Jermaine Beckford makes Premier League prediction with Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa a match made in heaven

JERMAINE Beckford says he will be surprised if Leeds United finish out of the top half on their Premier League return with the former striker confident Marcelo Bielsa will be staying.

Monday, 27th July 2020, 5:50 am
IN CONTROL: Head coach Marcelo Bielsa, centre, celebrates Leeds United's Championship title triumph surrounded by his jubilant players. Picture by Tim Goode/PA Wire.

Former Whites striker Beckford helped lay the foundations for United's long-awaited return to the top flight with the forward netting 25 goals in the 2009-10 campaign as Leeds ended three years in League One by sealing the second automatic promotion spot.

Ten years on, the Whites have finally ended their 16-year absence from the country's top flight with Leeds heading back to the Premier League as champions having romped to the Championship title in head coach Marcelo Bielsa's second season in charge.

Bielsa took the Whites head coach role in June 2018 by signing a two-year contract with Leeds maintaining the right to extend or terminate the deal at the end of year one.

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Affter United's heartbreak of defeat to Derby County in the play-offs semi-finals of May 2019, Bielsa met with United’s board of directors towards the end of May to express his intention to continue.

Leeds then announced that Radrizzani had officially exercised the option to extend Bielsa’s contract for a second season and the Argentinian has steered United to the title with Leeds finishing on 93 points and ten points clear of second-placed West Brom.

Speaking before United's season finale at home to Charlton Athletic on Wednesday night, Bielsa said Leeds should first be intent on enjoying the moment as promotion of champions and that discussions about his future could wait.

Whites chairman Andrea Radrizzani had earlier said that discussions about Bielsa's future would be imminent with United's Italian owner confident the head coach would be staying - and Beckford agrees.

With Bielsa still at the helm, former prolific striker Beckford could then see United immediately finishing in the top half and without the need for widescale changes.

Assessing if United would need major recruitment over the summer, Beckford told the YEP: "Not at all.

"Maybe some reinforcements to help Patrick Bamford out because as a striker your confidence can disappear in a blink of an eye.

"For those days when that does happen, get in another striker who is of a similar mentality to Patrick in terms of his overall work rate and positioning for scoring the goals.

"But I think Patrick Bamford and this Leeds United team will be excellent in the Premier League.

"I'll be surprised if Leeds finish outside of the top half.

"I would love to see that."

Featuring as a guest on Sky Sports News earlier this month, Beckford was asked how vital it would be that Leeds kept hold of Bielsa as head coach.

His reply went viral.

"He's at one of the biggest clubs in the UK so why would be want to leave?" said Beckford.

"Well, you know..." came the reply.

"No, I don't!" laughed Beckford.

Reflecting on the exchange and assessing Bielsa's future, Beckford said: "It's true, why would he look anywhere else?

"Look at the size of Leeds United in terms of the fan base, worldwide, it's right up there.

"If you look at the size of the stadium it's right up there, there's not many that are better or nicer than Elland Road.

"For me, it's my favourite arena, my favourite ground.

"If you look at the squad that he's got and the overall control he's got of the football club, he is in absolute control so why would you want to change anything?

"Why would you want to leave and start all over again a whole new project when this project hasn't finished."

Looking at potential models for United to follow, Beckford also believes United would benefit from adapting the same approach taken by last season's Championship runners-up Sheffield United upon their return to the Premier League.

The Blades finished five points behind Championship winners Norwich City last season with fifth-placed finishers Aston Villa also going up after defeating United's conquerors Derby in the Wembley play-off final.

Upon returning to the top flight, the Blades have fared considerably better than Villa and the Canaries with Norwich finishing bottom of the division and Villa's survival bid going to the final day of the season.

Chris Wilder's side, meanwhile, approached the final round of fixtures sat eighth and already guaranteed a top-half finish.

Whilst still adding quality through the additions of the likes of Luke Freeman, Lys Mousset, Oli McBurnie and Sander Berge, Beckford feels the Blades benefited from resisting any temptation to make widescale changes with a similar approach also working the oracle at Burnley.

Beckford reasoned: "When you look at how much money Villa have spent compared to Sheff United, they have completely upset the squad from the one that got promoted.

"Sheffield United on the other hand didn't.

"Burnley were the same when they got promoted, they didn't make many changes.

"They just kept a really hard work ethic, really high work rate and established themselves as a Premier League side and I think that's something that Leeds United are going to do also."

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Thank you Laura Collins