There is no international break curse hanging over Leeds United, but they do have a nasty habit to break
It’s not exactly a curse but Leeds United have picked up a nasty tendency when it comes to games that precede an international break.
Anyone suggesting there is a hex hanging over the Whites could quite reasonably point at Saturday’s encounter with Millwall and a particular pair of refereeing decisions.
Yet the club’s record over the past six years, in the 20 games before international breaks, is not all bad.
They have won eight and drawn three of those.
The recent trend is poor, however.
Leeds are winless in seven and pointless in three, before an international break.
A 3-0 beating at Hillsborough and a 4-1 drubbing by West Brom stick out amid that lot like sore thumbs.
This season, defeats to Swansea and the Lions have taken the wind out of the Whites’ sails ahead of a fortnight with no fixtures.
Saturday’s controversy at The Den came exactly six years after a 3-1 loss at Derby County before the international break.
Chris Martin, Johnny Russell and Will Hughes found the net for the Rams, Jason Pearce on target for the visitors.
Michael Tonge played in that game for Leeds, at least 76 minutes of it, before El Hadji Diouf replaced him and failed to rescue the result.
Tonge has mixed feelings when it comes to the two-week respite from club fixtures, especially when it comes after a defeat.
“It’s funny really because I think sometimes it’s good to have it,” he said.
“It depends on the manner of the defeat – if you take a bit of a whacking then it can be a long two weeks and you want to put it right, that can be frustrating.
“If you’ve been on a bad run it’s different; it can be quite a good chance to regroup, have a break.
“When it’s Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday it’s easy to go on a bad run.”
READ: Daniel Chapman's latest column for the YEP, on Gaetano BerardiTonge acknowledges that Leeds have had perhaps more than their fair share of struggles in the game before the break but cannot put a finger on why that is the case.
He can offer some insight into the benefits and potential pitfalls of a victory, however.
“I remember a few times the first game back, winning it,” he said.
“A good result means it’s a very different atmosphere around the place for two weeks.
“Sometimes if you do win, though and you’re on a good run, it can be a real negative.
“You want the games to keep coming.
“Everyone relaxes a little bit.
“But, if you get beat, everyone is at it; we need this next result in the first game back.
“It can work both ways.”
Under Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds have managed to emerge from the international break in good form, losing only once in the four fixtures since his arrival at Elland Road.
However, going back a little farther, the trend doesn’t make for such good reading.
In their last 10 post-break games Leeds have lost five and drawn one.
With senior players like Stuart Dallas, Mateusz Klich and Gjanni Alioski jetting off to join up with their respective national squads, a host of youngsters leaving Thorp Arch to play international youth-team football and others enjoying trips of a more leisurely nature – Ben White and Kalvin Phillips have given social media insights into a trip to Iceland since the weekend – it is hard to imagine the frustration of Saturday’s game lingering around the club until the Championship programme resumes.
“It’s not exactly a hangover,” said Tonge.
“Once a week has passed you have a chance to forget it, even though you still know you lost, and you can all clear your heads.”
Bielsa will use the break to work on the development of players not involved with their countries, rest and rehabilitate those with knocks and prepare for the next round of fixtures.
Leeds United used the previous hiatus to do some business, extending contracts to ensure continuity beyond this season and keeping the mood around Elland Road upbeat.
And this time round they have a birthday to celebrate, a big one.
If they struggle in the Birmingham game that follows the break, or the Blackburn game that precedes the next one, believers in the curse can add to their argument.
But ultimately the international break is a blessing, it’s a sign that Leeds are no longer languishing in League One.