It’s been a short summer since the day Newcastle kept us up, and I’m wondering is the time right for a clean slate?
You’d think that it would be the de facto stance from our board, albeit with new manager. Yes, a clean slate to start again. Indeed, I think it was announced just after the end of the season that Leeds United were getting the loanees back to offer them the chance of a clean slate. All those players who were “out of favour” with Bielsa were allegedly all brought back to ER and an olive branch was extended.
A second chance to prove themselves. You must remember all the talk about Bielsa “losing the dressing room” and “not playing the Youth” etc. etc. etc. How can you forget how our league position was laid entirely at the feet of Bielsa? It was Bielsa’s style of play, his stubborness, his poor team selection, refusal to play the U23s, his continued reluctance to go to Plan B, that was at fault. Nothing to do with the obscene injury list and players who just couldn’t perform on the day.
Although it must seem like a daydream now to those who have conveniently forgotten the terrible run in at the end of the season. Most will have forgotten when we hit the relegation zone. When our fate was taken out of our hands until the last day when Newcastle saved us from the drop. I saw many of the pictures on social media with our new manager’s face superimposed onto Steve McQueen’s in that great film, I wasn’t impressed.
Many said that I was not being fair. I should be glad that he’d done enough to keep us up. He’d only been given 12 games. But the games against Villa and Southampton at home and Palace away, gave me enough insight into his tactics. I knew it would go down to the final game and we would be praying for assistance from The Bar Codes. Relying on The Geordies to win? Every person I saw at the Brentford Community Stadium was anxious until the final minute. Even after Canos got sent off, it was still touch and go. The last 15 minutes seemed like they were never going to end.
But true to form, Leeds fans went from one extreme to the other within a short 5 days. Less than a week before the Brentford game, most of us had resigned to losing Kalv and Raphinha. Most fans had written the team off. Most had decided that the players just weren’t good enough and would never get us out of the Championship again. Many had decided once we got relegated we needed to ditch the old wood and start again with the U23 side and the residue of players that wouldn’t have left to join richer clubs in the PL. Within days of us staying up, fans were saying we should get Haaland. His lad, not Alfie. All of a sudden we had gone from Championship no hopers (again) to spending millions to get us into Europe. With the same team. Lawks a luvvy!
How things change though!
Despite the video, showing Kalv just after Christmas 2021
we knew Brighton would be his last game at ER in our colours. Most have forgotten this video above. Kalvin won’t have though. Probably be embarrassed with this to his dying day. It’ll be wiped soon to save some blushes, however, here is a still from it
Yep. The social media age, Generation Swipe. It was said, “Never in history has so much been documented, by so many, about so little of any consequence to anybody”. Harsh but fair. The folly of fleeting things.
Under Bielsa, in those short four years, everything seemed to have a permanence about it. It felt like it was never going to end. From the moment he came to us, it felt like there was just a natural progression. Certainly, after the Championship title win and then 9th in the 1st season back, it just felt like the next step was Europe and then Champions League. I’m pretty sure the makers of “Take Me Home” never envisaged it would end as it did. Would Kalv and Rapha have gone if Bielsa were still here? I doubt it. He made them the players they were. England International, eh? But Et Tu Brute? no one is ever going to know.
The impact of Bielsa’s era will be remembered with fondness for what it was. The rollercoaster ride into ascendancy will be looked back on in years to come with happiness. When we are fighting to stay up in the perennial relegation battle that we are doomed to without the likes of Kalv and Rapha. His legacy will remain, like his face on the side of the building in Hyde Park, as will Kalvin’s at the bottom of town as you go towards Crown Point Bridge. Is it the case of the folly of fleeting things again? As Hilda Ogden might have said , “many a misguided murial mounted in haste”.
People have argued that there was too much love and affection towards Marcelo. To those I would offer my commiserations, you obviously were never there to see it happen in front of your eyes. Bielsa wasn’t just a man with a slogan. El Loco wasn’t just a myth. He was akin to an art form, like Impressionism or Cubism. It was a Renaissance (Born again for those who never did french O level). It was his ethos. A shining light of aspiration in the seething pit of the money mad “Modern Game” of football. He was a breath of fresh air in the turgid, cesspool stagnation which is the PL. To which Kalv and Rapha have now deepdived into, with the lure of benchwarming in Champions League football – and er – the small bonus of being on three times their current salary? Mebbe? If the shoe fits as they say.
This has all gone now though. We are in the new era of RB Leedsburg. Where the performance will always be more important than the points. (Yeah – never gonna live that one down).
Clean slate? More like wipe the slate and chuck it out of the window.
The transfer window hasn’t even officially opened yet and already Ryan Edmondson has gone. Drameh has never come back from Cardiff. Nohan Kenneh has gone to Hibs. McCarron has gone to Stoke. It looks like young Jamie Shackleton is off too and now there is talk Cresswell is going as well. This is the same Charlie Cresswell, who along with Klaesson, saved our skin and SkinnyJeans against Wolves. Who next? Archie Gray? Summerville? I thought it was Bielsa who refused to play the youth? Wasn’t it was Bielsa who didn’t value the U23s? Surely it was Bielsa who had no faith in our Academy? Bielsa has gone now, so why aren’t we able to hang onto the likes of Cresswell. Is this the future of RB Leedsburg, sorry Leeds United?
Clean slate – my rear end!
But we’ve bought in players who have played in the Champions League! Surely that’s something? Well, Celtic play in the Champions League every year. So do Linfield. It would be interesting to see how they fare in the relegation battle at the bottom of the PL.
The 1st 6 games will be the test of his mettle. The build up to the World Cup break could be the foundation of our battle to stay up. The games after Christmas, when the players come back from international duty +/- injuries, may well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. That’s if history repeats itself, of course. Will the players come back unharmed after slogging themselves in the punishing heat of a winter World Cup? Who knows?
If they come back and, God forbid, we start losing again, what’s it going to take? Will the board wait til it gets to 5-0, 6-0 and 7-0 before the guillotine gets ready? Or will the 3-0, 4-0 ones be enough to send SkinnyJeans back to leagues where the performance is more important than the points? Groundhog Day is Thursday 2nd February 2023. Might the Board have learnt from their mistakes this time? Might they realise that chopping and changing might just cost them PL survival? Ask Dyche and then ask Burnley.
Clean slate or chopping block?
We’ll see if the Scarlet Pimpernel is around!