Where did it all go Wrong?
Even the eternal optimist. ME, thinks the writing is on the wall for Leeds this season and I'm devastated.
When they sacked Bielsa, I wrote at the time that with him, we stood a chance of staying up, despite the heavy defeats but without him, we had no chance and even going into the last game next weekend with just a glimmer of hope still flickering, I stand by that statement. Jesse Marsch seems like a decent enough and nice guy but he's clueless.
As a fan, when Bielsa arrived, suddenly we put the 'beautiful' back into the beautiful game. I've never in all my years seen Leeds play football with such skill, at such speed and with their never-ending, wave after wave of attacks. These were championship players, playing better than they'd ever played in their lives. We never sat back, we attacked and we ran and then we ran some more.
There was so much pride in the team, in the city and in Bielsa, we couldn't get enough and that first game back in the Premiership, at home to Liverpool that despite going behind three times, we fought back. We didn't flinch more were we overawed and despite eventually losing 4-3, no one cared about the score. We had witnessed something special and wanted more.
This season though was slightly different, and we struggled early on before getting injuries to three important, star players in Phillips, Bamford and Cooper and our squad didn't have the skill or experience to match many of the Premier League teams. We kept fighting though, that's what we cared about and despite the heavy losses, in Bielsa, we kept our faith.
Unfortunately though, the Chairman and board bottled it, only a couple of weeks before Phillips and Cooper got themselves back from injury and no doubt under duress from their investors and paymasters in San Francisco, the owners of the 49ers who had invested heavily in Leeds. The money hadn't gone on new players though and in the January transfer window, no new faces appeared which was quite a surprise.
And what surprise, we sack Bielsa and immediately employ an American 'coach' Jesse Marsch, to save us from relegation, the decision no doubt again influenced by our US paymasters.
He could be a good coach in the future but he hardly has the experience to win a battle for Premiership survival.
One good point in his favour was the fact he whacked David Beckham when he was still playing, getting himself a red card in the process! If you haven't seen this clip before, it's well worth a watch!
This clip is widely available on YouTube but still, all rights are respected.
So what went so badly wrong?
No, it wasn't the injuries to the heart of the team but obviously they didn't help, not even some poor signings, especially in £25m and £100K-a-week man, Rodrigo, who has been poor, as has Junior Firpo. No, the biggest problem was not managing to get a new contract for Ezgjan Alioski, our head case, North Macedonian international winger.
Sadly I couldn't get a picture of him in a Leeds shirt as this is the only Commons Wikipedia I could find without pissing off Getty images!
Alioski might not have been the greatest player in the world but he had energy in bucketfuls and never gave up running up and down the wing, but the most important thing was that he fitted in and linked up perfectly with Jack Harrison. The way they combined to move the ball from defence to attack was like lightning and accounted for numerous Leeds goals both in the Championship and in our first season back in the Premier League, but at the end of last season, his 4-year contract was up.
Bielsa said on many occasions he wanted him to stay. Alioski said he wanted to stay but it appears the board couldn't agree terms with his management and that was it. He was gone.
I have no idea the money he was looking for but it can't have been anywhere near the £100k a week they'd given Rodrigo.
This season, without him, the balance of the team had gone along with Jack Harrisons form who is like a lost sheep looking for a shepherd and has had a mare of a season, despite his 7 goals.
Alioski is on fire for his new team in Saudi Arabia, with 6 goals and 6 assists. Not bad for a wingback, and we have struggled for pace and the link-up play which was so successful for us in the previous three years.
We brought in Junior Firpo to replace him from Barcelona, but Barcelona don't sell players for no reason and Firpo has struggled although seems to be finally finding a little form, but too little, too late I'm afraid. It's believed he cost us £13m and is on £55K a week, again, I suspect Alioski's demands were nowhere near that.
At Leeds, the motto is "Side before Self" and one player doesn't make a team, but without that player, the team is much weaker, and it has shown.
Once more, Victor Orta, our recruitment manager has brought in duds. To be fair, he got us Bielsa and a few other good signings but for every good recruit, he seems to have bought 3 poor ones.
We should have stuck with Bielsa. If we had gone down with him in charge, he would have got us straight back up again. With Marsch in charge, I'd suspect he will be fired and then we will be back on the merry-go-round of inadequate, second class managers who will have us languishing in the Championship for years again. In the Premier League, money talks but it's got to be spent well and Leeds hasn't had enough investment and certainly not spent what they have had wisely.
Along with Bielsa though went his management team but once you're Leeds, you're always Leeds as was proved at the Crystal Palace away game. A game we would have won with any team had Bielsa still been in charge.
Unless you're a Leeds fan, you would have no idea who this young fella is, looking forlorn and lost but it's actually Bielsa's translator, Andres Clavijo no doubt texting Bielsa to tell him how shit we were playing under Marsch! He is Leeds. picture from @jonsmith_lufc Twitter feed
That was our last home game. Will it be the last time that Phillips or Raphina play on our hallowed turf? What a sad, sad thought.
Come this time next week, we will know, and I will hope Burnley trip up against Villa midweek as they play their game in hand and next Sunday, leave it as a straight scrap. Whatever happens, I just want this awful season to end.
I just miss Bielsa ball...
Marching On Together