There’s something about Leeds United that just worms its way into your heart. Against your better judgement, even to the extent that every fibre of your conscious being is screaming at you to find a more stable and enjoyable hobby… Yet those goosebumps during Marching on Together and the inevitability of your phone ending up 12 rows lower down in the Kop than you after we score – you can’t break the spell. But I’d be lying if I felt that the squad entirely understood what it meant to us. The local lads do, for sure, but how could someone like Samu Saiz?
That’s why it warmed my cold, dead heart to see that Marcelo Bielsa had vaguely calculated that it takes an average supporter around 3 hours to earn the amount of money required to purchase a match-day ticket. The squad were then instructed to pick litter around Thorp Arch in order to appreciate the volume of hard graft it takes fans to be able to see them play. Whether you believe that this is worthwhile or not, I really appreciated the sentiment. Football is no longer a cheap sport for the working class man. It may still appeal to the broadest range of classes, but cheap it is not. Hell, ticket, travel, parking, food and drink can easily run £100 if you’re not careful. Especially for an away-day where you might be travelling further afield. If this is the kind of work ethic that Bielsa is keen to instil in his players, he already has my love.
In terms of surprising transfers – this isn’t about who we DID sign (which is a story in itself, welcome Patrick!) but who we nearly signed and what has now happened to them. No, I’m not talking about Matej Vydra who got his Premier League move (and presumably the money too) but Jerry Mbakogu. Leeds had optioned to buy the player for around £3m much to the concern of fans like myself who saw him as little more than another speculative punt with little evidence to suggest he could step-up to a challenging league such as the Championship. Carpi were pushing this transfer hard, yet thankfully Leeds cooled off on the interest and elected to show intent and secure Patrick Bamford instead. In an odd move, Jerry was then released on a free transfer. Dodged a bullet there then! If the player is valued so lowly that if they couldn’t sell him it’s still seen as a better move for the club to release him from his contract, it seems unlikely that he’d be our saviour.
With regards to second chances – I do find it interesting that Marcelo has swanned into Leeds having reviewed the tapes of last season and found comfort in much of the playing squad being sufficient. We all thought that there’d be a wholesale re-shaping of the squad (much like when Neil Warnock came in and created the Portsmouth Free Transfer All Stars), yet the Argentine has decided that there’s much worth saving here. Players like Saiz who were a husk of their former self under previous coaches can become world-beaters if harnessed properly – and our opening game against Stoke suggested this approach has merit. Alioski and Phillips too, maligned players under previous regimes look crucial. Perhaps this will be a season of second chances for some, yet be final goodbyes for others.
Hadi Sacko, Eunan O’Kane, Felix Wiedwald and a number of others have all been told to leave – with some finding new clubs quickly. There are uncertain futures for players like De Bock and Ideguchi who the head coach presumably hasn’t seen enough from to roll into his first team plans.
I do think we need another centre-back and I do lament selling Ronaldo Vieira, but if we’re sat celebrating promotion in the Summer while Vieira has spent the last 8 months with tendonitis I’ll hold a different view I’m sure. Until then I’m strolling towards the Derby game tomorrow with cautious optimism.