It was a toss up between “Praise You” or “We’ve come a long long way together” for the title today. I decided on the latter, as it is a bittersweet time right now for the longest suffering Leeds United fans. It’s scarcely a month to go before the new season kicks off, and yet we still don’t know what’s going on with our away tickets. If anyone at the club ever read this blog, it would be a gentle nudge towards recognising how far we have come together, since those Division 3 days.

Happy times though. Today, 21st July is Marcelo Bielsa’s birthday. He’s 66 today, if he was British he’d be able to retire on his state pension now. Proper pensioner!

There’s been a few pictures of him put up today. The one from when we got promoted for instance – a rare picture of any emotion from the great man, let alone smiling, is probably the nicest one, with all the team celebrating with him. Pictures from the sidelines of him squatting down, or on his blue bucket (that everyone laughed at – not mocking now are you?) are the next most popular. All instantly recognisable, and I am guessing if you typed in “picture of Bielsa” into Google – they’d be the ones that would come up.

The one I have selected, this one, is one of the most, if not the most iconic.

What does this say to you?

What does this say about the man?

What did it say to Leeds fans after that defeat against QPR in February 2019?

Looking at it now, 2 and a bit years on in time, but eons and galaxies far far away from the where our club is now, what does it say to you about the guy that we have in charge?

Discuss.

Now if I had that question in GCE O Level English Literature – I would have got more than a C grade.

Can you imagine if you were studying sociology at A level and that question came up in an exam? Mint! That’d be me on a Astar+++, or whatever it is graded at now.

Not much needs to be said that hasn’t already been said about Marcelo Bielsa. Man, myth, legend. Coach of all coaches. Teacher of all teachers. But to me his humility, his humbleness and his self effacing demeanour is the thing that stands out. He just gets on with the job that he is paid to do.

This picture of a man despondent and alone in his thoughts, was taken after we suffered a 1-0 defeat against QPR. He looks crestfallen. He looks like a man who has personally taken all the responsibility of that loss. In these progressive times when there are so many people who take so little responsibility and accept so little accountability for their own actions, here is a guy who bore the whole lot on own his shoulders.¬† And in reality, it wasn’t really all his fault.

QPR had been on a rough long losing streak of 7 games – it had to end – and it ended with a lucky win against us that stopped us going top. We had the majority of the possession that game, we had two good shots saved by their keeper. QPR scored a decent goal and we didn’t. Immediately after the game, before we even saw this picture, captured so well by Bruce Rollinson from the Yorkshire Post, the doom and gloom had already set in. The talk was about how we were going to fail again, doubting Bielsa, slating Victor Orta (again), condemning the players for not being good enough¬† (again). It’s a good job Bielsa didn’t hear any of this that night.

Yes, we won the next three but ultimately failed at the very end. So some of the naysayers were technically correct. We didn’t get promoted that season – but look at us now.

We have come a long long way together.

The ones who were saying after the game that day, that our players weren’t fit to wear the shirt that day – they were wrong. Apart from Pontus and Kiko, they are the same players who won us promotion the next year. The ones who said that Orta didn’t know his arse from his elbow that day – they were wrong. Look at the inspired signings of Raphinha and Rodrigo. The ones who said that Bielsa would never get us anywhere because he only had a Plan A and wasn’t capable of a Plan B / C / D – they were wrong. Look at us now – Plan A works, a few tweaks, but essentially we got to within touching distance of Europe with Plan A .

Our first season back in the PL, and we have really made the rest of the PL stop and take note.

We’ve played fast flowing, one touch football, but we’ve also defended well, even though Koch, Llorente and Cooper were all out most of the season. Young Struijk has really stepped up to the mark. Patrick bagged 17 goals, beaten into 4th place by Kane, Salah, Fernandes, but still failed to get a spot in the England team, behind Calvert-Lewin and Ollie Watkins. But the biggest impact is that of Leeds United Supporters Club sponsored player Kalvin Phillips. By far England’s Player Of The Tournament. A storming Euros for the lad.

All down to this man though. He looked beaten in this photo, but maybe he was just thinking. Hatching a plan, and what a plan it was.

Thanks to Googleimages for the picture – but thanks to Bruce Rollinson for being at the right place at the right time, for the most iconic picture of the great man.