David Prutton: It’s advantage Leeds United in the promotion race, but it’s still too close to call
Saturday’s events involving Leeds United’s win against Millwall and Bristol City’s victory at Sheffield United were amazing.
The atmosphere at Elland Road must have been absolutely unbelievable.
Could that have been the day that Leeds clinched promotion? If you are a realist then it’s probably a bit too early to say that.
But if you are the kind of person that believes in sports movies and Hollywood fairytales then that would be a great thing to hang it on – if it ends up with Leeds getting automatic promotion.
You could get Leeds and Sheffield United achieving exactly the same results between now and the end of the season and that would mean that last Saturday was the most pivotal day of them all.
Fair play to Bristol City. They have then gone to Middlesbrough in the week and beaten them as well.
They are a good team with good players and I don’t think for one second that Sheffield United underestimated them. But they are good and that shows how competitive the division is.
You have got teams like Leeds and Sheffield United looking to get out of the division automatically but there’s about nine teams saying ‘give us the play-offs’, trying hard to get into them. You can’t forget that whoever you come up against they will be playing to the maximum.
It’s now advantage Leeds with a two-point cushion over Sheffield United but just one game before that it was advantage Sheffield United, so Leeds can’t get too carried away, though it’s hard not to, given the euphoria during and after the game against Millwall.
That’s what football and being a football a fan is about, the drama, the ups and the downs and there were two weeks to stew on the loss to Sheffield United.
Leeds had to come out of the traps flying but they have got to be extremely wary and careful that just the right amount of nervous energy is expended so that there is enough left in the tank for these last seven games.
Leeds and Sheffield United now both visit Birmingham and Preston for their next two games and Birmingham’s season has changed somewhat because of the points deduction but they gave West Brom a good game last Friday night.
From Preston’s point of view, it is not mathematically unachievable for them to get in the play-offs so they will have half an eye on that.
It’s the different rhythms of who you are playing against and what you are after. Birmingham had half an eye on the play-offs but were cosy enough to know they were away from any form of trouble whatsoever.
Now they have got to make sure that the last few games are as comfortable as possible by getting the points on the board sooner rather than later.
Preston are also a team who will not be wanting to end the season with a whimper and I can’t think for one second that you will be looking at a side with flip flops on and thoughts of the beach.
It’s a fascinating narrative that Leeds and Sheffield United have the same two fixtures in the next two games, something that is really quite eerie given that they are in the same position.
There’s also the fact that Leeds are coming up against Garry Monk at Birmingham and he will definitely want to get one over on his old team because he knows what his reception will be like.
Leeds now have Kemar Roofe back fit after nearly a two-month absence which obviously raises questions over who should start in the lone striker role out of Roofe and Patrick Bamford.
Bamford had an opportunity against Sheffield United which lacked conviction and then the penalty miss against Millwall but maybe from the point of view of keeping everybody on board and a confidence point of view, to discard Bamford straight away would be a little bit harsh.
It would also put pressure on Kemar to come back straight away and hit the ground running and given the season he is having you wouldn’t bet against it. But physically it is so very demanding and the last thing you want is to chuck him in and then half an hour into the game he breaks down because he is not at the required pace.
He might have worked hard in training but Leeds need him for this run in.
I think the sensible Marcelo Bielsa thing to do would be to start Patrick which almost lays the gauntlet down at Bamford’s feet.
He will either have the kind of effective game that we know he can have or if not, Kemar is there ready to come in and have half a match or half an hour.
You can talk about different permutations and formations and starting XIs and players coming back from injury and of course you want to play the games and be one of the first names on the team sheet.
But you are now seven games away from the Premier League, it’s all about the team, it’s all about the collective and that’s more important than the XI players on the pitch.
It’s about what they can do for the club and getting the club back into the Premier League.
I don’t know too many of the Leeds players personally but you know the kind of people that Bielsa has got on board and the collective culture that he has managed to create. Whoever starts a game, you would like to think they would know what an opportunity they have got to create history at a place that has really needed it in recent years.