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There is something about this Leeds United team, they are fast becoming the most ‘Leeds’ team in quite some time. Whether it be Kemar Roofe’s never say die attitude, Pontus Jansson running length after length of the pitch in celebration before collapsing on his knees, Luke Ayling fighting back stewards to celebrate with the crowd or Gaetano Berardi going mental on the side-lines like some kind of deranged pitch invader you have the feeling this team really get it. They really get what being ‘Leeds’ is all about and they are connecting with the fans in a way we haven’t seen for a while.
But being a great Leeds side isn’t just about passion and desire, it’s about skill too. Pontus Jansson on his day is one of the best defenders in the Championship and with his Cruyff turns in his own area is capable or turning defence in attack in a flash, even if it isn’t great for my blood pressure. Eighteen year old Jack Clarke seems to be channelling Eddie Gray, already playing a massive part in this season with his delightful runs down the wing. Then there is our talisman, our Johnny Giles; Pablo ‘Could nutmeg a mermaid’ Hernandez. A class above almost everyone else when he graces a football pitch, with the patience, skill and vision to produce chances out of nothing. I still can't quite believe he is playing in the Championship.
Behind every great Leeds team is a great manager, usually a visionary ahead of their time. Don Revie was meticulous in his research and planning, he brought a great team spirit and camaraderie to the club. Howard Wilkinson was a visionary in terms of the academy and training facilities things which continue to server the club well to this day. In Marcelo Bielsa we have one of the most influential coaches in the world, hailed by Guardiola and Pochettino as being big influences on their own careers.
Leeds came from behind to snatch victory in the dying minutes against Blackburn on Boxing Day, the second time in a week they had come from behind to win late in a week
Bielsa’s attention to detail in research and planning combined with his innovative training techniques and philosophy are reminiscent of the deep cultural shift brought to the club by both Revie and Wilkinson. Shifts that brought the club great success and foundations to build on for the future. The decision to involve Under 23s coach Carlos Corberan in the Bielsa’s matchday team means that the young players coming through are already engrained with the style and philosophy of the first team evident in the fact Will Huffer, Leif Davis, Aapo Halme, Jamie Shackleton and Jack Clarke have fit in so well.
At the start of the season football looked easy for this team, strong wins against Stoke, Derby and Norwich early on saw some fabulous football played. But as we know the Championship is not easy and games got harder, it’s not always been possible to play the kind of free flowing football we did early on and it has been harder to break teams down. But this team has adapted, they have ground out hard fought victories and in the last week they have shown a spirit and determination to come back from behind which is worthy of the greatest champions.
There is something special about this current Leeds United team and as the club enters its 100th year it’s genuinely exciting to think what they could achieve.