IAN LADYMAN: Leeds United’s future is bright with or WITHOUT Marcelo Bielsa… a hungry fanbase, strong American backing and history of success allows Whites to be ambitious
- Leeds’ 2-1 victory over Manchester City caused a massive upset on Saturday
- Marcelo Bielsa’s side have shown they can stun the top-six elite at their best
- The club is crying out for development and American backing could secure it
- Leeds can’t afford to be characterised by their great coach, despite his success
Pep Guardiola made seven changes to his team on Saturday and that made sense given a tough Champions League return leg at Borussia Dortmund this week.
They continue to be one of the more fascinating stories of the Premier League season. Just as interesting may be what happens to the club next.
Leeds shocked Manchester City on Saturday to continue a thrilling return to the top flight
Marcelo Bielsa has worked wonders at Leeds, but their future is bright even without him
Leeds are all about Bielsa at the moment but they are also a club looking ambitiously to what lies ahead.
Largely under the radar earlier this year flew news that the American NFL franchise the San Francisco 49ers paid £50million to increase their stake in Leeds to 37 per cent. At the same time one of the 49ers’ key figures, Paraag Marathe, was appointed to the board at Elland Road as vice-chairman.
During two decades at the 49ers, Marathe has been responsible for both player acquisition and the move seven years ago to the quite fabulous Levi’s Stadium, which has already hosted a Super Bowl.
Leeds will continue to be run by majority stakeholder Andrea Radrizzani, who has already achieved a lot at the club. Because of the Italian, Leeds are once again the owners of their own ground.
Elland Road is crying out for development, which looks to be on the way through US backing
But it would be a surprise if someone with Marathe’s back story has arrived merely to shuffle papers.
‘Leeds today reminds me of the 49ers 15 years ago,’ Marathe told ESPN in a recent interview.
‘Both teams have a great fan base and history. The 49ers had such great success in the ’80s and ’90s, like Leeds in the ’70s, and both were struggling a little bit on and off the pitch.
‘The 49ers were playing at the oldest unrenovated stadium in the NFL. So we built a new stadium, which completely transformed our franchise, and it’s the same thing that we want to do here at Leeds.
‘We have the right people, the expertise and the blueprint.’
Paraag Marathe has been appointed to the Leeds board and aims to drive the club forwards
Strip away some of the jargon from that and you have the bones of it. The Americans have spotted the clear potential that lies within Leeds. Elland Road may be tatty but it is iconic and sits on land crying out for development. The fan base remains large and hungry.
The platform of Premier League football is secure after a first year back in the top division for 16 years. If any modern English football club appears ripe for development into a new era, then it is this one.
Bielsa has been a magnificent force for good at Leeds. Nobody will forget what he has done, neither the progress made nor the football played.
Equally, Leeds cannot afford to allow themselves to be characterised only by him.
The great Argentine is only contracted until the end of this season and, although he is fancied to sign a new deal, he is 65 and will not be around for ever.
The Yorkshire club have set foundations to bring success back to the club after years of hurt
Leeds must establish themselves as a club capable of thriving with or without their coach. With this in mind, Leeds supporters must be hoping that Marathe stays true to his word.
It took something of a leap of faith to invest in football during a global pandemic, at a time of zero ticket income and such uncertainty.
But you only have to drive into Leeds from the south-west to see for yourself what that investment is all about.
Elland Road stands like a gateway to the city. Equally, it screams out for a bit of love.
It will be interesting to see if the American money and expertise can do what history suggests it can.
Walker replacement must be a hit
Amid a deluge of rival offerings, the BBC’s Football Focus has remained relevant over the last decade largely due to the excellent work of host Dan Walker.
Now Walker is standing down and the corporation has a huge decision to make. My three candidates to replace him would be (in no particular order) Mark Pougatch, Kelly Cates and Gabby Logan.
The Beeb cannot afford to get this one wrong.
Kelly Cates could be a front-runner to take over from Dan Walker on the BBC’s Football Focus
Football clubs hooked on social media
So finally clubs have realised they have a choice regarding their engagement with the darkness that is social media.
Birmingham, Swansea and Rangers have all indicated they will step away from online platforms for a week to highlight problems with abuse of players.
Premier League managers have also spoken eloquently about the issue. Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp declared at his weekly press conference that his advice to his players would be to cut themselves off from Twitter, Instagram and the like.
But between Klopp speaking at lunchtime last Friday and midnight the following day, the official Liverpool Twitter account posted 57 times. That is the norm for big clubs and this is part of the problem.
Football is in far too deep with social media and the step between here and sanity already feels too big.
Will Barton ever learn to keep quiet?
Joey Barton did a more than a creditable job at Fleetwood Town in his first managerial posting and is now at Bristol Rovers.
The former Manchester City player has a strong work ethic and a deep knowledge of the game. Somewhere, there is a decent football manager waiting to emerge.
Still, though, it seems the 38-year-old will too often make life difficult for himself.
Joey Barton did a more than a creditable job in first managerial job and is now at Bristol Rovers
Barton said two weeks ago that his predecessors at the club — Paul Tisdale and Ben Garner — had been ‘negligent’ in the way they trained the Rovers players.
Barton may or may not have had a point but he has been in the job for 13 games now and has won only three times.
Rovers are in the League One relegation places and that is on him. There is a time for criticising other people and it is not now.
Published at Mon, 12 Apr 2021 10:25:20 +0000-IAN LADYMAN: Leeds United’s future is bright with or WITHOUT Marcelo Bielsa