Why Leeds United should have shown more loyalty to Bielsa - Sue Smith on Football

Normally by the time a manager is sacked lots of people want him out but that was not the case with Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United, which is why it came as such a shock to me.

A mural showing former Leeds United coach Marcelo Bielsa. Picture: Simon Hulme
A mural showing former Leeds United coach Marcelo Bielsa. Picture: Simon Hulme

People on the outside are saying he had to go but most with any sort of connection to the club have taken the news quite hard.

It will already have been a big week for his successor Jesse Marsch, because a new manager has to impress the players straight away.

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I am covering today’s game for Soccer Saturday and I will be fascinated to see if he can work as well with them as Bielsa did.

Marcelo Bielsa. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

I understand why my old club made the decision with the threat of relegation, but I do not think it was the right one and they did not get the feeling of the fans. He was a lot more than just a manager. It should not have been Leeds sacking him, it should have been him walking away in the summer.

After all the loyalty he showed – defending his players, chairman and the transfer policy – not enough was shown to him.

I would imagine all the Leeds players had a bit of insight into Marsch, googling him before they met this week.

All you really want to know is are they good and are their tactics good? But the only way you really start believing is when you can see yourself or the team improving in games because of things they asked you to do.

It will be difficult because he will be without at least two key players in Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper and those he has have got used to a very specific way of playing.

The positive is he has a team that is really fit because even as results took a turn for the worse, their running stats did not.

He is going to have to be very good at man-management. You could see it on the field and on social media: the players clearly felt a massive connection to Bielsa.

You could say one of Bielsa’s biggest downfalls was how loyal he was to the players, some of whom he inherited as middling Championship players. He would not bring signings in unless he was convinced they would be better than what he had already, and kept the team together after promotion to the Premier League.

I definitely think not signing players in January was part of the problem but maybe that loyalty kept Phillips at the club last summer and I certainly never watched that team and thought they were not giving everything.

If Marsch brings new players in over the summer that will mean uncertainty, and footballers hate uncertainty.

Players love a routine and Bielsa gave them a very clear way of playing.

If Marsch is the more arm-around-your-shoulder type we are told he is, the players might appreciate that, though.

Ted Copeland, my first England manager, was very old school. He was very strict, but we probably needed that.

When Ted left, Dick Bate came over from the men’s youth set-up as interim manager. We knew very little about him and he did not know a massive amount about women’s football but he was so energetic, made training fun and brought different ideas to it. We gave Norway, the world champions, a really close game.

Whatever he has done at Thorp Arch this week, Marsch will have to hit the ground running at the King Power Stadium today.