Leeds' Joe Gelhardt explains Sunderland transfer after turning down other Championship offers in January

Joe Gelhardt says he was immediately convinced to join Sunderland after a conversation with head coach Tony Mowbray – despite interest from other Championship clubs.

The 20-year-old forward joined the Black Cats on loan from Leeds until the end of the season and made his debut during a 1-1 draw against Millwall at The Den.

Wigan and Blackburn were both interested in Gelhardt during the January transfer, while there was also a late attempt from Middlesbrough to sign him.

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“I didn’t hear much about it to be honest until late on,” Gelhardt told the Echo when asked about interest from elsewhere.

Joe Gelhardt playing for Sunderland against Millwall. Picture by FRANK REID.Joe Gelhardt playing for Sunderland against Millwall. Picture by FRANK REID.
Joe Gelhardt playing for Sunderland against Millwall. Picture by FRANK REID.

“I heard there were a few clubs interested and there were a few I could choose from, but I met the manager here and he told me about the project and that was it from there.

“As soon as I had the conversation I knew I wanted to come here and I’m happy I made the decision, it’s a great club with big ambition.”

"Obviously as a young player it’s good to see the manager put trust in young players. The style of play and stuff it’s exciting and is something I’d like to be a part of.”

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Gelhardt signed for Sunderland a day before the club’s FA Cup tie at Fulham, when the Black Cats’ top scorer Ross Stewart suffered a season-ending injury.

Mowbray had hoped the pair could play together, with Gelhardt operating in a slightly deeper role as he did at Leeds.

But, after Sunderland failed to sign another striker on the final day of the transfer window, the 20-year-old is the squad’s only recognised centre-forward.

“I’m not completely sure,” replied Gelhardt when asked if his role could change following Stewart’s injury.

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“It’s unfortunate that Ross got injured because I’d have liked playing with him and saw how he played. I’d have loved to play off him.

“That’s football so if I have to try and do his job and score goals then yeah.”

After joining Leeds from Wigan in 2020, Gelhardt has already made 41 senior appearances for The White, with 35 coming in the Premier League.

The 20-year-old is therefore used to playing in front of big crowds and was impressed by Sunderland’s sold-out away following, of around 2,800, at Millwall.

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“At Leeds the fans help you ten times more and give you a chance in the game,” he added.

“Sometimes you think you’re down and out and it was exactly the same here, 1-0 down they were still singing and the support was incredible. I think they were a big part of why we got an equaliser.”

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And while Stewart’s injury setback has hindered Sunderland’s chances of reaching the play-offs this campaign, Gelhardt remains confident with 17 league games remaining.

“For me it’s just to play minutes,” the forward added when asked about his ambitions at Sunderland. “I want to get game time but also we’re not too far off the play-offs so why not? It would be stupid not to aim to get the club to the Premier League.

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“All the lads have been class, they’ve been welcoming ever since I joined on Friday.

“They’ve brought me in to be one of the lads and been very welcoming, and they are all good people as well as good players.”