'It’s like nothing else exists in life' - Jack Harrison on Leeds United's fans, Marcelo Bielsa and the Premier League

JACK Harrison has had only three managers in English football.

Tuesday, 11th August 2020, 11:50 am
INCREDIBLE SUPPORT: Jack Harrison is greeted by a huge mass of Leeds United fans ahead of the club's clash against Wigan Athletic at Elland Road back in February. Picture by Bruce Rollinson.

His first manager looks up to his present one.

And, after two years at Leeds United, Harrison says current boss Marcelo Bielsa is unique with the winger now relishing a third season under Bielsa – only this time in the Premier League.

Back in January 2018, Harrison became a Premier League footballer under one of the best managers in the world, having just celebrated his 22nd birthday.

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After a productive season in the MLS with New York City, the former Liverpool and Manchester United youngster signed for Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City.

Within 24 hours, Harrison had another new boss in Tony Pulis as the winger joined Middlesbrough on loan for the second half of the 2018-19 campaign.

After returning to City and taking part in the club’s pre-season tour of the United States, Leeds United then came knocking – and Bielsa.

Guardiola, who has lavished praise on Bielsa frequently, describes him as the best coach in the world.

And, two years after Bielsa’s arrival at Leeds, Harrison can see why with the 23-year-old now eager to make further progress under United’s head coach in a third season-long loan at Leeds but this time as a Premier League side.

Reflecting on life under Bielsa in an interview with ESPN, Harrison admitted: “It’s very unique but, as a young player like myself, I’m always looking to learn and there’s no one better to learn from than him.

"The amount of detail that he thinks about the game can improve you as a player.

“If you’re a smart player then you learn to take these things on board and take in as much as you can.

“That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do these last two years.

“It’s been a very different experience but a very eye-opening one as well, just for the amount of information and the amount of things that you can learn under him.”

Reflecting on what excatly made Bielsa different, Harrison reasoned: “The amount of analysis that he goes into with his coaching staff is something new to me as a player.

“I’ve never really experienced the amount of depth and detail that he goes into for every single game.

“Our scouting reports are 20, 30 minutes long sometimes and we’re talking about all the different formations, the possible formations that the opposite team can play and each individual player and, to me as a player, you want to know these things and in training as well.

“It’s not like anywhere else that I’ve experienced.

“I’ve not been to that many teams but the teams that I have been to, it’s completely different.

“We don’t do any possession in training, there’s no small-sided games or anything like that. There’s a lot of drill-orientated exercises.

“On paper there’s so much detail Marcelo goes into, that’s the unique part about him and I think why all these top, top managers like Pep and [Mauricio] Pochettino look up to him, because of this detail that he’s able to go into.”

Under Bielsa, Harrison has made 91 appearances in league and cup over the past two seasons with the 2019-20 campaign proving particularly productive for the winger, who weighed in with six goals and eight assists as United sealed promotion as Championship champions.

Having suffered heartache in his first season at Leeds via the club’s defeat in the play-offs to Derby County, automatic promotion was finally guaranteed one year on as second-placed West Brom suffered a 2-1 defeat at Huddersfield Town as part of a Friday night that will forever be etched in Leeds United history.

"Everybody was so relieved by the end of it," said Harrison.

We were all watching the game where we got promoted together and the joy and the happiness that we shared together was remarkable really.

“The Championship is such a hard league to play in and after the first year with Bielsa we just fell short and obviously we were really disappointed.

"We didn't want that to happen again but we knew what to expect going throughout the year so coming into this last season everybody knew what was coming and we knew what we had to do in order to finish the job that we didn't do the previous year so

“It was a very happy moment for everybody.

“I think the Premier League are going to reduce the number of weeks next season to 36 weeks so I think it's going to be similar to the Championship last year with the amount of games per week.

"I am sure without a doubt under Marcelo Bielsa we will be more than prepared for anything.”

Reflecting on United’s imminent return to the Premier League – and if he ever realised the true size of the club – Harrison pondered: “When I first arrived I knew Leeds was a big club but I didn’t really understand the depth of the club or anything like that.

“I think when you come to the games and you see the fans and you see how much it means to them, day in, day out, these fans literally live for football.

“It’s almost like there’s nothing else that exists in life, it’s only Leeds United.

"When we got promoted and you could see all the fans at the stadium, you could see how much it means to everybody at the club, everyone in the city.

“It’s an incredible thing to be a part of and I’m just happy I’ve been able to help Leeds to get back to the Premier League after such a long time and I think they deserve to be there.

“I’m really looking forward to making the most out of it next season and, hopefully, making more people happy.”

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Thank you Laura Collins