Noel Whelan has praised the maturity of Leeds United winger Jack Clarke after he made his first Championship appearance of the season in the 2-1 win against Luton Town on Saturday.
With the sides drawing 1-1, Marcelo Bielsa brought the 18-year-old on to replace Tyler Roberts in the 71st minute as the Whites pushed for a winning goal.
They would find it in the 90th minute as a combination of Patrick Bamford and Matt Pearson directed Mateusz Klich’s low cross into the back of the net.
Clarke had little involvement in the winning goal but Saturday was a big moment for him as he featured in the league for the first time since rejoining the Yorkshire club on a season-long loan from Tottenham Hotspur.
The Leeds academy product joined Spurs in the summer for a reported fee of around £10 million and was sent back to Elland Road to gain some more first-team experience.
So far, that has been hard to come by and the teenager has been limited to two starts in the Carabao Cup and the substitute appearance on Saturday.
Speaking on BBC Radio Leeds, Whelan suggested he had been very impressed with Clarke, particularly with his maturity and game management.
He explained: “When he came on, you’re up against a wall of Luton players, players behind the ball. It’s difficult to try and get any kind of space to influence the game.
“But he showed maturity, not giving the ball away, keeping the ball at the right times especially at the end when we’ve gone 2-1 up.
“He had an opportunity to drive down into the corner, which he did. He didn’t try to do anything fancy, played it back to his teammate. We then kept it for another four or five passes.
“That shows a player who realises it’s about the game management, not about doing something tricky and for yourself down that wing.”
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Leeds now travel to Reading tomorrow night, knowing that a win could see them go top of the Championship.
It was not a hugely impressive performance from Clarke, who struggled to make much of an impact on the game but that is understandable given his time away from first-team action.
Whelan’s comments should be really encouraging for Whites fans as it shows that despite having very few opportunities, the teenager is a player who puts the team’s success first.
He didn’t try to be too flashy or try too hard to stand out, he ensured he acted in a way that would give Leeds the best chance of winning.
If he continues to see some action, there may still be hope of the 18-year-old staying for the whole season.