Leeds United product Jamie Shackleton must play on Marcelo Bielsa’s fear to strike a key role for himself in the Whites’ trip to Stoke City on Saturday.
The boss is currently waiting to find out the full extent of Stuart Dallas’ injury, after he was forced to haul the 28-year-old off the field in Wednesday night’s victory over Brentford in the 78th minute.
Dallas was a doubt for the Bees clash going into the tie, but passed a late fitness test along with Ezgjan Alioski and Liam Cooper to be included in the starting XI, although what damage that may have caused the Cookstown-born ace remains to be seen.
Speaking after the narrow win, Bielsa confirmed his fears that Dallas’ departure from the action was due to an emerging injury.
“I think so, but I don’t know the importance of the injury,” the Argentine reluctantly noted, as quoted by the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“Dallas is a player that has been an important player because he defends well. He acts with surprise, and he has a winger’s cross, so he is a player that is solving a lot of problems with the skills that he has.”
If the versatile Northern Ireland international is a doubt for our trip to Stoke on Saturday, Shackleton must play on the situation and stake his claim for a starting role at the bet365 Stadium having been overlooked against Brentford, despite initial hints that he was first in line to succeed Dallas.
The £1,500-a-week teenager showed his ability in the role on numerous occasions last term, and again at Salford City in the Carabao Cup earlier this month, as Bielsa drafted the natural midfielder into his defensive ranks.
In total, the boss fielded the 19-year-old at right-back 20 times in the Championship last season – for a total of 505 minutes. Among those, he averaged a successful tackle every 38.8 minutes and completed a pass every 2.5, along with a clearance every 72.1 and attempted an aerial duel every 21 minutes.
However, irrespective of his efforts, Shackleton is yet to make a noteworthy appearance in the Championship this season with just a single minute to his name. But heightened doubt over Dallas’ fitness could be the spark that leads to more.