Marcelo Bielsa's Leeds are winning friends & NOT points with trips to Elland Road now a far cry from days of Prem terror
AS WEST HAM fans prepared for the long trip to Leeds last Saturday, a chilling message appeared on Twitter.
It read: ‘If you’re on your way to Leeds today, stick together. It ain’t Butlins.’
The ominous post from an old streetwise fellow Hammer was a warning to expect an extremely hostile reception – that Leeds is a tough place to visit.
Well, at least that used to be the case.
But while it is not quite a holiday camp, an away day to Elland Road now isn’t quite so foreboding in many ways.
Leeds were once fun to dislike. They were dirty, they were arrogant, they were noisy – and they were good for a spell. A successful Millwall.
Rival supporters at certain clubs still sing about how they hate Leeds to either the Dambusters theme or ‘Tom Hark’ by ska influenced middle-of-the-roaders The Piranhas.
But like those weary terrace anthems, the image of Leeds as snarling, menacing and tough to beat is fading away.
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Not many people really hate Leeds anymore and it is a pity because it means something is going badly wrong.
West Ham went on to win 2-1 and have now won at Elland Road on their last two visits. Prior to that, they had only beaten Leeds once in 14 attempts anywhere, with Leeds scoring 25 goals.
Irons boss David Moyes has changed the outlook and the culture at West Ham.
Marcelo Bielsa has done the same but by turning his back on what made Leeds feared by opposition teams and police forces up and down the land.
In 1990, under Howard Wilkinson, a sullen Yorkshireman famous for his gruff ways and dour character, Leeds barrelled into the old Division One, ransacking Bournemouth as they clinched promotion.
They were champions of England two years later.
With Eric Cantona, David Batty and spiky Scot Gordon Strachan as Sergeant Wilko’s foot soldiers nobody dared get in their way.
Defeat to West Ham saw Leeds drop into the Premier League bottom three and there is an air of deflation about the team.
This is their second season back in the Premier League amid a sense of deflation when what is most needed is a strong leader to emerge on the pitch and on the touchline.
Don’t hold your breath waiting for Patrick Bamford to bully defenders into submission.
And while Kalvin Phillips can stick up for himself despite the man-bun, Leeds fans think he is not being played to the max in front of a defence which has the worst goal difference in the Premier League bar Norwich.
And when the manager still cannot utter a word of English more than three years after arriving in a flurry of orgasmic gasps from the broadsheet hipsters, things really are looking down.
Watching the fans erupt behind the goal on Saturday when Leeds took the lead against West Ham was a joy to watch for those of us who view modern football with all-seater stadiums and popcorn as drearily tame.
The fans still have the fervour and the fanaticism but that is not reflected elsewhere. And Bielsa is either losing perspective or is not getting the backing he deserves from above.
Against Fulham in the Carabao Cup ten days ago, the Championship hosts rotated their entire starting XI from the previous game.
Bielsa made just four changes from the side which fought out a draw at Newcastle – subjecting the spine of his team upon which survival depends to an extra shift in a tinpot competition.
That kind of overwork is only going to sap what fight there is in Leeds to stay up over the long haul.
A lot of people pretend to hate Leeds when what they really have is grudging respect. It is a club that should be in the Premier League and rubbing the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea up the wrong way.
There is a growing feeling that this is Bielsa’s last season as manager but if he leaves Leeds with them heading back down to the Championship that is nothing but sad.
And nobody will sing about that.
WIZZARD got it wrong. Who really wants it to be Christmas every day?
Apart from the fact flatulence from year-round Brussels sprouts would send climate change into overdrive, it just wouldn’t work.
December 25 would not be special and would seem like any other day.
For that reason alone, Arsene Wenger is wrong to suggest a World Cup every other year.
When a major tournament finishes, it feels like January 2. The next tournament seems light years away.
Then time rolls on and the build-up to the first game is like kids looking forward to Santa’s arrival.
If there was a major international tournament three years out of four, when combined with the Euros, people would get as bored with the World Cup as they are with the Champions League group stage.
FANCIFUL plans to let fans once more drink booze on the terraces is yet another disaster waiting to happen.
But with a populist Government on the back foot over Covid, petrol shortages, the NHS and Brexit, it’s a masterstroke of PR.
Former Sports Minister Tracey Crouch reckons this country is ready to lift the 1985 ban on taking beer to your seat brought in because fans did not know how to behave themselves properly.
Nothing has changed. In fact all-round behaviour is worse now than it was then — images of the Euro 2020 final mayhem at Wembley on July 11 remain a potent symbol of that.
Until football fans realise they are people, first and foremost, and that buying a ticket to a match should not transform them into baying banshees, nothing should change.
PEP GUARDIOLA’S 221st win since taking over at Manchester City makes him a record breaker.
It took him past the previous best of 220 achieved under Les McDowall.
According to BBC Sport last week, McDowall was ‘legendary’.
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McDowall was in charge for 13 years between 1950 and 1963.
In that time he won the FA Cup in 1956. Reckon Guardiola would get that long in the job if he delivered one measly pot?
The only thing legendary was the patience of the City board.
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