|MAN OF THE PEOPLE: Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa has already become a legend at Elland Road. AFP Photo|
In the past week or so, a lot of people have been saying that Leeds United deserve to be a Premier League club.
And now that the team from Yorkshire have won promotion, that’s exactly what they have become.
It’s 16 years give or take since Leeds were last playing top-flight football, and since then it’s been a real roller coaster ride of emotions for the Elland Road faithful.
Since 2004 Leeds have had in total 20 managers. Granted some were just in a temporary caretaker role, but even so, that is a ridiculous amount of people to be in charge of a football club over that period of time.
But now it seems after a long and painful search they have found the right man in Marcelo Bielsa.
Cards on the table, I must admit I knew nothing about the Argentinian before he arrived at Leeds. But since I started to take note, he has really impressed me.
In the past few days, I’ve learned more and more about Bielsa, and it’s all very refreshing. He lives in a small, one-bedroomed flat above a shop in Weatherby, close to where Leeds train.
He walks to work, often refusing lifts from fans and journalists, even in heavy rain, and shops at Morrisons, a low-cost grocery store in the UK.
He is regularly spotted at a local coffee shop head buried in a laptop reviewing hours of footage of football matches, and always, and I mean always, has time for the supporters.
Bielsa doesn’t drive a flash car and more often than not is only ever seen dressed in a Leeds United tracksuit. Which he once wore at a black-tie dinner to mark the club’s centenary.
Leeds fans love him. Once I saw him being basically compared him to God and he has already become a cult hero in West Yorkshire and engraved his name permanently into the club's folklore.
He has managed teams in France, Spain, Italy and his native Argentina.
Bielsa once made players pick up litter around the training ground for three hours, as he had been told that was how long an average Leeds fan worked to afford a ticket.
Listen to the likes of Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola or former Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino and they can’t speak highly enough of him.
And now he will be taking Leeds United to Anfield, Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge to see how well they will fare against the so-called bigger teams.
Despite Bielsa’s man of the people, no-nonsense approach to the beautiful game, I still think it will be tough.
The gulf in class between the top teams in the Premier League and those in the Championship is vast, and Leeds will no doubt find it tough.
They will have to change their style, and sorry to the current squad of players who have done so well getting them promoted, they will need new blood on the pitch as well.
So yes, while I am pleased that next season Leeds will be playing in the Premier League I don’t think it is right to say the club deserves to be there on name alone.
They deserve to be there because they have a diligent, hard-working and committed manager who, sorry to say, now faces the toughest task of his long career to date, and that’s keeping Leeds United in the Premier League. — VNS