The Bielsa Buzz

Posted by on Aug 13, 2018 in Blog | 0 comments

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!


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Welcome back Simon.

Posted by on Aug 1, 2018 in News and Events | 0 comments

I while ago, I made a promise that I would write this, in the hope that I would eventually write it. After 12 months, true to my word, I have. Welcome back (home) Simon.

For those of you who are unaware, Harrogate Whites have a long standing affinity with our Scottish neighbours in Falkirk. This goes back some 30 years, when the (young) Branch Secretary made his way up to Falkirk to find some football to watch after one of our games got cancelled in 1989. He found his way to Elliots Pub in Falkirk and was met by some very friendly locals who were a bit surprised that someone would travel so far just to watch a Scottish 1st Division (those were the days) game. A lasting friendship was struck in Elliots that day. Since then, when fixtures have allowed, The Secretary, The Chairman and various branch members, old and new ( Mr Smith, Mr Charles, The Jap, Chris, Sonia and The MPO)  have made many, many sojourns to Brockville (now Morrisions car park) and since 2004, the shiny new Falkirk stadium, to watch The Mighty Bairns. This was reciprocated by the Falkirk faithful, who vice versa, travelled to Leeds, to cheer on the Mighty Whites, when their games were similarly altered. Pre SkyTVis f**kings**t meddling with our games, planning ahead for fitting in Scottish football was easy, now that we are permanently on the telly, recent trips have been scarce.

You cannot put a number to the many happy memories of day trips and rough mornings after late nights at Elliots (aka the Graeme Hotel) and The Red Lion at Larbert (now a chinese emporium) in the fantastic company of our Falkirk family, led by the inimitable motormouth Brian “your team’s shite” Stuart. Now there’s a man who knows how to run a football bus or three! The people of Falkirk simply refer to us as ” The Leeds” and have welcomed us with open arms at every establishment and watering hole for decades. Not just at Elliots, but to name just a few, Behind The Wall, The Tav, The Drookit Duck, Noors (home of the midnight munchy box) and of course The Mill Inn (Chris and Sonia’s favourite) second only to The Co-op. Probably should mention and thank the usual suspects, Andrew (Bodger) and Matty Gardner, Fraser (Housty), Davy Bell, Evil Dave, Ross and young George, Norrie, Bep, Dak (incl. everyone connected with nU2), Lesley, Des, Stevie, The Seals, Brian Flynn from BTW, Big Willy, Lieutenant Stardust , Billy, Wheezy, Munroe, Marsh, Derek (incl Razur Cuts) etc. etc. for their excellent company. Not forgetting the big man himself, Brian Stuart, and old Jim and the staff at Elliots. I have missed out many more but you all know that you have been a big part of our lives. I just need to finish with the Quote of The Century by Bep, ” I just had a Brian Stuart 15 minute tirade, he must have said a million words, of which I understood  10″.

So, to Simon.

Simon Barker is 21 and has been a Leeds United fan all his life. Simon was affectionately known as “Wee Jinxie” in his younger days for his uncanny ability to end a team’s winning run, just by purely turning up. Simon bore his tag with good humour, or at least as much as he could, whilst being surrounded by his merry father, Alan Barker, and his dad’s (even merrier) mates. As he grew up, the curse lifted and basically since the age of about 8, Simon has been the responsible adult in the group, supervising the trips from Falkirk to Leeds. After we won promotion against Bristol Rovers, Simon had to escort his father off the pitch. Alan was further reprimanded by another Simon,  Mr Simon Grayson, for his efforts that day, when Leeds played Falkirk in a friendly later that year. As a mark of Simon’s dedication as his father’s carer, he would benefit from periodic gifts from us, of Leeds United and LUSC memorabilia in the form of badges, wallets, scarves and copies of TSB and programmes etc. This has continued, despite the thousands of miles between us, after Alan decided to emigrate to Australia in 2013.

In July 2017, we received the sad news that Simon had been involved in a road traffic accident in Queensland. We were told he was in a coma and may not make it. He had suffered a traumatic brain injury and was treated at the roadside for an hour before he was stable enough to be moved to the Intensive Care Unit at Gold Coast University Hospital. Simon underwent 7 hours of brain surgery to treat the bleeding and swelling on his brain. He also sustained a broken neck, a ruptured spleen, blood clots on his lungs as well as the fact that most of his skull was missing. Simon was in a coma for the best part of four weeks.  Alan kept us updated, but Simon couldn’t speak, eat or hardly move and at the time, all we could do was send our thoughts to Alan, mum Linda and his sister Grace. In late August 2017, Simon was moved to the Brain Injury Rehab Unit in Brisbane, where he has learnt to walk and talk again. We, and most of the Falkirk family, were kept updated with photos on social media and #teamsimon. In September 2017, Simon was discharged home from hospital, with a view to returning for another operation to repair the skull damage. This operation was completed in May 2018, and as promised whilst Simon was in ICU, Alan is bringing Simon back to the UK, back to Falkirk, and more importantly, back to Elland Road.

Simon and his family have been through so much in the last 12 months, they have battled through it with courage and bravery. Hopefully if all goes to plan, Simon and Alan, along with a few more of the Falkirk Crew, will be here on August 18th for the Rotherham game. Last season, when the new (figure fitting) shirts came out, we sent one out to Simon, along with a few other treasures, and a scarf (!) in the post. It eventually got to him in November 2017 via snail mail. Alan said he wore it straight away and then asked for it to be washed, so he could wear it the next day as well. We received a video of Simon, thanking us for his gifts and an out-take of it. I have it on good faith that this was the first time Simon had laughed so much since his accident.

On behalf of Alan and his family, the branch would like to thank Phil (first man on the scene) and Queensland Emergency Services, the surgeons and staff at Gold Coast University Hospital Intensive Care Unit and all the staff at Brisbane Brain Injury Rehab Unit without whom Simon would simply not be here.

The montage of pictures below have been kindly used, with Alan’s permission, to show Simon’s courage in battling through this last year, and just how much it means to be Leeds, Leeds, Leeds. Welcome back, Simon.

Leeds Leeds Leeds

Alan and Grace taking Simon for a spin


Ready and raring to go


Walking on his own


The cop who saved Simon’s life. Thank you Sir.


May 2018


Awake after skull op


Thanks to the players and staff at Falkirk Football Club. #TEAMSIMON

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