David Prutton: Leeds United’s frontmen need to hit the ground running after pre-season

Patrick Bamford sees the funny side after missing a chance against Western Sydney Wanderers this week. Picture: Getty Images.
Patrick Bamford sees the funny side after missing a chance against Western Sydney Wanderers this week. Picture: Getty Images.
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Leeds United again squandered plenty of goalscoring opportunities during their two games in Australia and in terms of how you solve that, it depends on how long you have faith in the players.

READ: The lowdown on Leeds United’s next opponents – Cagliari

Jack Harrison challenges Dylan McGowan of Western Sydney Wanderers. Picture: Getty Images.

Jack Harrison challenges Dylan McGowan of Western Sydney Wanderers. Picture: Getty Images.

READ: All you need to know about Cagliari v Leeds United

I remember speaking to Steve Evans and he was talking about Chris Wood when he was in a bit of a fallow period and he was saying he was getting into good positions and missing good chances but as long as he was getting there, that was the main thing.

It’s a bit of a cliché but the minute he stopped or whoever is in that position stopped having the dynamism and the appetite to get into goalscoring positions, then that’s really when the big problems start.

Any striker goes through periods of being confident and being not so confident and you are talking about players at Leeds like Patrick Bamford and Jack Harrison.

Kemar Roofe challenges Tarek Elrich of Western Sydney Wanderers last week. Picture: Getty Images.

Kemar Roofe challenges Tarek Elrich of Western Sydney Wanderers last week. Picture: Getty Images.

They are certainly committed to what they are doing but I think the general consensus from the Leeds fans’ perspective is that the jury is still out on them.

Leeds want the Bamford that scored a bagful of goals for Middlesbrough several seasons ago, not the one that has floated around from club to club in recent years.

The other side of it is that Bamford will be as desperate as any of those Leeds fans to have a goalscoring return to be proud of.

He doesn’t want to be a striker that is getting into those positions but not scoring the chances that are made.

Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa. Pictur: Getty Images.

Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa. Pictur: Getty Images.

He will want to be the person that is converting them and becomes a hero and Chris Wood is a great example.

The most prolific season of his career led to him finding himself back in the Premier League, though unfortunately not with Leeds.

But from a personal point of view it got him a move to the top tier of English football so you can’t underestimate the desire and the appetite of the players to be as good as possible.

Yes, it can be infuriating as a fan and I have done it myself when I have been watching games where you think: ‘how did you miss that?.’

But it’s quite a different thing being sat in the stand thinking how did you miss that to seeing the whites of the goalie’s eyes and not being able to convert the chance that looked relatively simple.

That’s why football is at once both an entertaining and dramatic and wonderful game but also utterly, utterly frustrating when you are watching it as a fan.

I think there are lessons to be learned from that last season. There is an element of pre-season being a time when results don’t necessarily matter and I would be inclined to think that to a certain degree but I also know that wins breed confidence and goals for strikers in those positions breed confidence too.

You want Leeds to hit the ground running come the start of the league season which is now just over one week away.

Leeds finish what will have been a tough pre-season with this weekend’s trip to Sardinia to face Cagliari Calcio and Marcelo is quite clearly working his players just as hard as last summer.

And getting as fit you possibly can in pre-season makes a hell of a difference.

You appreciate it a bit more when you are not playing because there is a sense that any form of keeping fit when it is not actually your job is purely at your leisure and it’s purely your choice.

You can decide that you just don’t fancy it but you can’t do that in pre-season. You have to do it, there’s no way around it, it’s part of your job.

You would be absolutely right to say the players are getting paid for it but it’s still a test physically and mentally.

When you have finished playing, you can look back on it all fondly and with rose-tinted spectacles but the players there under Marcelo Bielsa, I doubt they will ever be any fitter at any time in their career under anyone else.

Bielsa will keep pushing them and pushing them and they will become stronger mentally and stronger physically as well.

They will be a lean and hungry group of players and if you come away from the football side of it, what a glorious thing to behold to be so fit.

You are being pushed to the limit but you all come through it together as a group of players which develops the camaraderie as it’s a great way of pushing the limits of what the group has got collectively as well as what individuals have got.

When the players are in their late 20s and early 30s they will look back on this and think ‘blimey, I was fit’ in every sense of the word and how amazing is that when you are on the edge and outer reaches of what your capabilities are from a fitness point of view. That’s a wonderful thing whereas now for a retired player like myself you are able to sit back and drink wine and eat cheese until it is coming out of your ears.

Part of you thinks back to what it was like before and how you got through it!

I presume that this weekend’s game in Cagliari will be the chance to get the whole squad or the majority of the squad that Bielsa wants to work over the course of the season together in a match situation before the start of the season.

But the demands and the rigours that Bielsa puts on his players in training means that they will know specific match requirements that he wants from his side in any relevant game and we all know that the information that he garners on the opposition is to the most minute detail.

They won’t be under-prepared going into the game but they will certainly have a lot of mileage under their belt.

It won’t be a rest for a week after Sardinia but I think it’s right that there will be minimal travelling after that because it’s only a three-hour flight back from Italy.

The major one is getting over the Australian flight, making sure there are no strains or anything like that and no hangover effects from what they have been put through there.

The financial side of it and the general good-will that perhaps it spreads to that side of the globe must outweigh what they have managed to look at from the point of view of fatigue in the players and the work they get into the players, otherwise no matter how much money that it generates, I don’t feel like they would have done it.

It will certainly be one of the longer trips they ever do in pre season.

But the most important thing will be if Leeds hit the ground running in that first game on the Sunday because all eyes will be on it. Bristol City will be tough plus Leeds will be a big scalp.