Graham Smyth: Let them sing the Joy Division tune, let Gary Neville say what he likes, Leeds United fans have it as good as it gets with Marcelo Bielsa

Leeds United fans appear to be enjoying life with Bielsa at the helm (Pic: Getty)
Leeds United fans appear to be enjoying life with Bielsa at the helm (Pic: Getty)
Have your say

Let them sing to the tune of Joy Division and let Gary Neville say what he likes, Leeds United fans have got it as good as it gets in the world outside the Premier League.

What is being served up by Marcelo Bielsa and his small, trusted band of players, makes the football on offer at so many grounds around the country look like pretty dreadful fare.

It is too obvious a point to compare the Whites’ situation with the nightmare facing fans along the M62 at Bury, and Leeds supporters know more than most what it’s like to watch your club dragged through the mire by unfit ownership.

But, if Bielsa’s brand of football was available in a swap deal, motorways across the land would be gridlocked with supporters of other clubs queuing up to trade in what they are currently watching.

Of course, ultimately, winning is everything.

History books record managers’ names alongside results, league tables, the promotions and relegations they led their club to.

Gary Neville believes Marcelo Bielsa needs to learn English (Pic: Getty)

Gary Neville believes Marcelo Bielsa needs to learn English (Pic: Getty)

Bielsa will be no different, in the decades to come.

When the future Daniel Chapman sits down to pen 100 Years of Leeds United: 2019-2119, Bielsa’s Leeds history will be etched around what his team achieved, if they took the club back to the Premier League, more than how they went about their business.

If the yet-to-be-born author has anything about him, he’ll also record a few lines on 3-3-1-3, positional rotation, Costa Coffee in Wetherby and how 30,002 came out on a Tuesday night to watch Leeds take on Stoke in the Carabao Cup.

Good luck explaining what Carabao was.

Those who were actually there, in the flesh, to watch Leeds go about the business of Bielsa-ball, might look at his tenure in a softer light.

They might forever yearn the entertainment that was on offer when a Bielsa team stepped out at Elland Road; when the opposition simply weren't allowed to have the ball for very long, when White shirts smothered anyone in another colour who dared to put a foot on it, when a goalkeeper played like a sweeper, centre-halves played like midfielders, full-backs played like forwards and everywhere you looked there were wingers.

It is a style of football made for spectators’ enjoyment.

It is not just thrilling, in terms of its hellbent attacking focus, the sheer number of chances made and heartrate spikes in home fans’ chests.

It is interesting, it is football that can be dissected, debated, discussed.

It is sport for nerds, data enthusiasts who plot statistics on pretty graphics to explain what Bielsa’s methods are and why they work.

It does work, too, mostly.

And when you combine his 54 per cent win ratio with how much Leeds supporters enjoy his football, it’s firstly difficult to imagine how Elland Road life will look in a post-Bielsa era and secondly, it’s hard to believe anyone else is having this much fun in the English footballing world outside the top flight.

Neville’s words about Bielsa’s need to learn English to get his points across managed to miss the point by a mile because it’s been obvious since early last season that Bielsa isn’t just giving his players an idea of what he wants, he’s hammering it home on a daily basis, to much better effect than Neville himself managed during his ill-fated spell as a manager.

He’s right in so far as Bielsa’s press conferences can be difficult, owing to that language barrier and what can sometimes feel like a lack of a precise and exact translation.

Leeds United are happy to put up with that, in order to get the rest of what comes with the head coach. So are the fans.

When right-back, yes right full-back Stuart Dallas, raced onto Pablo Hernandez’ impossibly good through ball to score at Stoke, it didn’t appear as if a language barrier was holding Leeds back.

As for that song, the one to the tune written in Salford, it should raise smiles, not ire.

The organisation of this Leeds team, the knowledge they possess of their own roles and Bielsa’s expectations, means they simply haven’t fallen apart in any stage of any game this season.

They’ve got it very much together from tee to green, it is only in finishing off picture-perfect attacking moves that they have been found wanting.

The song is a tired trope, perhaps tinged with envy, that points to past woes, which do of course fuel Leeds’ fans desperation to return to the glory days.

These days aren’t so bad though.