THE Kassam Stadium, Oxford United’s home since 2001, last night seemed a fitting place for Leeds United’s latest pre-season stop-off.
Like the three-sided venue named after a former U’s chairman that has a car park filling one end, Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds are someway short of being the finished article.
Forty days after the Argentinian was appointed to great fanfare and United look miles away from where they need to be if this season is not to follow the path of so many others at Elland Road in recent years.
Granted, Bielsa is slowly stamping his mark on the team.
Four friendly outings inside eight days have brought a mixing and matching of personnel with last night seeing most of those who started at Southend United on Sunday left behind in Yorkshire. Just three of those involved against League One Oxford boast a competitive first-team appearance for the club.
What was again evident is that movement, fluidity and adaptability are the new buzzwords with Bielsa at the helm.
To have any hopes of completing his own rebuilding job, however, the former Chile and Argentina national team coach needs a big helping hand in the transfer market.
Progress has been painfully slow. Lewis Baker and Jamal Blackman have both arrived on loan from Chelsea, the latter making his non-competitive bow at the Kassam as a second-half substitute in a 4-3 defeat that saw Baker get his name on the scoresheet along with Tyler Roberts and Jack Clarke.
Leeds, though, need much, much more and they need it fast with the closing of the window for permanent transfers edging ever closer.
Such have been the troubles endured by Leeds, in fact, that the club is in the unusual position of having made fewer signings this summer than owner Andrea Radrizzani, whose Eleven Sports network this week added the PGA – golf’s fourth major – to a stable of sports that now includes La Liga and Serie A football.
In contrast to this hoovering up of TV rights, United have looked as impotent as the BBC when the pay broadcasters first came calling for their live sports portfolio in the Nineties.
With a little over a fortnight of the window remaining Bielsa’s squad is paper thin. At least one proven centre-forward is needed and probably two. A lively winger with pace is also required along with a centre-half.
Money, as ever, is the cause of United’s woe. Not that Leeds do not have the cash because they do. The £11m they were willing to spend on Matej Vydra is proof of that. Ditto the substantial wages offered to Abel Hernandez on his release from Hull City.
United looked to have their men during the pursuit of both strikers only for a late moving of the salary goalposts to scupper those hopes.
Florian Jozefzoon was another whose deal was well down the line before a wage offer from Derby came in that was way north of the value Leeds had put on the Brentford winger.
How Leeds fans must wish for the simpler days when, as the club’s 1972 FA Cup final song famously put it when paying tribute to both the versatility and character of Paul Madeley, The Eleven Pauls are never far away.
Money was never an issue for the club legend, who sadly passed away on Monday at the age of 73.
Jimmy Armfield, another to recently leave us, loved recounting the tale of how Madeley, in his office to discuss a new contract, once signed a blank piece of paper and told the then manager to fill in the bits about wage and contract length.
“I just want to play for Leeds, so I will leave the rest to you,” was the parting shot from someone who filled every position bar goalkeeper for the Elland Road club and made 724 appearances.
The hope for Madeley’s old club is that the final 15 days of the window can bring some long overdue progress in the transfer market.
Bids are in for a couple of strikers, The Yorkshire Post understands, both of whom are well versed in the demands of the Championship.
Further attempts are also being made to bring more creativity to the side, a big failing last season once Samuel Saiz’s form had tailed off following his red card and subsequent six-game ban for spitting at Newport County in the FA Cup.
It is far from ideal that what promised to be a big summer of recruitment following the coup of Bielsa’s arrival will now have to become a very big fortnight.
But with Pontus Jansson back this week and the likes of Saiz, Pablo Hernandez and Adam Forshaw already giving the new head coach a decent base on which to build, Bielsa’s topping out ceremony can still happen a lot sooner than that of the Kassam Stadium.