Jack Harrison set to hit 'crazy' Leeds United milestone under Marcelo Bielsa if selected at Aston Villa

Jack Harrison is closing in on a Leeds United milestone – one that seems barely believable for the winger.

By Joe Urquhart
Saturday, 5th February 2022, 6:00 am

It is a mix of Marcelo Bielsa’s unwavering faith and his own ability that the next time he pulls on a Leeds United shirt will be the 150th time he has done so.

The 25-year-old ended a three-year loan spell at Elland Road last summer, after Leeds triggered a clause to bring him to the club permanently for around £11m from Manchester City.

Harrison made 128 appearances for the Whites whilst a temporary figure at Thorp Arch – a club record number – though suffered plenty of ups and downs during a period that now sees him as a consistent starter.

Sign up to our Leeds United newsletter

Leeds United's Jack Harrison salutes supporters after scoring a hat-trick at West Ham. Pic: Getty

He is, and has been, a key member of Bielsa’s squad among the rise and rise in LS11 from the Championship to the Premier League in recent years.

A top-flight hat-trick at West Ham last month was perhaps a culmination of the hard work he and his head coach have undertaken together in their three and a half years together to date.

Whatever has been thrown at both, the pair have come through the other side better off for the experience. Harrison is an example of the Bielsa coaching, being shaped and moulded to get the best out of his potential.

Harrison’s hard work and commitment on and off the pitch has seen him put a number of sticky spells behind him, leaving the wide man at a point where he has found a true home.

“It sounds crazy,” Harrison said of nearing another notable Leeds marker.

“After just signing [in the summer] it hasn’t quite hit me that I have had nearly 150 appearances. To have played so much I am really grateful for my time here. It’s been fantastic so far, I have developed so much as a person and as a player. Hopefully that can continue going forward.

“I think the promotion and the hat-trick are up there beside each other. It was a fantastic feeling. It didn’t quite hit me because once I’d scored the hat-trick we had 20 minutes left to play in the game. Against West Ham that isn’t easy, they’re a tough team.

“They just kept coming and coming with their attacks. It hit me after the game and I actually forgot about the match ball, Raphinha had to remind me.

“It was a great moment but more than anything it was important to help the team.”

Harrison is well known for putting in the hard yards away from the field, having jetted off to the other side of the world to stay fit during pre-season previously.

The former New York City star has spoken openly about working on his mental focus as much as his physical attributes, believing the two go hand in hand for elite level performance.

“I’ve been working on being more positive and not dwelling on the negatives, so that’s been an important change that I’ve made recently,” he said, when asked about how he assessed his own game.

“I just have to keep continuing with that. It’s not always easy.

“I think the type of person I am, I am always going to be working hard on and off the pitch and doing everything I can to help the team succeed. That’s the whole point.

“We’ve not got too long left until the end of the season, we have to give it everything we’ve got. I think the whole team is quite close, we can talk about a lot of different things within the group and look at ways to be better.”

Eight goals and eight assists last season was a strong return for a debut campaign in the Premier League.

This term, like most at Elland Road, things haven’t quite gone as planned.

Ahead of the game against the Hammers he had a single tick in each column in the top flight, something he was acutely aware of amid the pressures of the Leds shirt.

Despite the difficulties, belief in the changing room hasn’t wavered with the Whites sat 15th, seven points clear of the relegation zone.

“I think we believe in ourselves as a squad. We’re ambitious, we want to do well this season,” he added.

“I think we’ve been unfortunate at times but we’ve always maintained that self-belief. We’ve tried to keep going. That is the only thing you can do really – keep moving forward and being positive.

“It’s so important for us to do that at this stage of the season.”