Leeds’ 19-year-old forward Gelhardt has been compared to Wayne Rooney and draws inspiration from a number of sources including Lionel Messi in his bid to make the grade at Elland Road
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Joe Gelhardt became Leeds’ latest goalscoring hero with his dramatic stoppage-time winner against Norwich.
Gelhardt has also netted against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League and Leeds fans love his confident, direct style. The teenage striker has been likened to Wayne Rooney because of his physique and the fact he is from Liverpool, but he says he modelled himself on a legendary striker from the other side of Stanley Park.
Gelhardt, 19, grew up supporting Liverpool and says Fernando Torres was his big hero. He had his name on the back of his Liverpool shirt and he adored the Spanish hitman. He watched him star for Rafa Benitez’s great side, which went so close to winning the Premier League in 2009, and says he tried to copy his style of play.
Gelhardt also studied Lionel Messi when he was younger and still marvels at clips of the Argentina star on YouTube. “Growing up, I was a big Liverpool fan, so the one player for me was Fernando Torres,” he said.
“When he there, I used to love him. I had his name on the back of my kits and he was my favourite player, so I tried to copy some of his play. Then, of course, there’s Lionel Messi.
“He’s probably a favourite for most people. Even now, I can still jump on YouTube and watch videos of him for 20 minutes, sitting there and seeing how good he was.”
Gelhardt came through the ranks at Wigan before Leeds signed him in August 2020 and says he actually started out as a goalkeeper. He claims there were perks to playing in goal because his dad would pass him an ice cream or drink while his team were up the other end, attacking.
“It was great because my dad would stay behind my goal with an ice cream or a can of pop and when our team was attacking up the pitch, I’d just be eating my ice cream,” he said. “If we lost the ball, I had to quickly give it back to my dad so we could defend.
“Maybe that’s why I enjoyed football early on! Then I played outfield one day and scored a hat-trick, so they kept me out of goal after that.”
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Gelhardt, who earned his first England Under-21 call-up in October, is enjoying working with Jesse Marsch and says the players have been blown away by him. Marsch has engineered a revival at Elland Road since replacing Marcelo Bielsa at the end of February and Leeds have taken seven points from their last three games to climb towards safety.
Marsch is much more hands-on than Bielsa and Gelhardt says the players love his man-management style. He also says they have quickly got used to his different tactics and he prefers to press at specific times rather than mark man-for-man like Bielsa did.
“It’s been great,” said the striker. “He’s a great manager. His tactics and the way he comes across with his ideas, you can be sat there and just think ‘wow!’, especially when you then go out on the training pitch and put it all together.
“We were man for man before, so the change was hard at first, but we did sessions and drills based on trying to get out of that and learn his play. It’s been great since he’s come in and all the lads are on board with his ideas.”