MARCELO BIELSA is not due in Australia until later on Tuesday and may stay just 36 hours. A host of senior Leeds United players, including three of the four summer signings, have also remained at home during a trip featuring a glamour friendly against old foes Manchester United in Perth.
But captain Liam Cooper is adamant that the Elland Road club’s preparations remain firmly on course with the new season just 20 days away.
“I think as professionals you have just got to do your job,” said the 27-year-old defender about the head coach’s absence. “You do what you are told to do and that is the way it is.
“We have got an experienced group out here and Marcelo wants to work with the lads he has brought in and the lads who came back a bit later. They are doing the fitness work that they missed out on when we were there. So, I think it is all normal to the lads.
After making the Championship dance to their tune for much of the campaign, United were pipped to automatic promotion by Sheffield United and then crashed out of the play-offs to Derby County.Richard Sutcliffe
“All the boys are buzzing to be back and buzzing to get going.”
Last season ended on a horribly flat note for Leeds. After making the Championship dance to their tune for much of the campaign, United were pipped to automatic promotion by Sheffield United and then crashed out of the play-offs to Derby County.
That the semi-final exit to the Rams came via Bielsa’s side committing the footballing equivalent of suicide in the home leg only added to the sense of frustration felt by all involved at the club.
A little over two months on and that cloud is still lingering for some. Pontus Jansson’s sale to Brentford has left a big hole in the defence, regardless of whether the Swede’s personality was to one’s liking or not.
Adding to the sense of unease felt among certain sections of United’s support is Kemar Roofe having entered the final 12 months of his contract, while Kalvin Phillips remains a man in demand with Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa understood to be leading the chase.
There have been four additions, all on loan. Hélder Costa’s capture from Wolverhampton Wanderers is a major coup, while the return of Jack Clarke and Jack Harrison on loan is also a boost.
Ben White is the other new face but the Brighton & Hove Albion defender remains something of an unknown quantity due to not having made a senior appearance above League One level.
Further signings are required, not least in a back four where Gaetano Berardi has surely run out of chances following the idiotic dismissal against Derby that suggested he had learned little since starting his Elland Road career with another red card five years earlier.
United also need Pablo Hernandez to repeat his scintillating form of last year, the Spaniard a pivotal figure in making the football during Bielsa’s first year such a joy to watch.
“I feel good,” said Hernandez, as the countdown continues towards the August 4 trip to Bristol City. “Obviously, I do not feel like when I was 25. But I feel good. I showed that last year. I try to do it again this year.”
Pressed on whether Leeds can build on last season’s strides forward to go one better and mark the club’s centenary year with promotion, the 34-year-old added: “Obviously last year, with Marcelo, the position was harder because we did not know him.
“We worked a lot in the new style. This year we know him and how he works. This makes it easier for us. We want to fight to get into the Premier League again.
“We need to be 100 per cent from the first day. We hope this season, we do not have too many problems with injuries because last year we had bad luck in this part of the game.
“We work from the first day for this. We want to put 100 per cent in. We need all the players. Now we have two or three injured but we hope they come with the group for the start of the season.”
United face Ole Solskjaer’s United on Wednesday in Perth, before heading east to take on Western Sydney Wanderers three days later. Only Harrison of the summer signings has travelled to Australia, the rest remaining behind along with those involved in June’s international action, to work on their fitness.
Bielsa, who watched Liverpool at Bradford City on Sunday, will be in the dugout for the Red Devils clash but a decision is yet to be taken whether he stays or flies home before the flight to Sydney.
“It is a big game for us and for them, too,” added Hernandez about the Red Devils clash, which kicks off at lunchtime in this country.
“We want this game in the future in the Premier League. But now it is a great moment to enjoy this game. To prepare (for) our season against Manchester United is a good moment for us.”