West Ham United v Leeds United: The Emirates FA Cup Third Round
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Beckford reacts to Leo Hjelde displays for Leeds vs West Ham

Jermaine Beckford has told The Leeds United podcast that he has been hugely impressed by the performances of Leo Hjelde after the teenager appeared in both games against West Ham this month.

Hjelde went into this month still awaiting the chance to make his senior debut for Marcelo Bielsa’s side. But with Leeds continuing to deal with a raft of injuries, the 18-year-old was named in the starting lineup for the FA Cup tie at the London Stadium.

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Leeds were beaten on that occasion. But the former Celtic man was superb at centre-back.

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‘What a player’

Unsurprisingly, he was named on the bench for the Premier League clash between the same two clubs. But with Junior Firpo needing to come off during the first-half, Hjelde got the chance to make his bow in that competition also.

This time, the summer signing was deployed at left-back. And once again, he did not look out of place in the slightest. He looked composed on the ball. And he continually seemed to make the right decisions up against an impressive West Ham forward line.

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Obviously, Jack Harrison was the star of the show with his hat-trick. Meanwhile, Raphinha looked to be back to his best in the victory. But Beckford wanted to pick out Hjelde for praise following the win.

“The young boy, Hjelde when he came on as well, what a player he’s looking by the way,” he told The Leeds United Podcast. “I don’t want to put too much pressure on him. But that’s twice we’ve seen him, twice we’ve seen him against West Ham, against a very physical, very strong, very quick centre forward in Michail Antonio and a tricky player in Jarrod Bowen.

“I don’t want to say he had them in his pocket, but I think he did.”

Hjelde the latest to help make centre-back a real position of strength for Leeds

When Leeds were promoted, they appeared to have major problems at centre-back. Gaetano Berardi had sustained a long-term injury. And signing Ben White off the back of his loan spell was unachievable.

Both Robin Koch and Diego Llorente endured lengthy periods on the sidelines following their arrivals. And Bielsa often had to rely on the likes of Luke Ayling and Pascal Struijk during their first season in the top-flight. Struijk had not made a single league start at centre-back before the opening day clash with Liverpool.

Now however, centre-back looks to be a position of real strength for Leeds. Liam Cooper was playing some his best football for the club before his injury. Meanwhile, Koch and Struijk have now returned. And Llorente has been superb for much of his spell.

Charlie Cresswell added himself to the mix in the reverse fixture with West Ham.

And now, Hjelde has put himself right in the pecking order.

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