For those of you who have seen the film 28 days later, think of this episode of the blog as less about the Infected, but more enraged, than, well Rage, really. For those of you who haven’t seen the film, it’s about some people with well meaning good intentions (releasing a certain animal), unfortunately with unforeseen circumstances, resulting in a terrible outcome for everyone. It has it’s moments of mild peril and it probably is a bit scary. Like the Walking Dead used to be before Rick got taken away in that helicopter. Some parallels can be drawn to our current state of affairs, I suppose.

Yes, I’m still fuming, but I am prepared to take a look at the aftermath, 29 days later. 29 days after Bielsa was dismissed.

I’m going to start with facts. Yes, facts for a change. No bias, just plain facts and factual  incidences that have occurred 29 days later, 29 days after Bielsa’s departure. I will start calm and factual, but rest assured, by the middle of this blog I will have gone back to my usual bitterness and by the end, the blog will be full on supposition, rumour and complete hearsay – bit like most of the mainstream media then.

The last 29 days.

We lost to Spurs and they dismissed Bielsa. ( Technically now 30 days)

The club announced they replaced him with Jesse Marsch.

We played Leicester City away and lost 1 nil.

We played Aston Villa and we lost 3 nil.

We played Norwich and won 2 – 1. Joe Gelhardt with the injury time winner.

We played Wolves and we won 3 – 2. Ayling with the injury time winner

we have had this summary from Orta about (not) investing in new players and using the Academy players

Bamford is now out for 6 weeks

But the injuries are slowly coming back

Enough of facts, what has really gone on?

Bielsa got sacked. I was and still am incandescent about it. I just cannot be grown up about it. I cannot accept that what has gone on is anything but WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. See – I have written that in capitals, so it must be bad.

We played Leicester away. A Leicester team that quite frankly, were and had been absolutely shocking. Their results up to our game were loss to Spurs 3-2, draw with Brighton, loss to Forest 4-1 in the Cup, loss to Liverpool, draw with West Ham and loss to Wolves, but a win against Burnley I think. The positive build up to the game was basically the “dead cat bounce back”. It was proclaimed that now Leeds were rid of Bielsa, the only cause of our dire results, we would beat them easily, as Bielsa was the chain around the neck of Leeds United. We were told that Bielsa was the one dragging us down to the relegation drop zone. On the day, we lost. There was no change to the team, no change to the formation and no change to the continued playing of players out of position that Bielsa had been so derided for. We just couldn’t finish (albeit their goalie played a blinder) and realistically we should have won because we had Leicester – they were poor. But, we didn’t. Leicester were ours for the taking, and we did not capitalise on their terrible defending and lack of shots. We lost to a far inferior team that day, apart from Schmeichel – he was Man of The Match. The excuses rang out that the tell was that the goalkeeper got MOM, but that was just paper over the cracks.  The soundbyte from Bielsa’s replacement? “The performance was more important than the points” . Really?

We played against Villa in the new manager’s first game at ER. Stevie G had intimated that he was sorry he wasn’t up against Bielsa. We lost to Villa. The game was the same. Still misplaced passing, still struggling with defending and I think we managed one, yes, just the one shot on target all game and that was Gelhardt. We were taken apart. It was a difficult watch. People murmured that thankfully, at least, the Bielsa “man marking” system had gone. To be honest, that day we were just not capable of man marking any of them especially not that Coutinho. Realistically, we would have struggled to man mark the Black Knight from Monty Python in that game (look it up if you don’t know what I’m on about). I think Villa had 15 shots on goal, 9 on target. The one thing that I did notice that was different, was that we were very narrow across the field.

We played against Norwich. The bottom team whose run of form was only slightly worse than ours. Their only saving Grace was that at least they hadn’t let in as many goals as we had. Once again, another reminder that Bielsa was the architect of our demise by letting in 67 goals, repeated on the media ad infinitum. The players had come out in the week and said that it was all sweet smelling roses now, people were returning from injury and once more we all waited with bated breath at the team announcement. Bamford was back! We scored first with that deflected Rodrigo shot, Norwich thought they got a pen even though Rasicha stood on Ayling’s foot, but VAR was our friend that day in more ways than one. Raphinha had that free kick off the bar and James had a couple of decent shots. But true to form, in another heart stopping game, we just couldn’t hold out and in the 90th minute Norwich equalised. Insult to injury was saved by Meslier’s fine save with his noggin, and then, up steps the hero. Our own sponsored player Joe Gelhardt comes on and scores within two minutes. The goal that I didn’t see in real time. Not because I had walked out when Norwich equalised, though. No, because I didn’t think that Raphinha stood a chance of getting that ball, so I had my head in my hands. I didn’t see him reach it and cross it. I didn’t see Joffy come rushing in to score the winner. The first I knew was when everyone around me cheered. More fool me for not believing in Raphinha.

We played Wolves, Patrick’s in the starting 11, Kalvin’s on the bench and we beat them. Wolves cheated and dived and feigned injury like they always do. They went two goals up after Bamford dragged a shot wide and then limped around on the pitch until he went off in tears. Apparently, Patrick had got kick on his foot too (like most of the Wolves players felt fit to deal to us most of the game) which had been the catalyst. Patrick goes off after stretching awkwardly for a cross, Greenwood came on. Neves, arguably Wolves best player goes off after spending the majority of the first half  rolling around on the floor accruing injury time. But within two minutes of their best player going off, Wolves score. Llorente goes off and is replaced by Koch at 40 mins, but because of all the injuries, there is still at least 10 minutes to go. Jimenez clatters into Koch for his first yellow and then Klich gets caught in the face. Charlie Cresswell comes on as Klich’s face is slowly swelling up like Violet Beauregarde, and then just before the halftime whistle, Wolves go two up. It’s half time, we’re doomed! There’s not even ten minutes gone in the second half and Jimenez and Meslier go for the same ball. Jimenez is already on a yellow and he gets sent off, Meslier goes off and young Klaesson comes on. We try desperately to play with the extra man advantage, with Charlie Cresswell doing a Tony Adams in defence, but Wolves just keep going. Eventually, Harrison gets a goal after a VAR check, then Rodrigo scores and it’s 2-2 and Wolves record of never losing a PL game after going 2-0 up is looking jittery but reasonably ok. The rest is history, Ayling secures the win and we all celebrate like it’s 1999. Some of us breathe a massive sigh of relief that there is hope, and if we play 10 men for the rest of the season, we will stay up. Jesse does a bizarre post match interview and says Kalvin was never going to be able to come off the bench, he just put him on because there was no one else left. We played Arsenal at the height of the batflu issues when Liverpool said they couldn’t field a team. The subs bench Bielsa put out had 15 year old Archie Gray with Kenneh, Moore, Jenkins and Bate. Yes, there had been a challenging U23 game against the Sc*m midweek, but is that a good enough reason to risk Kalv? The likelihood of him ever going to have to come on was miniscule, but then so is losing 4 players to injury in one game. Jesse reassured us that at the end of the game, all the players were OK.

Bamford is now out for 4 weeks at least, for rupturing his plantarfascia. That’s the bit underneath your foot from the ankle to your toes. If anyone has ever had plantarfascitis, you will know how painful it is when it is just swollen, let along when you have completely ruptured it. Patrick is not OK.

The rest of the players are getting back though, and Klich was snapped in Harrogate having a pizza at the weekend, so he must be OK. Ayling managed to inflict injury, tackling this time in the ring not on a football pitch, resulting in Josh Warrington’s Klich-like swollen face. Was the jaw broken before Ayling’s headlock?

I think my version of events is better than the first factual one.

Rumour, supposition and gossip.

29 days later and it still doesn’t make sense to me. If Bielsa was such a problem why not completely change the style of  play immediately? Why not change the team? Why not play the players in their preferred positions? Why leave poor Dan James on his own, up front with the giants who make up the PL defensive walls? Why not start with Joffy? Why not get “proper” big name players in the team? If what we were told was correct, it was down to Bielsa that the squad was so small, wasn’t it? With Bielsa gone, the shackles had gone and the Club we free to look at other players? Surely?

It had to change

In the immediate aftermath of Bielsa’s dismissal, all we heard was “It had to change”. What had to change? Because frankly, the last 4 games have demonstrated that nothing much has changed. Bamford came back, albeit too early as he is now out, out for the rest of the season probably. Hindsight is a marvellous thing though. Apart from looking decidedly narrow against Villa, it hasn’t changed on the pitch. Both the Norwich and Wolves games were basically Bielsaball with the exception of Charlie Cresswell at Wolves, but he was a forced substitution. So maybe it was something to do with the players or the board? If it was the players that were unhappy, I would like to just remind them of my previous blog, Et Tu Brute. If any of the players were involved in the sacking, I wonder if they can sleep at night? The phrase “Never Forgive, Never Forget” or in the case of Jason Bourne “Remember Everything , Forgive Nothing” is not something to be trifled with. 40 years on and Joe Jordan and Gordon McQueen are still not welcome back at ER by certain Leeds fans. It’s not just them either, Smithy and Judas Kewell. What if it was the Board, however?

What went wrong?

Simply put, Bielsa just didn’t do what it said on the tin. Bielsa came to Leeds with a history of flamboyant bust ups and singular characteristics which meant that The Board were never prepared for him to be here this long. It must have been a complete shock to hear him say this on the eve of his 100th game (allegedly)

No one ever expected Bielsa to become the cult hero that he was. We’d heard tales of him at Newells Old Boys and the Chilean National Team, but in the UK? At Leeds United of all places? He could barely speak English! How was he going to get by needing an interpreter wherever he went?

Bielsa became uncontrollable. He was peculiar, he had his eccentricities, but that just endeared him to everyone. A genius lauded by everyone, even the harshest football pundit. The longer he was here, the more his popularity would grow. He took the limelight from everyone. The players, the Board, everyone stood in his shadow. Except the fans. He always respected the fans. He had the upmost respect for us. The ones who were loyal to Leeds. He was always happy for a photo op with the fans and he seemed genuinely pleased to be around us. There were songs written about him, giant murials of him, even the bucket was famous. Yet he remained modest, humble and gracious constantly to his adoring public.

He was just too effing popular, with the young and the old, and with that has to come an element of green eyed jealousy from the people who he had taken the spotlight and publicity from. But he wasn’t even trying to steal anyone’s thunder. Bielsa was just being Bielsa. Some people just do not need to do anything to be popular. They just are. People are just drawn to them, they don’t even need to put effort into it, because they are just likeable. There is a  brilliant quote from Twelfth Night, good old Bill Shakespeare again, “Do not fear greatness, some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them”. I also like to add another, “Some aspire to greatness, but some just never achieve it”. Some people just cannot take being second fiddle, especially to someone who is so unselfishly mild mannered and self effacing. Marcelo Bielsa achieved greatness, that is , unless he was born great. But he is gone, and I’m still fuming.

The future?

It is 29 days later, so what are we left with now?

You know my thoughts on this. It’s not the new managers fault (apart from the fact that he could have just done a Zammo and just said No). He is here now, for however long. But he promoted Mark Jackson, so hopefully the Bielsa Way isn’t completely lost. The new manager is young, he wears skinny jeans, he is keen to be interviewed, all the time in fact, a bit too over eager for me. He likes his cliches and his soundbytes. He doesn’t need an interpreter. He hasn’t changed the look of the team though has he? Is that good or bad? Is he paying homage to Bielsa or just not got his act together as yet? We will see how it all pans out.

First Impressions.

First impressions last. This excerpt (sorry about the quality) wasn’t his finest hour. He just needs to stop being so eager to please. Take your time. Be measured. You don’t have to perform to the media. You are a football manager, not a eager beaver touchy feely sharer. Just manage the team.

I’ll leave you to decide