Insider, admitted the 21-year-old “kid” had enjoyed a stratospheric rise at Elland Road this term.

The versatile enforcer has managed to make 17 starts in 20 Premier League appearances, primarily due to teammates suffering injury or illness.

The likes of Liam Cooper, Diego Llorente and Robin Koch have all missed eight or more games, giving Struijk an opportunity to impress.

Prior to the start of the campaign, the Belgium-born defender had made just five Championship appearances for the Whites.

However, after a series of impressive performances, Whelan suggested Struijk should be fighting for a regular starting role.

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Whelan told Football Insider assistant editor Russell Edge: “I mean he’s getting recognition from the Belgian national side under Martinez.

“That shows enough progress and potential to the manager and Leeds United to how important this kid is to us.

“He’s got a great future ahead of him. He’s aggressive, he’s dominant in the air and he’s got two good feet. He keeps getting better and better in that position.

“Struijk’s only going to get better as well now that Koch and Llorente are fit.

“He’s training next to them and he’ll be having a look at them. They’ll be getting to know each other a little bit better on the training ground. That will then progress on to first-team level on match day.

“There are lots of positives with him. He’s definitely, for me, one, that should be pushing to start the season next year.”

In other news, Leeds United urged to reignite hunt for £20-25million-rated forward