It’s probably not quite another 28 days later, more like another 30 days later. But basically it is now nearly two months since they did the dirty deed and sacked Bielsa.

And yes, I’m still fuming.

I’m going to stick to my form from last time and assess the situation since my last 28 days later blog, with all the calm, reasoned and well balanced thoughts that I can muster – for about 5 minutes. Then I’ll resort back to the usual! I am nothing, if not consistent.

First things first, whereabouts are we in the table compared to where we were when Bielsa got sacked at the end of February?

Well this is where we are now, 16th.

This is the table from February when we were 15th

The main difference is that Newcastle have leapt (way) over our shoulders, Brentford are out of sight and Burnley have gained on us.

Secondly, another 28 days after Bielsa had been sacked, we have now had the likes of Cooper and Phillips, and Bamford (albeit for just the one game before he got injured for the rest of the season again) back in the squad. The sheer presence of Kalv on the bench, even though he was never going to play, was, according to one of the new managers soundbytes “enough to rally the team”. Or something like that. To be honest, he comes out with so many new soundbytes and segues (or sedgeways as I like to call them), it’s hard to keep up with them. Reliably, though, a bit like the Boris “three – phrase – slogans” (remember them? “Hands, Face, Space” or “Test, Track, Trace” …. “Cheese, Wine, Dips” ), they can all be put on a tiktok or short enough to be put on a picture of his learned earnest face, and shared on facebook or twitter, and instantly forgot. 

Incidentally, can anyone remember what happened to the £37 billion that was spent on Test, Track, Trace, that was used for about 6 months and then shelved? Just think, if we had a hundredth of that , we could have bought Ronaldo, Sancho, Cavani, Rashford MBE and Fernandes and we’d be Top 3, er ….. Top 6 right now

Thirdly, the last few games that we played before they sacked Bielsa were against Top 6 opposition and we were giving goals away for fun. The last few games under our new manager have been against Norwich, Watford and Palace. Both Norwich and Watford have easily demonstrated why they are going down.  Palace last weekend had just come out of a gruelling Cup semifinal and had nothing to play for. Palace are safe from relegation and their players were tired. We got a draw. But we beat Wolves, who were down to 10 men and er.. it was a tough fight against Leicester and Villa (who haven’t won a game in the last 5). But we got a draw against Southampton.

Fourthly, ….. No, that’s enough. I think I have made my point.

Like many others, I thought we would beat Palace. They had nothing to play for. They were safe from relegation and the Cup was their only chance to get into Europe. They had recently lost in the Cup semi final and their players would have put everything into that, as unlike Leeds United, Palace were proud to fight for a Cup trophy. The Cup game was on the Sunday (17th) against Chelsea, they played against a resurgent Newcastle on the Weds (20th) and then they played us on the Monday night (25th). It’s nothing compared to the Revie sides’ title run in back in 1970, but Palace still had to be drained by it. Our plan should have been, by the second half after a bit of attacking football in the first 45 minutes, it was time to take advantage of their exhaustion. But we still couldn’t get a decent shot on target. In fact, if anything, Meslier was the busier of the two keepers, pulling off a decent double save at one point from Zaha.

Our manager repeatedly said that it was a well deserved point after only getting two shots on target all game. Players went on social media defending a hard fought draw. Pundits jumped to justify the gameplay, the team formation and performance. My feelings? Once again, I’ll leave it to Bill – Shakespeare, that is. Another masterful quote from Hamlet, of all plays, although it has morphed over the years “methinks thou protesteth too much”.

Too much overkill for me. Let’s be honest – we were rubbish. We could and should have capitalised on the Fatigue Factor, but we didn’t. Palace looked like they were the team hungry for the 3 points to secure Premier League survival. They looked and played like their lives depended on 3 points to stave off the relegation nightmares. Sadly, we did not. 

It’s the dog end of the season. We are in a relegation battle. Norwich and Watford are down, but who is going to be the third? We have struggled against the Top 6. We have Citeh next. We play Chelski who need Champions League security. Arsenal are aspiring for Europe. We play Brighton at home and then  Brentford is our last game. The last thing we need is a final day decider at Brentford. We needed to beat Palace. 

On that cheery note, what else has happened another 28 days later?

Someone has written to an Argentinian newspaper to publish a letter to Bielsa, and the letter has “gone viral”. I think Bielsa knows how some of us feel about the way he has been treated and how much some of us were against his dismissal, but it is the thought that counts.

A more disturbing, actually perturbing as opposed to disturbing, as it isn’t really much of a worry, is that people actually started to object to the “pro Bielsa sentiment” by deflecting the attention away from Bielsa’s achievements and trying to compare what Bielsa had done, to what Sergeant Wilko did for us.  There were many facebook posts saying that Sgt Wilko has been unfairly treated with disdain from the Bielsa fans, and that really Wilkinson deserved more plaudits as he had achieved more than Bielsa ever did. I saw polls and stats demonstrating that actually Wilkinson had done more for Leeds than Bielsa. Polls and stats trying to make out that the huge respect that Bielsa had earned, was more likely over inflated ego and more hype than the truth. I don’t know about Twitter, I’m not on it, but it would be interesting to know what Elon Musk thinks.

What I would say to that is, it’s not even a valid comparison. Two completely, utterly different things.

When we got promoted and then won the League, football was a completely different kettle of fish. Money hadn’t got into the game yet. Every team was basically on a level playing field with each other. It was down to footballing skill and individual talents. It was down to teamwork and the odd bit of spirited tackling from the odd player, David Batty comes to mind. Just about every team had a free kick specialist, like Harte. Players were reknown for having a deadly left foot, or right foot, or sprinting down the wing etc. etc.

Modern football players are more recognised for their diving skills than fancy footwork. Now, Modern Football is basically down to MONEY. It’s down to which team can buy all the top players up. Not necessarily to actually play them on the pitch, but to keep the bench warm and stop them playing for their opponents. Take Cavani, for example, what a waste of talent. 

The basic principles of the modern game are not too dissimilar to “The Art of War” by Sunzi (now Sun Zhu). Winning or at least staying in the Premier League is like warfare. All warfare is based on deception. You cannot win by brute force, or footballing skill in this case, alone. You need a bit of guile and thinking to overcome your obstacles. For those of you who have never read The Art of War, think Jason and Goliath and Brain over Brawn. In Modern Football, if you can’t beat them on the pitch, just buy them off it.

In many clubs in the top divisions in Europe, money has been a major factor in the success of these clubs. Money to spend on players. Money to buy better players to score goals (Messi, Neymar) / defend (Dick Van Dyke) etc. to win games, mostly. As opposed to buying players to sell shirts. It is a bonus that old Ronaldo has actually netted a few despite his lack of willingness to pull a shirt on and get on the pitch at times. And then there’s the money to buy players to stop them scoring goals against you. Take Sancho for example. Given free reign at Arsenal maybe, or Spurs, to plug the leak after Kane stopped playing earlier in the season, he would have been a potential threat. Lingard was having a whale of a time on loan, but why allow another squad to strengthen who could challenge for a Champions League place?

I am digressing again, back to another 28 days later and back to Leeds United v Bielsa.

I stand by my thoughts that if they had not sacked Bielsa, we would be safe right now. We would have beaten Leicester and with Coops and Kalv back, and maybe Bamford, we would be looking to a nice relaxing run in to the end of the season. We would have beaten Palace. We would be planning a pre season trip to South America, as Bielsa would not have turned down a trip to his own namesake stadium, and then we would be back to Guiseley, Harrogate Town and York City, as Bielsa did not like to go far to get his players fit for the new season.

Instead we are in the “it’s in our own hands” situation. Fingernails bitten to pieces potentially.

We are all hoping that Everton keep losing and Burnley start losing again to help settle our nerves. If they don’t, it’s not going to be a very good few weeks. In February, even though we had had a poor run of results, many Leeds fans were still thinking we were safe in mid table, albeit the bottom end of it. Many were thinking, at least we weren’t in that awful perennial problematic position of Premier League relegation fodder. Many thought that we were above that. Many thought that having seen how we performed in our first season back, with BielsaBall, we would never be in with the Norwichs and Watfords ever again.

How quickly things can change. With one stab in the back.

I am still fuming. Bielsa brought more to us than premier league football. He brought the game back to us. He took a set of Championship players and turned them into Championship Champions. He took that same team, with a couple of additions, to 9th in the Premier League in the first season up. The best a newly promoted side has ever achieved.

He brought football, as it used to be played, back into the Premier League. Exciting, attacking football. Of that there is no question. In some of the most challenging times, with all the bat flu restrictions hampering training and our own daily lives, let alone his, the players and the Club itself, football was brilliant. Football kept us going over these last two awful years where our lives were harshly restricted by what was going on around us. Sometimes I think people forget the impact of the response to the pandemic and how much adversity we have faced. If you think back to how difficult it was for us, think about how much of a challenge it was for Bielsa.

Season 1: He comes from Argentina, new country, new club, plays with most of our forwards (Roofe, Bamford) injured but we do ok, just falling short in the play offs.

Season 2: Doing great guns, Bat flu stops and starts the season, ruins all his plans for getting the team up to scratch, we still get promoted in summer, we never get to see it.

Season 3: Without us seeing any of it live, we play the best football the Premier league has seen for donkeys years and we achieve 9th. Everybody loves him. He has changed English football for the good.

Season 4: Still playing under difficult times because of restrictions and with most of the team injured, especially Kalv after the Euros, patience wears thin and they sack him.

Is that a bit too simplistic?

I understand it has been difficult for Leeds United. It was difficult for them to see us go from 9th in the first season back, to losing all the time and having 60 goals scored against us. The board were worried. The keyboard warriors who can’t remember the times when we were really shit, were worried. But we had so many injuries, it was unreal. They just needed a bit of patience. Once our players were fit again, we would be ok.

But they didn’t and now we are where we are now.

Still, at least the players can go out and have a beer and a pizza when they want to without worrying about Bielsa having a pop at them. Hope it was worth it, Brute.