Wigan Athletic starlet Joe Gelhardt aiming to be 'best I can be'
Wigan Athletic fans were treated to a glimpse into the future when Joe Gelhardt scored his first senior goal against Burnley earlier this month.
And it’s unlikely to be his last, with the 17-year-old having long-since been identified as the next big thing by the coaches in the Latics Academy.
Gelhardt’s development has been so rapid that Paul Cook admitted last week he – along with Jensen Weir – will be part of the Latics first-team squad this term rather than heading out on loan further down the food chain.
It was very much music to the down-to-earth Liverpudlian’s ears.
“When I saw the interview, I was made up to read what he’d said about me,” Gelhardt told the Wigan Observer.
“It’s been a great pre-season, but the hard work starts now if I want to stay in and around the squad.
“All I can do is my best, and that includes extras on the training ground to make sure I’m the best I can be.
“It’s obviously up to the gaffer, but all I can do is try my best when I do get chance to impress him and hopefully it’s enough.”
Gelhardt has already dipped his toe into Championship waters, making his debut – alongside Weir – as a second-half substitute at Birmingham in the penultimate game of last season.
“Birmingham on my debut was a blur,” he admits.
“It was a tough game, in front of all their fans and I just remember being very nervous.
“But I’m usually able to block out the crowd and concentrate on my own game.
“Looking down the fixture list there’s some absolutely massive clubs in the Championship, but I’m looking forward to it.
“When you hear the sound of a big crowd it brings an extra level out of you, a bit of extra energy, and you want to do more to impress them.”
It’s been impossible to separate Gelhardt and Weir in recent months, with their career trajectory running virtually parallel.
They also represented Latics at the Under-17s Euros in Ireland over the summer, although that experience was not an altogether enjoyable one.
“It wasn’t the best in terms of of the results,” Gelhardt recognised.
“We were in a very tough group along with France, Holland and Sweden, and unfortunately we didn’t make it through.
"But on the whole it was a great experience, in terms of seeing what it’s like at an international tournament.
“The Holland game in particular was hard, we were on the receiving end of a hefty score, 5-2.
“But the manager told us it was another mental test for us and something we could learn from.”
On his close pal, he adds: “Jensen’s a great lad, as well as being a great player, and he’s a big help for me.
“Hopefully he’ll be staying in and around it and we can spur each other on.”