Simon Rix: As a man of few words, Bielsa seems to make them all count
As we wave bye-bye to 2020 it’s safe to say it’s not a year that anyone will forget anytime soon-particularly not for us Leeds fans. Pablo’s magic at Swansea, the agony of Barnsley, and the celebrations at Derby may already seem like a million years ago- but the scores, the players and the emotions are certainly etched onto my brain for all-time.
2020 has also been a year of words. Hashtags, speeches, briefings, debates and commentary have brought us multiple new words, and in some cases new meanings. The people at The Oxford English Dictionary have given up on their ‘word of the year’ award this time around, on account of so many phrases, acronyms and sound bytes rising to prominence in 2020. The year in words so far reads: Bushfire, Impeachment, Acquittal, Coronavirus, Covid 19, Lockdown, Social Distancing, Reopening, Black Lives Matter, Cancel-Culture, Moonshot, Super-spreader – a commentary for chaos.
It feels like in a year where action and interaction have been largely denied- words themselves have become uncensored and infinitely more powerful.
Bielsa may have been playing the same tactics for three years now, but Leeds’ promotion to the Premier League also seems to have also come with a whole new lexicon to master, and a fanbase with the time and inclination to do so.
On top of working out new and constantly evolving rules on handball and the “t shirt line” suddenly all Leeds fans seem to be experts in the mid block, the double pivot, playing two 8’s and how Leeds should be dealing with these different scenarios. I presume part of this is because we can’t all be at the games. I’m less inclined to worry about the finer details of the system when I’m jumping around celebrating a goal at Elland Road, but with the seemingly endless replay angles and pundits opinions it’s easy to get sucked in to the debate.
Whilst some controversially still find it “scandalous” that Marcelo is still not “talking” to us in English, he’s re-introduced us Leeds fans, to words we have definitely not heard for a long while – words like Promotion, Champions and Premier League -all new additions trending in the city of Leeds on twitter. But it’s more than that- as a man of few words, he seems to make words count.
Every time Bielsa speaks it feels like we learn something from it. A crucial Bielsa-ism for this year - is the notion that winning is not the only metric to measure our success by. Pretty much every game for the last 16 years has been must win for Leeds, and we did win a lot- but was it enjoyable? It certainly had its moments. Now we are back in the Premier League we can take a moment, breathe, enjoy the ride, whether we finish above or below, Newcastle or Arsenal or Man U isn’t a deal breaker. We need to stay up for sure but with some teams it seems like even when they win they can’t enjoy it because they have no affinity with their club. Been there, done that and got the Steve Evans XXXL T shirt.
Hopefully, when Boris’ Covid containment technique [which seems to be the equivalent of putting it in the mixer in the hope someone sticks it in the net] eventually comes to a fruition we will find ourselves back in the stadium, once again able to use our voices to try and affect the results.
I’ll be keeping an eye on The Oxford English Dictionary to see if Bielsaball makes it into word of the year 2021.