Leeds United coach sends emotional message to outgoing Marcelo Bielsa

Leeds United Under 23s coach Mark Jackson says he's learned so much from working at close quarters with Marcelo Bielsa.

By Graham Smyth
Sunday, 27th February 2022, 4:03 pm
Updated Sunday, 27th February 2022, 4:06 pm

The former Leeds defender took over the 23s at Thorp Arch in September 2020, having been promoted from his role as Under 18s boss.

Reacting to Bielsa's departure from Elland Road today after a three-and-a-half-year stint in charge, Jackson put on record his gratitude for the chance to learn under the Argentine.

"Gracias Marcelo," he Tweeted.

"I’ve been so fortunate to work in such close quarters with someone with this amount of knowledge on football & life. I personally need to thank him and all his staff for being so open and willing to share ideas around the game on a daily basis.

"To sit across a desk and listen and discuss the game has been so valuable for me. I’ve experienced and learnt so much which has helped develop my vision of the game. I wish Marcelo and all his staff the best."

Speaking to the YEP earlier in the season Jackson found it difficult to articulate just how much he had picked up from Bielsa during their time together but admitted it had changed his view of the game forever.

"I've learned so much I'm probably in this answer, now, going to miss out loads and loads of things," he said.

CHANGED VIEW - Mark Jackson said he learned so much from Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds United. Pic: Getty

"But you know, I touched on it before that, to have a wider awareness of players in the system, rather than just being kind of tunnel vision towards where you are in your team and your group of players, to have a wider awareness of players in the system is really, really important. He holds a lot of value to that. I've learned that adaptability, how to adapt quickly. I think connecting with the players is really important and managing players a little bit more. I think my role is working with players, managing them, actually managing the players, rather than just coaching players, it's actually managing the individual as well. You're managing the highs and the expectations, but you're also managing the lows as well, the disappointments, which we've had to do a lot, because players might progress, and then suddenly they're back out of it. Player management is, is really, really important.

"And I've learned a lot from the playing style.Think how the manager looks at the game and how he sees the game, it is different to what I've ever experienced, as a player, and when I first got into coaching. You look at coming through and do my badges and things like that, it's completely different to how he sees the game. So that's probably the biggest one for me, how he looks at the game and how he sees it. There are things that might seem trivial and you go 'why have I not seen that before?' Why have you not seen something as simple as that, how you can adapt it and change, it is phenomenal, really. So how he looks at the game has really opened my eyes. And, you know, it's benefited me as an individual, from a selfish point of view, it's benefited me and my understanding of the game, and it's given me a different perspective."

Jackson's task has been to ensure the 23s played with the same Bielsaball style as the first team, all the while trying to get results, developing young talent and giving first team players valuable minutes as part of their recovery from injury.

At times it was a difficult job due in significant part to the need for his best 23s to provide cover and support for the first team, meaning Jackson had to blood Under 18s in tricky Premier League 2 fixtures.

Bielsa highlighted Jackson's challenge and appreciated the role his 23s coach played.

"We count on the support from their manager," said Bielsa.

"He helps us in a big way in the management of his 23s; the first team is missing ten players and those ten players are replaced by players from the 23s. As a result, the 23s also have ten players missing and the same happens with the 18s. It is very complicated for everybody to balance out the absences."

Jackson felt fortunate to be able to 'scratch the surface' of the head coach's famed philosophy but insisted he had couldn't coach it fully, in the way Bielsa did.

"I don't think I can, I'm not saying I can do that," he told the YEP.

"We have an understanding of it, for me to scratch the surface of it, I've got to be clear that's only what we're doing now as a 23s staff. The managers and his staff have been working in this way for so many years and developing their style and their philosophy. The amount of work that goes into preparing for games and preparing for certain situations is phenomenal. So for me to say that, in a short space of time that I've absorbed it all or anything like that, I've only scratched the surface of it. But I'm privileged to say that I can do that. So it's important for me to get as much out of it as I can. We analyse it all the time and we try and get better. I had a couple of questions only the other day I spoke to Diego and I spoke to Pablo and asked the questions. What do you think in this situation? What do you think here? And you know they give us their insight into it. And for me to be able to call on their expertise, I'm privileged to be able to do it."