Championship's longest serving boss salutes 'education' from Leeds United's Marcelo Bielsa

BRISTOL CITY boss Lee Johnson has hailed Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa as the “top man in the world” and educational for the Championship’s longest serving manager.

Saturday, 2nd May 2020, 5:55 am

No other second tier manager has been in their position for longer than former Barnsley boss Johnson who took over the Ashton Gate hotseat on February 2016.

Since then, 38-year-old Johnson has had four encounters against 64-year-old Leeds head coach Bielsa whose Whites have won all four meetings against Johnson’s Robins.

Johnson, though, admits he is full of admiration for Bielsa with the Robins boss continually learning his trade and benefiting from pitting his wits against United’s revered head coach.

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HUGE RESPECT: Bristol City boss Lee Johnson shakes hands with Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa before the two sides locked horns at Ashton Gate back in March 2019. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

Bielsa - who has managed the likes of Athletic Bilbao, Lazio, Lille and Marseille as well as the Argentina and Chile national sides - has frequently received high praise from his managerial peers with Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola also hailing Bielsa as the best in the world.

Former Tottenham Hotspur boss Mauricio Pochettino who was handed his playing debut under Bielsa at Newell’s Old Boys has also hailed the South American as a father figure to whom he owes everything and Robins boss Johnson says clashes against the Whites are allowing him to learn from the best.

“The Championship is an outstanding league for a young coach that is learning the game,” said Johnson, speaking on Anthony Hudson’s Masterminds podcast.

“As it stands I’m the longest-serving coach in the Championship and there hasn’t half been some good quality that’s come and gone in that time.

“You’ve only got to look at the likes of Jaap Stam and some of the patterns of play, you could really see the Dutch style he brought to that Reading side that was successful in getting to the play-offs, and then the likes of Sheffield United and the way they work their 3-5-2 with overlapping centre-halves.

“It’s almost an education, every game that you’re going into.

“It coincides in probably the top man in the world in terms of Bielsa.

“It’s very interesting to not only watch his teams and study but it’s another thing to feel it as a coach against such a top coach.

“Coupled with the fact we’ve been lucky enough to have good cup runs and go against the likes of Mourinho’s Manchester United and Guardiola’s Manchester City, it’s been a fantastic education for me, the last four years, and long may it continue.”

Johnson’s Robins sat seventh in the Championship table and one point off the play-offs when the season was halted due to the country’s battle against coronavirus.

City are ten points off the automatic promotion spots and 11 points behind front-runners Leeds.

Asked about his coaching philosophy, Johnson said: “The first port of call is to stay in a job and survive.

“Survival is making educated decisions based on the players you’ve got, without a doubt.

“Then the more time you’ve earned through that short-term survival and success gives you the opportunity to really bed in your principles of play.

“Then there’s fine adjustments."

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