Leeds United: Discovery of two new heroes adds to feelgood factor returning to Elland Road

THE art of management is concentrating on what you have as opposed to what you don’t have.

Ahead of this particular fixture, a light was shone on the attitude of mind of Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa and his Wolves counterpart Bruno Lage. The contrast was telling.

Asked about his decision to run with a squad of 18 senior players – and if it was essentially a mistake given his side’s current injury ailments – Bielsa opined that Leeds used the least amount of players and made the fewest changes to their starting XI in 2020-21 in a campaign when they suffered injuries but still managed to outrun all of their Premier League rivals en route to a top-10 finish.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Lage took a different view on his club’s own policy of running with a comparatively small squad. Without the services of Yerson Mosquera, Jonny Castro Otto, Pedro Neto and Macral, he had warned that Wolves couldn’t afford to lose any more players.

Rodrigo celebrates his equaliser for Leeds United against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Elland Road Picture: Bruce Rollinson

As head coach of a side with a chance of winning a fourth straight top-flight match for the first time since 1972, it was a surprisingly negative ‘glass-is-half empty’ mindset.

Wolves did not lose any more players, but on the day, Leeds did. By the end of it, the chatter was about two new heroes and more especially, a young, fresh-faced kid nicknamed Joffy.

For much of Saturday, the atmosphere at Elland Road was sober and restrained with home supporters perhaps contemplating a long winter ahead on an occasion when Leeds would trail for 84 minutes and look like suffering a fifth defeat in nine Premier League games in 2021-22.

Bielsa kept believing, even when Raphinha compounded another hard day at the office for United when he came off amid worrying scenes on 54 minutes.

DECISIVE MOMENT: Joe Gelhardt is brought down by Wolverhampton Wanderers' Nelson Samedo at Elland Road Picture Bruce Rollinson

A will-o-the-wisp winger in Crysencio Summerville was called for and just after the hour mark, it was the turn of a Scouse lad called Joe Gelhardt to enter the stage.

But at the end of the game, he and his team-mates were afforded a standing ovation and Gelhardt – aka Joffy – wore a smile that would light up Elland Road after earning the penalty which would secure Leeds a richly-deserved late point on his introduction to home supporters at LS11.

The teenager, nudged over by Nelson Semedo in the fourth minute of stoppage time – which enabled Rodrigo to restore parity and herald a bit of a love-in – said: “It was very good. To come on and make my home debut in front of the fans in the Premier League, the noise was crazy!

“I went a bit numb to be honest. When I heard the noise, all your tiredness goes away, you don’t feel tired you just feel ready.

Crysencio Summerville was a second-half substitute for Leeds United against Wolverhampton Wanderers at Elland Road Picture: Bruce Rollinson

“They are like a 12th man out there, you can really tell. It was a good point on the board, (and) the way we had them in the last 20 minutes, we could have had three on another day.

“I’d love to play more games here at Elland Road and in the Premier League in the future.”

Given Saturday’s events, there is a very good chance that he will.

The instructions that Gelhardt was given by Bielsa ahead of coming on just after the hour mark seemed considerable. The Argentine might as well have just said ‘wreak havoc’ which the 19-year-old definitely did in an absorbing final 15 minutes with fellow teen Summerville not too far behind.

Denied by a fine tip-over by Jose Sa, Gelhardt came back for more, firing a shot into the South Stand before wriggling into the box at the death and being nudged over by Semedo.

Referee Robert Jones had a think about it, pointed to the spot and Rodrigo calmly did the rest and Elland Road erupted in the most joyous on-pitch moment for Leeds fans in a difficult season.

Wolves, who had been on the precipice of making history with a fourth successive Premier League away win for the first time and securing a sixth consecutive victory over Leeds, only had themselves to blame.

After taking a 10th-minute lead courtesy of Hee-Chan Hwang’s close-range goal and looking comfortable at the break, Wolves grew increasingly complacent at a time when they had the chance to feast upon Leeds and go for the kill.

Symptomatic of their efforts arrived around 20 minutes from time when they were afforded a very dangerous free-kick, central in front of goal. Joao Moutinho spooned the effort aimlessly in the Kop and Leeds gradually started to believe.

Home fans sensed Leeds needed a bit extra and the vibrancy and pluck of Gelhardt and Summerville began to be bought into and the decibel levels increased and suddenly the hosts were onto something and it was a game.

It yielded a merited point by the end, yet Bielsa’s only grumble was it could have been all three.

For much of it, it looked like being another one of those days for Leeds and their head coach, with the tin lid on one of the toughest week’s of Bielsa’s reign seeming to arrive when Raphinha exited after coming off second best in a challenge with Romain Saiss.

Earlier, the sight of Kalvin Phillips’s name among the substitutes was a welcome one. But Hwang dampened the mood, seizing on the loose ball after Raul Jimenez’s shot was blocked after good work by Semedo, whose other contribution would be just as fateful.

The dancing feet of Raphinha always gave Leeds a chance. Without him, there did not look to be any. Fear not.

Bielsa – who kept Phillips on the bench – has never been prone to panic and sees things that others do not. Just two of the many reasons why he remains one of the greatest managers on the planet and Leeds should feel blessed to have him.