Leeds United boss

Kevin Phillips has urged Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa to integrate teenager striker Joe Gelhardt into the first team.

The 2000 European Golden Shoe winner, speaking exclusively to Football Insider correspondent Dylan Childs, fears that the 18-year-old’s confidence could be ‘destroyed’ if not selected.

Gelhardt bagged a brace as Leeds’ under-23s side moved up to second place in the Premier League 2 table with an emphatic 4-1 win over Crystal Palace at Thorp Arch.

The near-£1million summer signing from Wigan Athletic has excelled for the Whites under-23 side this year but is yet to be involved with the first team.

Marcelo Bielsa revealed at his media conference today, as quoted by BBC journalist Adam Pope, that Gelhardt’s progress is pleasing him and he is among the 50 percent of Under-23s at the club ready for the first team ahead of their Saturday trip to Crystal Palace.

Asked for his verdict on Gelhardt, Phillips told Football Insider: “You cannot overlook a young player if he is doing consistently well for the under-23s. 

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“You destroy their confidence because when they come off they think, ‘What more can I do to get an opportunity?’ I have seen it before.

“If Bielsa consistently ignores Gelhardt he may go off the boil. Players can get disheartened and their performances drop.

“If he is on fire in the under-23s, why would you not just stick him on the bench? You do not have to play him but just give them the experience of travelling with the first team. I would like to see that with Gelhardt.

“Bamford is on fire right now so it would be hard to get in front of him but at some point this season I would like to see Gelhardt on the bench and even get 20 minutes if they are winning the game comfortably.

“It must be exciting for Bielsa and Leeds to have a young player like that performing.”  

In other Leeds United news, Victor Orta tipped to sign centre-mid in January window amid huge reveal.