Ex-Leeds United man on star's 'disgraceful' reaction, a stonewall red and Whites' last hope

Leeds United are now back in the realms of relying on other teams when it comes to staying up, writes DAVID PRUTTON.

By David Prutton
Saturday, 14th May 2022, 4:45 am

They need help to get out of trouble basically and the positivity that came with the five-game unbeaten run seems to have completely disappeared although United fans know exactly what it’s like to be in this position and deal with adversity.

But even so, the way they have stuck by this team has been nothing short of admirable because they’ve not stopped singing and they have not stopped supporting the side.

They’ve been realistic when it’s come to expectations and also their position within the league.

Sign up to our Leeds United newsletter

UNNECESSARY HEADACHES: For Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch, above, in the early stages of this week's defeats to both Arsenal and Chelsea due to self-inflicted Whites harm. Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images.

I think from their point of view, they’ve done their job.

But can you say that the players have done that when the team finds itself in the bottom three without the future in their own hands?

Leeds needed to give themselves the best possible chance of getting something from this last week’s games against Arsenal and Chelsea.

But they haven’t done that and if you look at the results, the performances, the intricacies and the details of those results and performances, it looks like a team in serious, serious trouble – ill disciplined, poor defensively, creatively not having a cutting edge – combinations of problems that leads to teams being where they are.

If you look at the Arsenal game, Luke Ayling is one of the most dependable players that Leeds have had in recent seasons, a player that’s got better as Leeds have got better, a player that’s a thoroughly respected, responsible and liked team-mate and the fellow that I bumped into in the street is a lovely fella.

The one that I’ve covered from Bristol City all the way up into the Premier League has been a joy to look at.

But in this instance, he has produced a tackle that has left his side up the creek without a paddle and Raphinha’s reaction to it was a disgrace.

I’ve been in a position in a relegation fight where I have completely lost it and let my team-mates down so I know exactly what it’s like and the brickbats that come with that and deservedly so and Raphinha, to me, looked like a player that wanted to be sent off.

He has lit up Elland Road at times since he’s been here and he has been technically one of the best players that we’ve seen here in recent seasons although nowhere near as consistent as that ability should afford.

He is undoubtedly a player that gets fans off their seats but what he was doing in the Arsenal game was a disgrace, an absolute disgrace and I understand that sense of losing your head and being passionate and so incensed in the moment that you can’t see anything else.

But that was a team-mate who was totally out of control, who wasn’t listening to his team-mates and so then you have got a player that is on the pitch in person but not in spirit or mind.

He’s gone, totally gone and therefore useless to what the team ethic is after that.

Then you move into the Chelsea game and the Dan James tackle was an absolute stonewall red card.

And any shouts of ‘he got the ball’ are completely irrelevant when he could have broken the lad’s leg. It was endangering the safety of an opponent with excessive force and recklessness, all of those things.

It doesn’t become subjective, it was a ridiculous challenge and it’s killed the rest of the team.

Dan James has been asked to play several positions over the course of his Leeds career, and he’s attacked each and every game with commitment, purpose, enthusiasm and hard work so there’s no discrepancy about that or aspersions on his character or the player that he is.

But in that instance, his action kills the game and by the time Romelu Lukaku scores the third goal, it’s a goal that belongs in the playground.

It was ridiculous and all of this came against the backdrop of however many thousands of Leeds United fans swinging their scarves in the air and singing their names to the rafters.

It’s extraordinary really and Leeds’ fans have had a team for the most part under Marcelo Bielsa that has absolutely mirrored and deserved that fanbase and that hasn’t always been said over the course of the last decade or so. It’s had a team and performances that have been nowhere near reflective of how good the support base has been.

But ultimately, one man in Marcelo Bielsa off the back of hard work by other foot soldiers, dragged the standards up to replicate what the fans have always demanded, which is absolutely everything and this squad that got them into the Premier League and that first season gave him absolutely everything.

I’m not saying that’s not been the case this season because they have once again given absolutely everything but they are falling short because they haven’t been good enough quite simply.

It feels a bit like this team was built to attack and all it was doing was attacking.

I think everybody sensed there needed to be an evolution with that, given the standard of teams that they were playing against.

I’m not saying they got found out but it’s elite level sport and teams adapt. But that was a testament and a compliment to Marcelo’s abilities to attack the division, which is exactly what they did.

It’s been more of a rearguard action this season and that ridiculous month when they were just shipping goals in left, right and centre will possibly kill them in Premier League terms because of that goal difference.

It would be funny if it wasn’t so unbelievably damaging.

Leeds are now at the stage where they need favours even if they take maximum points and Burnley may well lose all three of their last three games, starting with Sunday’s clash at Tottenham.

But Burnley might win all three and Leeds might look properly adrift by the time it comes to the final day as Everton might win all three too.

You could suddenly see Leeds going down by a gap of nine points which would be shocking really and that’s cut adrift territory, that’s not leaving it until the last day.

But it’s all down to this last week now and firstly tomorrow’s final home game of the season against Brighton which will be a very, very difficult game.

Brighton are unbeaten in three and they have scored seven without reply in their last two games against Manchester United and Wolves.

They have drawn with Southampton, beaten Spurs and beaten Arsenal and if you look at all of that, Leeds could get hammered. Seriously.

There was a time when Brighton couldn’t score a goal but Graham Potter stayed steadfast in his philosophy and they are an example of what Leeds United could be in the Premier League.

There will be proper die hard Leeds fans from a certain generation who will think ‘come on, it’s Leeds United against Brighton.’

But Brighton are a proper established Premier League team. Leeds aren’t and it’s not going to be easy whatsoever.

Leeds have just got to bite their nails through the Spurs game, hope that their team beats Brighton and then bite their nails through the Everton versus Brentford game, that’s the position that they find themselves in.

And if Leeds can do their bit to take it to the very last day, then that’s all then they can hope for because these have all been self-inflicted wounds.

Even when Leeds were at this stage last season and going into the top 10, this season was always going to be about survival, we have always said that.

And if that happens in the 95th minute of the last game of the season, then happy days, that’s all it’s about.

Fundamentally there has got to be elements of realism, hope and black humour.

And it’s going to need every emotion that they have got to will their lads on but there’s no need for me to say that as that’s telling these fans to suck eggs.

They have done that from watching us prat around at Cheltenham to coming into the Premier League and turning some of the biggest teams over.

They have done that to a person and they will never be found wanting.

But at times this season, and specifically this second portion of it, it’s the team that has been found wanting instead.