David Prutton: Leeds United's principled approach is for the love of the game

David Prutton's weekly column.David Prutton's weekly column.
David Prutton's weekly column.
I don't think it's unfair on the other teams in the Championship to say that Leeds United and West Brom are two names that stick out in the automatic promotion race.

With the division being as close as it is, it means you can’t discount many teams down to about eighth or ninth at this moment in time.

You also normally get the feeling that someone will hit a rich vein of form which sees them establish themselves at the top because of the amount of times it has changed.

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But tonight’s game between these two clubs at The Hawthorns will be an intriguing test of where the teams are at, compared to their numerous rivals.

And if West Brom have got any aspirations of being in the top two then they have got to sort themselves out defensively.

The general feeling is that they can’t just rely on the forwards to outscore the opposition all of the time and that was brought into acute focus when someone like Dwight Gayle was missing because they struggled.

From a Leeds fans’ point of view, they will obviously hope that their team are going be one of those top two but I think it’s a little bit broader than that.

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It will be quite a game if Leeds go there in full-out attack mode. Marcelo Bielsa is careful in the way that he sets his teams up, but he is not careful in the way that he wants them to play.

The Wigan game was a great example of that and it will be fascinating to see if they can maintain the intensity and get about this West Brom side.

With the Baggies, you can look back at the game against Hull City at The KCOM last weekend when Nigel Adkins’ side were well worth a victory.

Then before that there was the Derby game in which West Brom got thumped at home. The Rams were fearless enough to play their own game at The Hawthorns and came away with a very convincing victory, so Leeds have got to approach it in the same way that they have done for most of the games this season.

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Obviously, it’s down to personnel and availability but you get the feeling that Leeds will be very confident going into it and I think they can go there and win.

It’s now no win in four for West Brom and so they need something to snap that winless streak.

But with Bielsa and his experience in situations such as this, coming up against a relatively fresh-faced coach in Darren Moore with regard to the amount of games that he has had in charge, it’s a really good test for Darren.

But it is also a good test for Bielsa and how he manages to set his team up to go there without fear and without any real hesitancy in the way that they play.

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Bielsa has made his feelings known about how important it is to play with style and I think it is a wonderfully altruistic way of looking at it.

I think sometimes there is the realism of what football management is. He is a manager and he knows that results are paramount.

But it is a refreshing thing to hear because if you are a fan that views football as entertainment then there are many games that you can sit and watch where you can appreciate the fight, the competitiveness, the drive, the desire, the energy and the enthusiasm.

But sometimes that means that the actual style of the football suffers.

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Managers are always able to say things like that when things are going well and when they are in a good position and when the team is rightly getting lauded.

It will be intriguing to see if Leeds go through a sticky patch where it becomes more about results than style if that is compromised.

That’s when you see if someone really does stick to their principles or not.

But you get the sense that Bielsa is a very principled football coach and he probably would stick to that.

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But if you look at it from a broader perspective for the good of the game that we all love, then we all got into it because it was entertaining.

We didn’t get into football because we enjoyed somebody not conceding or winning 10 games on the bounce by 1-0.

We got into it because we like thrilling end-to-end games where there are moments of brilliance, were there are mistakes and where there is real energy, love and commitment on the pitch.

For someone like Bielsa to almost see himself being a trustee or a guardian of something like that is a wonderful thing to hear and long may it continue with Leeds.