What Leo Hjelde’s former manager said about ex-Leeds defender and new Sunderland signing
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Sunderland have announced the signing of Norwegian defender Leo Hjelde on a permanent deal from Leeds United.
The 20-year-old has departed Leeds after spending two-and-a-half years in West Yorkshire, but has only made one league start this season, playing most of his football for the Whites’ under-21 set-up. Much of his senior football came during a loan spell at Rotherham, Hjelde regularly playing in the left-back role.
During his time at the club, then-manager Matt Taylor spoke in depth about Hjelde, his impact and what the future may hold for the Norwegian. Taylor said: “He learnt a lot from the games, the opposition and his teammates. He learnt how he's got to be physical first and foremost and has got to keep being a front-foot player.
“He plays better when he's on his front foot and meeting the action at its earliest possible point. There's also all the inner details of defending the back post and marking on set-pieces. He's having to mark players who are physically stronger than himself. That's something he won't have done previously.”
Despite being utilised in the left-back role during his period at Rotherham, for Leeds’ under-21's, he has been predominantly used as a left-sided centre-back, and during his interview about the Norwegian, Taylor explained how he believes that Hjelde hasn’t fully developed into a centre-back just yet.
The former Rotherham manager said: “He's not a centre-back yet. I expect that when he gets to the middle part of his career, he'll be able to play in the middle of the pitch.
“In relation to the Championship and the physical nature of the opposition centre-forwards, he's not there yet. He will probably play the majority of his career in a more central position.
“For ourselves, left-back definitely suited him. The left of a back three would suit him, as would left wing-back. He needs to be more on the outside just to offset a bit of the crash, bang, wallop which happens in the middle of the defence in every single game at Championship level.”
Hjelde is available for his Sunderland debut in Sunday’s local clash with Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium, as he looks to start his Wearside career.