There is a heady air of optimism hanging around LS11. It is almost palpable. There is an excited hum of anticipation amongst most Leeds United fans and bizarrely enough, some elements of the British sports press. This is the Bielsa effect, the Bielsa Buzz. I am going to abstain from all the apian puns / hive of activity etc. etc for the sake of sanity.
Comparisons could be drawn to last season, when under the tutelage of Thomas Christiansen, we also had an unbeaten start. But that is where the comparison pales into insignificance. The style and quality of the football that we are bearing witness to, is a million miles away from that. Plus, we are only at the second game. Is the best yet to come?
It is difficult to describe how this feels without using every cliche in the book. There appears to be more of a hunger to compete. A desire to win, but not just win, to excel. There seems to be a competitive edge to be fitter, stronger, faster and better. Something that seems to be drilled out of youngsters nowadays in the whole era of inclusive equality, for fear that someone may get a bit upset if they are told that the next guy who has put the extra effort in, will be rewarded when they aren’t.
So what is the Bielsa Buzz?
There is an aura, a presence, a sense of gravitas about him. Silent but deadly. But not in a menacing way. It’s done in a confident way which simply says, “I mean business”.
After the first of the Bielsa interviews, he was the laughing stock of SkyTVisf**kings**t and the BBC pundits. These fools, who mercilessly took cheap digs at the fact he “needed” an interpreter. These are the same “journalists” who lauded on the testimonials from Pep Guardiola and Pochettino, and then in the same breath, added the Snidley Whiplash comments about him jacking in the job at Lille. For starters, can you see an English speaking manager going to Spain/Argentina, and making the effort to learn the language to try to speak the local lingo for the native TV audiences? Ok, Roy Hodgson aside, not really. Secondly, the interviewers don’t really care what you say because they have already made their own minds up – so why bother? Treat them with the contempt they deserve. Thirdly – yeah – as if he can’t understand what you are saying. Who’s the fool now?
To those “journos”, I say, actions speak louder than words, my friends. When we go up as Champions in February, the silence will be thunderously deafening.
I, for one, would much much rather have a measured, well reasoned, deliberate response over the animated “its all Tom Lees’s fault / I’m gloating over a narrow one-nil victory” verbal “I like the sound of my own voice” diarrhoea barrage. I, for one, would rather see a calm and collected Bielsa sat on a bucket than an animated Klopp The Flop, gurning and gesticulating like a dog straining on a short leash (apologies to a dog).
Am I the only one sick of managers slagging off the refs/linesmen rather than fessing up to their own failures? Am I the only one sick of managers glorifying their dodgy last minute penalty in extra time results? Am I the only one sick of managers who think that sticking 10 men behind the ball constitutes a solid team display? I don’t think so. Admittedly, I don’t know how Bielsa will react should we lose a game, I’m hoping I never see that day anytime soon.
I like the way Bielsa has this no nonsense attitude. Just get on with it, play the game. No mad running-down-the-side-of-the-pitch-like-you-have-just-completed-the-treble goal celebrations, no high fives, no hugs and no kisses. After all, the Club is paying you to do your job, not advertise your potential to be the next Sports Personality Of the Year (not that it is much of a merit of an award when it is won by a certain “Mr SuperInjunction” G**gs). No extra plaudits and no post match back slapping congratulatory tweets. A healthy departure from the social media factions. No rehearsed, showcased soundbyte post match interviews. Just concentration, total concentration to the task at hand.
It’s refreshing to see this and long overdue. I am hoping Bielsa has the same attitude to the Cup games. I am hoping he will show the respect that the oldest competition in English football deserves. I am hoping that not only did he watch all the league games last season, but he watched the dismal performances in the Cups. I am hoping that the conclusions drawn from them and the devastating impact of fielding poorer sides in the Cups is realised , so making sure that history does not repeat itself.
I saw a flag at the Derby game which said “agents are poisonous”. I figured that it wasn’t referring to park benches in Salisbury, but more to this “overcommercialisation” of football (I don’t even know if that is a word, but you know what I mean). Agents and the media are responsible for the theft of football away from the fans. They are too busy lining their own pockets to think about the effect of obsessively hyping up the “worth” of footballers. It used to be about the skill on the pitch, now it’s more about shirt sales and sponsorship deals. It doesn’t matter that someone is a one trick pony, it is more important that he can sell dandruff shampoo or some other male grooming hipster products. It doesn’t matter that only one in five crosses is actually any good, it is more important that he has a million followers and his missus has appeared on celebrity big brother. It doesn’t matter that he can’t run half the length of the pitch without getting out of breath, because people are talking about his tattoos, his wedding was in OK magazine and he looks good on the front of FIFA 2019. “Sell-ability” over “football-ability” (again, apologies as this is not a word). I have no doubt that some agents are very good and only have their clients best interests at heart. Like most progressive 21st century modernities though, I am sure that there are the unscrupulous few, who would rather take their cut of the signing on fee and be happy watching their players warm the bench for 95% of the season at the “bigger” club, than watch the patient progression of a talented young player up through the youth ranks into the first team.
This is a sad testament to “Generation Swipe”. The “I Want It All Nows”. I don’t think it is necessarily greed that drives them and it probably isn’t that they are lazy, it is more that this instant gratification lark is instilled in them at an early age. It’s not just the players that would rather take the easy option and go somewhere else to get more money (even though it may mean that they never kick a competitive ball again) than stay where they are to become the finished article. There are many fans who would jump ship and abandon their home club to go support the more bigger famous ones, just because they can’t take the ups and downs. And, it’s not like we have never seen the top division clubs attempt to “buy the league” in this results based culture, rather than take the hard graft route. Which makes it even more laughable when they fail. Let’s see how Villa get on this year!
And here are the cliches…Patience is a virtue. Work hard, step up to the challenge, take responsibility for your own actions. Get back to basics. I was reminded by The Secretary that Bielsa seems to be doing what Herbert Chapman did way back when, getting the players fit enough to play football in the first place. To last out the 90 minutes, something that was sadly lacking in 80% of last seasons games. Tactical football to get that properly finished result – a great team display.
So, analogy for the sake of analogy, like bees working together in the hive to make honey for the common purpose – for the colony to survive… work hard for each other, play as a group for the one purpose – to win. Promotion by February please. No infighting, no personality clashes, no badge kissing just to further fans favour. Just work as one for the greater good. The epitome of the famous “SIDE BEFORE SELF”?
After all, you can make a T-E-A-M out of your mates!