Simon Rix: I’m positive. Once the pressure is off I think Leeds United will be unstoppable
On a WhatsApp group I’m part of, we’re currently naming Leeds players with two or more Bs in their name- it’s Habib Habibou’s fault, and we’ve currently got to 20. We must be bored. 2021 hasn’t really kicked off in the manner we hoped, we’re all sat at home again, Leeds have lost three of three, with a generous seven goals conceded and none scored.
As the Whatsapp gains momentum, I’m reminded of BB (Before Bielsa) times, sitting uncomfortably in my beloved seat at Elland Road, watching yet another turgid game play out. I can’t remember exactly which one, but I’m pretty sure Steve Evans was in charge, and that after about 10 minutes we were all naming Leeds players with food related names. Peter Haddock, Trevor Cherry, I think Thomas B-Roll-in even made the squad. It was another one of those matches where the football had slipped steadily into secondary content elevator music and background colour - until we were pulled back onto the turf and reminded of the reason we were sat there in our cold seats in the first place. The moment, when against all expectation, Leeds scored.
That game always reminds me that as much as I go to watch Leeds play, the match day experience is as much about seeing my friends and other fans, talking to people about all things Leeds United. During the last year recreating that has been tricky.
When the rules allowed I had a couple of friends round to watch a game outside, I went to the pub (outside) in the promotion run in, I’ve had a Zoom watch along (slightly ruined by delay), but mainly it’s just been me sat watching on my own, messaging people about what’s going on.
I think it’s the only time in the week when all of my friends are doing the same thing as me at the moment, having the same-shared experience in real time.
On the groups, as well as the word play, there’s been a lot of worrying about the form, but I’m staying positive.
This year in the Premier League we have a tricky task to stay up but with an expectation to easily stay up, despite having our Championship side plus a few. Not belittling the few, Raphinha looks great, but from previous seasons we have all seen our signings get better the more time they spend with Bielsa. I wouldn’t have necessarily picked Harrison as being a first choice Premier League player when in his first season he was only playing for 45 minutes in most games.
So I’m positive. We may be 12th , but we are easily 12th - we’re closer to Europe than relegation and we’ve done most of it with a patched up defence. My WhatsApp reliably informs me that we’ve had eight different combinations in defence this year, and only started with the same back four as the previous match on seven out of 18 occasions.
Add to that Meslier missing the Brighton game and Kalvin’s absences and it’s all been inconsistent.
The good news is the games that we have managed to put out our strongest back five we are unbeaten. So as we edge closer to starting with Meslier, Ayling, Llorente, Cooper, Dallas and Phillips, hopefully they can all stay fit so we can get back to the winning bit we were are all getting used to.
So yeah – I think we are set for staying up, and once the pressure is off, I think we’ll be unstoppable to be honest. As for this week, our exploits in Sussex mean no game for us - so back to WhatsApp.
I think we’re on players with two Ks now.