A quiet Thorp Arch, Leeds United international nerves and a 50:50 challenge to keep Whites fans awake at night

Thorp Arch will be a much quieter place next week, thanks to the international quality in the Leeds United squad.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 5:45 am
CRUNCH TIME - England's game against Poland could pit Leeds United midfielder Mateusz Klich against Elland Road team-mate Kalvin Phillips. Pic: Getty

Players will leave the comfort and intensity of Marcelo Bielsa's training to join up with the England, Wales, Poland, North Macedonia, Angola, Northern Ireland and Spain squads.

Others still, like Illan Meslier and Niall Huggins, will feature for their international age group sides.

Premier League football will come to a halt but the worry won't, for Whites.

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As much as Kalvin Phillips' involvement with England is a source of pride for so many of the club's fans, the thought of him putting his fitness on the line in another white shirt is still a little uncomfortable.

Come the Euros, when Leeds' Premier League status should be confirmed for next season, they'll be clamouring for him to be in every side that Southgate puts out.

Right now, it's a case of 'pick him but look after him.'

Leeds aren't likely to go down. Even defeat to Fulham tonight wouldn't, or shouldn't, be enough to induce panic on that front. But whilever they're not mathematically safe, the prospect of losing key players like Phillips, Meslier and Stuart Dallas will make this month's international games nervy affairs.

The thought of Phillips going in for a 50:50 with Mateusz Klich is enough to keep Leeds fans awake until March 31, when England face Poland.

Both men have had their battles with injury and played through pain in a season that has been gruelling for footballers. The summer break was short and even if the Premier League schedule is kinder than the one Leeds were used to in the Championship, injuries have been rife. The last thing Leeds need, right now, is another spate of problems and unavailability.

That said, Gareth Southgate was the least popular Yorkshire resident on Thursday afternoon when he didn't select Patrick Bamford in his England squad. Selecting Ollie Watkins instead made the Three Lions boss persona non grata in Leeds, for an hour or two.

With Bamford likely to play through the pain barrier against Fulham, perhaps a rest for the frontman is better from a club point of view, than an intense international training camp and more games.

There's little doubt however that everyone at Thorp Arch, Marcelo Bielsa included, had their fingers crossed for Bamford. And if asked, you can well imagine Bielsa professing his preference that Bamford played more football, not less. "International competition can only improve a player's level," or words to that effect, perhaps.

Alas, the action during the break will go on without Bamford. He and those remaining at Thorp Arch will focus on recovery and continue to hold down the fort in training, until their team-mates return with tales of their globe-trotting footballing endeavours.

The presence of Raphinha, Rodrigo and Jack Harrison should serve as a reminder to Bamford that even if he's not in the England squad, he's still in top-quality company.

As for Leeds fans, they can switch off from the Premier League season. But they won't switch off from football. Good luck lads, but please just come back in one piece.