Leeds United have been a club plagued by ceaseless turmoil since 2004 when they suffered relegation from England’s Premier League. If it wasn’t bankruptcy the club had to face, it was crooked owners who bled the club dry of its resources. There seemed no end in sight up until the summer of 2018 when the soccer world woke to some very unexpected news on a blistering day in June.
Marcelo Bielsa, the great tactician, godfather to all the super coaches in Europe, had agreed to become Leeds United’s head coach. It was a move completely out of left field but not in the sense that Bielsa wasn’t known or proven, far from it; it was rather the fact that the 63-year-old had decided to join Leeds despite their stock being so low.
Bielsa came in and immediately began to shake the ground that the club’s stadium Elland Road stands on. Wholesale changes were made by the man they call ‘El Loco’ as he set about trying to revive the West Yorkshire club. One of the changes was to build a sleeping room at the club’s training facility, Thorp Arch, which would let the players recoup during the day or a particular training session.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Wow...check out this new ‘sleep room’ at Thorp Arch. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/lufc?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#lufc</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/alaw?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#alaw</a> <a href="https://t.co/mLvKKffOEB">pic.twitter.com/mLvKKffOEB</a></p>— El Loco (@bielsasbucket22) <a href="https://twitter.com/bielsasbucket22/status/1085309425953452032?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">January 15, 2019</a></blockquote>
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Leeds’ new manager is world renowned for the way he pushes his players physically and, if they were going to manage with the workload the Argentinian had planned for them, then the club were going to have to build a place for them to recover.
Another example of Bielsa’s holistic approach was when he made his players pick up litter around the training ground in order to get a new appreciation of how hard the fans have to work to buy a ticket. Bielsa deemed it necessary for his players to do this for three hours as that was how long a fan had to work in order to purchase a ticket.
The tactics and methods Bielsa uses are far from the norm and that has earned him legendary status within the game. Man City manager Pep Guardiola was once a young protege to Bielsa and describes his former master as the best coach in the world.
Bielsa’s influence on Guardiola’s career has helped the Spaniard become one of the best modern-day managers and that’s reinforced with his Man City side at 6/5 to defend the title in Premier League betting and do what hasn't been done for ten years. It seems Bielsa's managerial techniques often bring with it the chance to make history. Fans will see a similarity between the way Guardiola and Bielsa set their team up to win games but, off the pitch, they adopt different ways of going about their business.
Bielsa doesn’t stray from his deeply held holistic approach and that is slowly stirring Leeds United from their decade-long slumber. Under Bielsa, there is light again at Elland Road and that is good news for a city that hasn't had much to shout about for a long time.
🇦🇷 @LUFC’s Marcelo Bielsa wanted to find out how hard fans work to pay for tickets.— SPORF (@Sporf) August 4, 2018
⏰ 3 hours work pays for a ticket.
🤔 What does he do after finding that out?
🗑 Make his players pick up litter for 3 hours.
👏 So they appreciate how fans labour to fulfill their passion. pic.twitter.com/RL8NG1I3tB
The club are less than 20 games away from making a return to the league they dropped out of in such spectacular fashion 15 years ago as they sit in first place in the league table. That is all down to one man and one man alone; Marcelo Bielsa has brought a different way of thinking to Leeds and, for the first time in over 5,000 days, the club, as well as the fans, are united again and on the brink of making history.