Ex-Leeds United man on survival celebrations in 'cold light of day' and key Jesse Marsch call

In the cold light of day, Leeds United are celebrating 17th, which is not something we thought we would be doing and it’s not something that should be hugely celebrated.

By Tony Dorigo
Wednesday, 25th May 2022, 4:40 am

Yet, in the circumstances, that’s where we are, that’s the reality. And we managed to survive.

I always tried to remain positive but we were up against it and a lot of people around the game fancies us as the ones to go through that trapdoor. But one thing the lads have shown above all else this season is spirit. You can certainly question lots of other things, but you can’t question the spirit of the group and that’s what we were pinning our hopes on.

It was a really nervy day and the pressure was on.

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There were so many moments, even right from the kick-off, the first roll back to Diego Llorente, when you thought okay, it’s going to be one of those afternoons. And it was. There were mistakes early on, from Llorente, Liam Cooper and Illan Meslier dropped one, there were phantom goals being celebrated, so you could feel the pressure all the time. Players will feel all that sort of stuff, but it got us in some bad moments at times.

Even after they went down to nine men, we were two on one at the back and, in my head, I was screaming ‘what are we doing?’. It all got a bit fuzzy, we stayed with five at the back picking up no-one until we got to grips with it.

There were times when I thought we moved the ball around really well and just kept plugging away and I thought, in the end, we handled the situation extremely well. They turned it on in the dying moments and it was just sheer bloody-mindedness and spirit. You can talk about great technical ability all you like but that’s all in the mind, that’s where the boys have been strong when they’ve needed to be and they did it again.

Before the game, we were all talking about Patrick Bamford and whether he could come in from the start at Brentford or come on late in the game and then the news broke of his Covid-19 problem. That kind of summed it all up for Leeds this season.

MAIN MAN - Leeds United winger Raphinha kept his nerve in the most intense game of his Whites stint to convert from the spot at Brentford. Pic: Tony Johnson

Then, when you looked at the team to see Sam Greenwood in there, it was certainly a surprise. I’ve got to say he was fantastic, for a young man to come into that sort of game, at that time, in that position, he did extremely well and showed why Jesse Marsch had faith in him. When the Under-23s were flying and Joe Gelhardt was scoring all those goals, Greenwood was scoring plenty too and he was always impressive. Marsch has always said that since he came in Greenwood is one who got the system really quickly and adapted well, but I did wonder, where does he play exactly?

You wondered if the idea was to have Kalvin Phillips as the one man holding, because then we would have four across the pitch in front of him and maybe out of possession Greenwood would go on Christian Eriksen or whoever it was, but I certainly felt he would play farther forward. He showed he has the discipline to play other positions and he was comfortable in the midfield. His closing down was superb and, as we’ve seen with 100-odd yellow cards, that has to be controlled and we haven’t been great at it, but Greenwood was. It was a mature performance from him.

Then you had Raphinha. Everyone goes through dips in form over a season but what was pretty clear in the last few games was that we were looking for goals to survive and Raphinha is our main man, the one who can do something very different. He stood up to the task at Brentford and played well. Whatever his future holds, I’m sure he was utterly determined to make sure Leeds stayed in the Premier League. He caused plenty of problems, won the penalty and, in an extremely nervy situation, he was the coolest man on the pitch with that little staccato run up and a wonderful finish into the corner. It showed he had not only the desire, but the ability to change things for us.

When Jack Harrison put the ball in the net, I could scream again, in relief. Before the game I thought, if it doesn’t go our way, do we deserve to go down? If we didn’t win, it would have been hard to argue that we didn’t. But everything was fine. It was a crazy day that everyone will remember. This is why we need promotion and relegation in our game, for moments like this.

No-one deserved it more than the supporters. There has not been a group of people who have out-performed the fans this season - the players will readily admit that as well. The way they support the boys is perhaps easy to do when things are going fantastically well but not so much when things are going very badly.

They were magnificent again at Brentford, just like they were with 20 minutes to go against Manchester City or on so many occasions this season. They deserve a team in the Premier League and they’ve got one.