Crawley Town test and FA Cup reshuffle could show true depth of Leeds United well - David Prutton

I COULD never see Marcelo Bielsa doing anything other than changing all the players for tomorrow’s third round FA Cup tie at Crawley Town.

By David Prutton
Saturday, 9th January 2021, 5:45 am

It’s the ideal time to do it and even more so with the games coming thick and fast.

But Marcelo will demand no less from whoever starts at Crawley and he will be very wary of Leeds having been the team in years gone by that has come up short in games such as this.

I don’t think that it is too sacrilegious to say that for Leeds quite obviously the first port of call is Premier League safety and anything other than that is a bonus.

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LEARNING CURVE: Jamie Shackleton, centre, experienced pain when missing a penalty in the EFL Cup shoot-out defeat to Hull City, above, but is a likely starter against Crawley Town. Photo by OLI SCARFF/POOL/AFP via Getty Images.

Anything that happens in the Cup can be boxed off as something on the side and something different.

But there is also the recent surge in Covid cases which is bringing into the spotlight even getting games on such as this – which is within the realms of public health.

Public health is clearly the first port of call but it is also crucial these teams get these games done in the football calendar and as quickly as possible to be able to carry on.

Leeds have gone out at the first hurdle of the FA Cup in 11 of the last 17 years and this is a chance to reset that somewhat.

If you are a Leeds fan you can look at that and it’s ironic that 16 of those years came during the time when the team was out of the top division.

They have been chastening times so there will be half an eye on that and this a chance to reset.

But Leeds have seen some truly glorious things under Marcelo this season and last season and the season before.

Hopefully they will now be making new history in this competition but I think overall the FA Cup would just be a nice welcome piece of entertainment away from the cut and thrust of the Premier League.

Leeds have got to do themselves justice and this is also a great chance for the players that are put into the side against Crawley, the likes of Jamie Shackleton who are in and out of the first team and who are looking for a real run of games.

Shackleton is just the first name off the top of my head that could benefit from a game such as this.

The game can show Marcelo and the wider watching brief from Leeds United’s point of view, who is up for the fight, who is up to the task, who might be knocking on the door and how deep the well goes when we look at the quality of the squad.

Make no mistake, a good game in a situation such as this when the boss is looking on does give you the chance to maybe catch the eye and to get a sniff of what the Premier League is about between now and the end of the season.

For the players coming into the Leeds side, this is everything that you could possibly wish for when it comes to looking at young players at a Premier League side.

You can look at when Leeds were getting knocked out of the Cup in the early rounds during recent years but the dark days of League One are now gone.

When I was at the club we went to places like that, not necessarily Crawley but similar sized football clubs.

I was on the bench for the Histon game which was quite obviously a shambles and that was a sobering experience.

Even then Leeds were gleaned to be the big fish.

That was the case even though Leeds were in League One and it applies even more so now.

I think it’s good.

It’s different in that there will be no crowd there but for the players that are picked this will be a wonderful part of their footballing education.

It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be gritty and it’s going to be a challenge.

There is a disparity between where the two sides are and Leeds can approach it to hopefully make it as straightforward as possible by doing it professionally, being diligent and doing all the boring cliches.

People will look at Premier League footballers and say ‘they won’t like it because they will be up and at them’ and all that type of rubbish.

But Leeds can go there and test themselves but enjoy the test that comes their way and tick off a box on your footballing CV.

It is a right of passage that you have got to get through.

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Thank you Laura Collins