Tuesday, March 01, 2022

GUEST POST The Bielsa dream is over

Stuart Whomsley
mourns the sacking of Leeds United's manager and what it means for the club's future

Leeds is a smaller place today. The big metropolitan sprawl of the city will be shrinking in on itself; the dark brooding moors looking down upon it in contempt; the dark satanic mills, more satanic than ever. The armour in the Royal Armouries will be tarnished. Leeds faced a test, and Leeds failed that test. Marcelo Bielsa is gone. 

Leeds should have shown more respect for Bielsa and what he did for them. Not only did he get Leeds up, but he brought joy in the way his teams play. Leeds should have shown more loyalty; not blind loyalty, but loyalty with an evidence base. 

Evidence base, part one: just look at the March fixtures that Leeds will face; they include Aston Villa and Norwich at home, and Leicester away. On 10 March Garth Bamford and Kalvin Philips return from injury, and just look at the form of Norwich, Watford, Everton and Brentford. Leeds were likely to stay up. 

Evidence base, part two: if you look through the Leeds results of the season so far, only the losses to Everton and Newcastle were bad results in terms of points. If you lose 10-0 or 1-0 against Liverpool and Man City it is the same in points. The very best sides would always hammer a Bielsa Leeds, particularly one with key players injured. Those were not the games that mattered. 

So heart and head should have said stay with Bielsa. But he is gone and Leeds are no longer special. They are sort of a Southampton, a Crystal Palace.

Being brought up as a Nottingham Forest supporter it may seem odd that I was showing an interest in another club, and in Leeds of all clubs. Leeds, The Damned United. But it was always a Marcelo Bielsa, not a Leeds thing. Now I return to my natural state of hating Leeds. Dirty Leeds. I hope they go down.

However, as someone whose introduction to football was Brian Clough it is perhaps not hard to see the appeal of Bielsa to me: both men who as a football manager had a vision for the game which went beyond results. Both football managers who had an ethos for life that went beyond the game. Both men are legendary for their many, usually unseen, charitable acts. Both men who could make you smile, could make you laugh. 

I once found my wife in bed laughing hysterically. It turned out that she was reading some of the things that Bielsa had done and said in the past: how after a loss he had asked another coach if at such times he did not think of suicide, how he challenged some angry fans outside his home with what looked like a hand grenade, his retreat to a monastery.

So the painting of Marcelo Bielsa is still above the mantlepiece and the statue of Bielsa is still on it. I guess we too shall show some adjustment and they will move elsewhere in the house. 

Last Saturday I was bouncing up and down in the Trent End at Nottingham Forest as the new Nottingham Forest manager, Steve Cooper, gave us his now famous fist pump after a win. Yes, thank goodness for Steve Cooper.

You can follow Stuart Whomsley on Twitter.

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