LEEDS UNITED have just embarked on their 16th season outside the Premier League. Nottingham Forest, meanwhile, last dined at the top table of English football in 1999.
For two clubs who once bestrode the European stage with a deserved swagger and built global fan-bases that endure to this day, to have been on the outside looking in for so long is remarkable.
So, too, is how these one-time heavyweights have tended to tread a similar path while attempting to return to the big time.
Both have turned to successful former players in the hope of reviving the glory days but neither Gary McAllister nor Stuart Pearce lasted a year.
I had never thought about management before. I am not too old yet. But I have been noting things down, the key points I have been learning. You would be silly not to with his experience.Adam Forshaw on Marcelo Bielsa.
Both have also turned to past masters in getting teams up to the top flight but, again, the Midas touch of elsewhere eluded Neil Warnock and Gary Megson.
Other appointments at Elland Road and the City Ground have left supporters scratching their heads in bemusement at just what thought process, if any, was being employed by maverick owners Massimo Cellino and Fawaz Al-Hasawi.
Throw in the fact both Leeds and Forest have knocked on the door of the Premier League since relegation only to lose in the play-offs and also spent three years apiece in League One, and Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off really is a meeting between two clubs who can look at each other and ponder: ‘Are we copying them or are they copying us?’
As it stands, United appear the handiest placed to launch a concerted push for promotion this term. Marcelo Bielsa, now in his second year at the helm, has inspired a remarkable turnaround at a club who had finished between 13th and 15th in six of the seven seasons preceding the Argentinian’s arrival.
Such has been Bielsa’s impact, in fact, that even those players who had little interest in management before now find themselves having been bitten by the bug.
“I am learning so much,” admitted Adam Forshaw ahead of today’s Forest encounter. “He (Bielsa) makes me feel like I want to be a manager when I finish. He has widened my horizons massively.
“It is everything (about Bielsa). His standards, his professionalism, even down to the coaching methods. You then see it come to fruition on a Saturday.
“I had never thought about management before. I am not too old yet. But I have been noting things down, the key points I have been learning. You would be silly not to with his experience.”
An explanation as to why the only two former European Cup finalists to meet in the third tier of English football have been out of the Premier League for so long surely comes via their tendency to chop and change managers.
Leeds have had 15 in as many years, while Sabri Lamouchi is the 19th incumbent at the City Ground since Forest last graced the top flight.
The Frenchman succeeded Martin O’Neill during the summer and the talk around Nottingham is that he must bag a top six finish or join the long list of managers to try and fail on the banks of the Trent.
Bielsa, if anything, puts even more pressure on himself to deliver and the early signs are positive. United were hugely impressive in beating fancied Bristol City on the opening weekend.
“I see Forest the same as Bristol,” added Forshaw, now in his third season at Elland Road. “Fighting for the top-six positions. Every game poses its own threats and this is no different
“But our confidence is high. We had a good pre-season. We tried to tweak as much as possible from last season.
“The confidence is there with the result we got on the opening weekend and we believe we can really push on. The new lads have really settled in. They are good lads. There is a lot of confidence around the place and that makes it easier to settle in.”
United’s transfer window business was mixed. Out went Kemar Roofe and Pontus Jansson, but in came Helder Costa and – on deadline day – Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah. Perhaps the biggest plus, however, came via Kalvin Phillips staying despite firm interest from the top flight.
“Kalvin has grown massively,” added Forshaw. “He has made the position his own (in front of the defence). He is such a strong character, on and off the field. A great lad to be around the place and a top professional.
“He is right up there (in terms of who I have played with). Only young and there is more to come as well. He is a massive part of the team and a popular character.
“First and foremost, the speculation did not affect him. He remained professional. It was business as usual. No-one spoke about it. You would not know if anything has gone on between clubs. From a selfish point of view, I want him here because I want to get promoted. It was great news all round when he stayed.”