LEEDS UNITED head coach Marcelo Bielsa has revealed how a sense of belonging at Elland Road was behind his decision to return for a second tilt at leading the club into the Premier League.
The Argentinian proved a big hit during his first season but Leeds missed out on promotion following defeat in the play-offs.
A break clause in his contract then led to speculation Bielsa may walk away only for the United head coach to delight fans by agreeing to stay on.
“When you say Leeds United you are talking (about) a big thing,” he said ahead of tomorrow’s opening game of the season at Bristol City. “When you are talking about Marching On Together and everybody hates us, it is a sentence that is very clear and it is a thing I feel too.
“You belong, for a second year, in a sentence like this. There aren’t a lot in the rest of the world like this.
“There are a lot of clubs better than Leeds United but there are not a lot of clubs with this feeling that unites everybody and this passion and culture about the club.”
There are a lot of clubs better than Leeds United but there are not a lot of clubs with this feeling that unites everybody and this passion and culture about the club.Leeds United’s Marcelo Bielsa
Bielsa’s job is looking harder by the day. On the back of Pontus Jansson leaving last month and Bailey Peacock-Farrell joining Burnley for £2.5m yesterday, Anderlecht now seem set to sign Kemar Roofe in a £7m deal.
Losing last season’s 14-goal top scorer, who is in the final year of his contract, would be a blow and Bielsa was unable to shed any light on the potential transfer yesterday.
Either way, reinforcements are surely needed for a squad that is already missing Luke Ayling, Tyler Roberts and Roofe through injury for the trip to Ashton Gate.
That Leeds are being shown live by Sky Sports is not a surprise. This is the fifth year running that United have been among the opening weekend games broadcast by the satellite channel.
Tomorrow’s trip to Ashton Gate is one of three featuring Yorkshire clubs chosen by Sky to get the 2019-20 Championship campaign under way with a bang.
Middlesbrough got the ball rolling last night at newly-promoted Luton Town, while Monday night will see Huddersfield Town’s return to the Football League after two years away beamed live to the nation – Derby County being the visitors.
All three of those White Rose sides could feasibly be in the promotion mix this time around along with Sheffield Wednesday, who travel to Reading this afternoon.
The Owls have not been without their own troubles this summer.
Being placed under a soft transfer embargo for filing their accounts late was followed by the shock departure of manager Steve Bruce to Newcastle United midway through last month.
Lee Bullen, a former club captain at Hillsborough, has been in temporary charge and will lead the side at Reading today.
“Anything feels possible,” said the Scot when asked by The Yorkshire Post about his feelings going into a new season. “Every team’s target, at the beginning of the season, is to get promoted. If it is not, I do not know why you are involved.
“We know ultimately, as the season moves on, you readjust and reassess. You move targets. But every club and coach believes in the group of players that they have got that they can go out and do well.
“Some will be a surprise, some will be expected but the expectation level is to go and win the league.”
Leeds and Fulham are the bookmakers’ choice for promotion but Bullen added: “There is always one that no-one expects to come out of the pack.
“Look at Norwich last year. People thought they would do okay but not go up. They fully deserved to get promotion.
“It is a strange league. It is a fantastic league to be involved in. It is an emotional league because you are high as a kite one week and then you are as low as a snake’s belly the next week.”
Also in action today are newly-promoted Barnsley at home to Fulham, while Hull City head to Swansea City for Grant McCann’s first competitive game at the helm.
“How we start is important,” said McCann.
“It is not the be-all and end-all but it is important. Four of the first six are at home and there is a really good opportunity to get points on the board.”