A reason for pause as exciting new names like Noa Lang swirl around on-the-move Leeds United
Leeds United have not stood still for a moment for what feels like the longest time and they cannot afford to start now.
Marcelo Bielsa’s players might suggest that they’ve barely come to a rest since he arrived at Thorp Arch, scarcely regaining their breath during the truncated pre-season before rushing headlong into their Premier League adventure.
Becoming a midtable outfit has required what Bielsa has often termed a ‘massive physical effort’ and, without using the ‘b’ word so lazily thrown around in his first two seasons, it would not be a surprise, nor a situation unique to Leeds United if the players were cream crackered by now.
Four games remain in which Bielsa will demand nothing short of complete commitment as he seeks the highest possible league finish.
The rest of the club has been and will be equally active, attempting to build off the field in order to keep pace with the requirements that on-field success brings.
Promotion to the Premier League meant an opportunity to branch out into higher-profile and more lucrative sponsorship deals, but opportunities have to be taken, a lot of hard work has to go in before Adidas will sign on your dotted line.
Big time football means prime time television and long after the work to make the stadium broadcast friendly was complete, staff have still had their hands full ensuring the sport’s paymasters get their fill of the top division’s exciting newcomers – the media obligations at this level are murderball, to the Championship’s light jog around the Thorp Arch running track.
When fans finally return for top-flight football effort will have already gone into enhancing the Elland Road experience and with the 49ers promising expertise in that field, expect more and more developments on that front as time goes on.
On the recruitment front, Victor Orta has perhaps had his life made a little easier by Leeds’ impressively prompt confirmation of Premier League status for next season, allowing him to start his summer fishing expedition nice and early, but the ever-shifting quicksands of the transfer market do not permit standing still.
As Sheffield United found out, recruitment is a stone-cold killer when you don’t make the right moves, or at least move forward with your squad building. Orta’s work is vital and the knowledge that Leeds cannot afford to get wrong their second go at Premier League recruitment will only ever add urgency.
Truth be told the only ones who can stand still, are the fans. And they should do, even in this odd version of normality, experiencing football from afar, via the lenses of the broadcasters.
It’s difficult to smell the roses through a screen but you can still take a moment to admire them.
Sheffield United also found out that top-flight status can be fleeting. Blink and it’s gone, taking with it some of your heroes. Leeds are plotting and planning to be here for a good time and a long time but consider how quickly we got here, with just four games remaining and the summer rumour mill already grinding out endless links. Before you know it, the Euros will be over, it’ll all kick off again and a blink later Leeds’ second season back in the Premier League will be nearing its end.
When you’ve stopped off at League One along the way, it would be a shame not to look back at the journey in order to appreciate just how far your football club has come. The manure of relegations, administration and poor ownership should make the roses all the bigger and prettier.
It would be a shame to get so swept up in the exciting new names being touted, like Noa Lang, a Club Brugge loanee goal-machine winger Leeds like the look of, that the players who enabled the club to put such names on their list aren’t given the appreciation they deserve.
Some of the current squad will go this summer, without doubt, and even if you were wishing Gjanni Alioski away when he conceded that horrible penalty at Brighton, he played an undeniable role in making that fixture a reality.
Time and football don’t stand still and Alioski, who having not signed the deal on the table by this stage is almost certainly on his way, won’t be alone in moving on.
It’s a small consolation that he, Pablo Hernandez, whose family are back in Spain and whose season has amounted to little more than a series of frustrating cameos, and any others possibly heading for the exit, will at least get a send-off of sorts from however many Leeds fans attend the final game against West Brom.
What the players have achieved, not only in winning a title and promotion, but in running themselves into the finest turfed ground all over the country in the pursuit of points and entertainment this season, deserves more than a moment of every Leeds fan’s time.
Just staying up wasn’t Bielsa’s target but the position they’re in with four games to go is more than any right-minded supporter was asking for.
Throw in the 23s’ league title, the social conscience exhibited by Patrick Bamford among others and the club’s stance on the European Super League and it should be enough to move most in the fanbase.
Leeds United are still on the move, just pause and drink it all in.