Siao Mates Sep 29

If you’re never sober, Leeds are the team to follow


If you are wondering what a heart attack feels like, start supporting Leeds United. You’ll get one in quick time. Many among their followers must have suffered big ones during their team’s first three games on their return to the Premier League after 16 years. 


This is what happened so far: In their opening game, they levelled thrice against league champions Liverpool before losing 3-4 in the dying minutes. Then, at home to Fulham, they blew a three-goal lead but still narrowly won 4-3. On Sunday at Sheffield United, if not for Illan Meslier’s froggy reflexes in goal, Stuart Dallas flicking off the line a Chris Basham shot, and Patrick Bamford’s late winner, there would have been a spike in cardiac arrests among Leeds fans.


WATCH: Klopp says it's impossible to defend against Leeds 100% of the time


Hair-pulling moments are coming quick and fast in Leeds’ games. Not that their supporters are ripping their heads bald. The majority of Leeds followers have been around since the halcyon days of Don Revie almost half a century ago and they don’t have much turf left on their pates to speak of. 


When their team morphed from Dr Jekyll to Mr Hyde, which is quite often, they instead turn to a few pints. At least four before half time. This soothes the nerves, and saves them from the drama during the games and fulltime results until they are calmer in the mornings.


Can these Grandpa Jones survive their team’s first season back in the Premier League? Of course, they can. They have been riding the Leeds roller coaster for a long time already, since Don Revie gave the club their first successes in England’s top division in 1969 and 1974. Then, few years after he left, they were relegated and endured eight seasons in the lower division until 1990, when they went back up. 


They won England’s top silverware a third time in 1992 before they were kicked back downstairs in 2005. And even further down in the third tier from 2007-2010. By that time, sober Leeds fans were almost extinct. They even bought into the idea that the 46-game lower division Championship League was the toughest in the world and were contented for Leeds to play there. 


All seemed fine until a certain Marcelo Bielsa showed up in 2018.


WATCH: A look back at Bielsa's time at Newell's Old Boys


Big names, though, don’t impress the hardened Leeds faithful. Brian Clough, Jock Stein, George Graham and Terry Venables all came and went. They never had statues put up in their honour, unlike Revie. The only reason Leeds hardcore fans warmed up to Bielsa is because he looks like them – about the same age, pot-bellied and with not much hair on the head. As the 15th manager since 2005, he is also mad in taking on the job – not for nothing he’s called El Loco – just as they are nut jobs for sticking around for so long. That he sits on a bucket during matches is a plus.


So far, he’s gotten the Whites promoted after two seasons in charge. That’s like a miracle. Someone painted a large mural on some wall at Hyde Park in the city in gratitude. There is hope it will miraculously turn into granite someday soon. But can Bielsa transform his team into as great a team as the legendary Leeds side under Revie? 


Like David Harvey in goal, Jackie Charlton, Norman Hunter, Paul Reaney and Terry Cooper at the back, Peter Lorimer, Billy Bremner, Johnny Giles and Eddie Gray in the middle and Allan Clarke and Joe Jordan at the front.


Maybe. So far, Bielsa has brought in two expensive signings in central defender Robin Koch and Rodrigo Moreno Machado. They each gave away penalties against Liverpool and Fulham – along with a few heart attacks, of course. Go figure!


WATCH: Rodrigo speaks about signing for Leeds


But fear not. It is still early days and Bielsa is supposed to be a miracle worker.




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