Noel Whelan has been left raving over the defensive performance of Jack Clarke after the winger was handed a start against Salford City.
Speaking exclusively to Football Insider, the former Leeds striker and lifelong supporter of the club admitted he was not certain the teenage attacker would be able to see out 90 minutes against the Ammies after playing in just the club’s pre-season fixtures.
Clarke played 70 minutes against the League Two side on the way to a 3-0 victory, his first competitive minutes after re-signing for the club on loan from new parent club Tottenham.
Whelan says he was impressed not with what the 18-year-old offered in attack but what he contributed in defence, heralding his passion and desire to track back and support Leif Davis on the left flank.
“What we did see was a young man that seems to have matured a bit from a season in the Championship,” Whelan told Football Insider.
“He seemed stronger on the ball, he wasn’t doing too much and we know what he can do. What he needed to do more of was defending through the 90 minutes. I wasn’t sure he could have done that, to be honest, with just a pre-season under his belt.
“Out of possession, wow. He was sprinting to get back, get the right side of the attackers and help Leif (Davis) out on the left-hand side. That was actually more pleasing to me because we now know he can put in 90 minutes of both sides of the game, which is more important when you’re out of possession.”
Clarke emerged as one of Leeds’ brightest prospects last season, playing a total of 25 times across all competitions for the Whites, scoring two goals and chipping in with two assists.
His performances earned him a transfer to Tottenham this summer, although he has returned to Leeds on a season-long loan.