'I didn't want to come' - Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch outlines silver lining of sudden Elland Road invitation

Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch hopes to take full advantage of the benefits his unexpected February arrival has given him.

By Flora Snelson
Thursday, 26th May 2022, 8:15 am

As first days at work go, Marsch's arrival at Elland Road was up there with the most challenging - from the relative comfort of life out-of-contract, the American was suddenly required to convince a grief-stricken fanbase that he could whip a group of shell-shocked players into good-enough shape to come out of a relegation battle unscathed.

Though Marsch was a likely summer successor, the landscape of the club when he was drafted in as a matter of urgency following Marcelo Bielsa's sacking in February was entirely different from the one he might have imagined walking into at the conclusion of the 2021/2022 season.

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Leeds were clinging to a narrow two-point cushion above the drop zone, and the five calamitous matches which forced Bielsa's departure had shrunk the Whites' goal difference from -11 to -31. Below them, relegation rivals Burnley and Everton had games in hand and in order to go toe-to-toe with them, Marsch was resourced with an injury-plagued squad, many of them unwittingly carrying the Argentine's legacy in their on-pitch habits.

It was a job that even the most seasoned football manager would have had to think twice about, and Marsch, with no prior experience of a relegation battle, was unsure about assuming the role of United's lifeline.

"I knew there was an opportunity when Victor [Orta, director of football] asked me to come at a time that I, frankly, didn't want to come," Marsch said after Leeds secured their Premier League status at Brentford.

"From the beginning, when Victor asked me to come - at first I was like ‘no’. Then I thought about it for 24 hours and it was an opportunity."

Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch during his first training session at Thorp Arch. Pic: George Wood.

Three months later, Marsch has succeeded in guiding the Whites to safety - and now, he says there's a clear advantage to his pre-mature employment.

"My focus was to keep us up," Marsch said, "but it’s been a very important three months for me and my connection to the future of this club.

"I know the players more, I know the club more, I know the people that work within the club, I know the fans, I know the community, I’m much more aware of exactly what we are and where I want to take it.

"We've already had some discussion about what we're looking forward to but, for sure, we can't waste any time.

The players Jesse Marsch took on when he accepted the Leeds United job were mentally and physically tired. Pic: Laurence Griffiths.

"We have to use this momentum in all the right ways and the benefit of me coming here three months early is that I've really got my hands dirty.

"I understand much more clearly - than I ever could have had I not come now, or before - the vision of how to move forward."

Marcelo Bielsa tributes were prominent during Jesse Marsch's first game in charge, a 1-0 defeat to Leicester City at the King Power Stadium. Pic: Michael Regan.
Jesse Marsch celebrates Premier League survival with his Leeds United players. Pic: Ben Hoskins.