Our quest to get back into the Premier League has enough riding on it with the potential permutations of losing Marcelo Bielsa, but Noel Whelan has told Football Insider that he fears failing to go up may also lead to an effortlessly talented youngster leaving Elland Road.
Whelan was talking about Jack Clarke, who burst out of our academy under the boss to make an instant impact in the senior side, with the match-winning assist against Sheffield United, and a game-changing goal at Villa Park.
He has struggled to return to his early-season form since collapsing on the bench at Middlesbrough, though, with the teenage winger only able to make five sub-26 minute outings in the Championship since.
That has not put Premier League sides off a potential swoop on Elland Road for the 18-year-old, who is out of contract in 2021, with Bournemouth recently tipped to be preparing a £10million offer for the summer, following intrigue by Liverpool, Southampton and Crystal Palace – the latter two both saw bids rejected in January.
Failing to secure top-flight football for our centenary campaign, then, could be the tipping point in Clarke moving on from his childhood side, as far as Whelan is concerned.
“He’s quite a player, he really is,” he said.
“At the minute I would say he’s better as an impact player, coming off the bench second half when teams are a little bit tired.
“He has got a great ability to glide past players. I don’t think I’ve seen a winger really as talented as that, where it looks effortless, just to take somebody on and he really does get you on the edge of your seat. He’s one of those exciting players.
“He’s only going to get better, but once again, a player we can only enjoy if we go into the Premier League because there’s teams sniffing around him.”