How Jack Harrison intends to repay Leeds United and Marcelo Bielsa faith after Elland Road learning curve

Leeds United winger Jack Harrison. (Getty)
Leeds United winger Jack Harrison. (Getty)
Have your say

There was a single moment which made Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds United fans sit up and take note.

Stuart Dallas took a quick throw-in to Kalvin Phillips before the Northern Irishman played a deft one-two with Jack Harrison just over the halfway line.

The venue was Pride Park. The month was May. And Harrison was about to help Leeds land a major blow in the hunt for Premier League football.

The Manchester City loanee took one touch out of his feet as he raced away from his marker down the left wing. Kemar Roofe was waiting in the middle, but five defenders separated the two.

A momentary hush swept the stadium before a small pocket of travelling fans erupted. It was Bielsa ball in full flow. It was a flash of Harrison at his best. And it was something that would frustrate amongst the delight.

“Last season was a season to grow,” Bielsa said of Harrison, “and this is the season that he has to show this experience.”

That moment was enough to convince the Argentine, and convince Leeds.

Harrison took little time in signing up for another loan spell at the club, with Bielsa putting him on his wish list for a second assault on the Championship.

The 22-year-old made 41 league appearances under his stewardship, bagging four goals and four assists during an up-and-down campaign in West Yorkshire.

United fans were split on the decision to bring him back with consistency and decision-making in the final third an issue.

Bielsa, though, insisted that the Whites would reap the rewards of continuity in his development, and what Bielsa wants he often gets. But it hasn’t been without a summer of work that Harrison has returned as a different man.

“I looked at some video with a football coach in New York,” he said.

“I worked on aspects of my game that I think I can improve on. I worked on that, and spent a lot of time in the gym.

“I think with the combination of both, with the football and gym side of things, it’s really helped me to be more prepared for this year.

“Being comfortable was a big part of this season. After already going through last year. All the ups and downs. I think it has only helped.

“I feel better within myself and within the team and everything else around it.”

Harrison returned to familiar ground to take stock on a campaign that finished in the cruellest of fashion just three months ago.

New York was his haven, where he spent time with friends and former coaches who had helped nurture his trade in his formative college years.

Harrison graduated into the MLS with New York City FC in 2016, before a transfer to sister club, Manchester City, followed two years later.

A frustrating spell with Middlesbrough that saw just four appearances came and went as he was thrust into the Championship with little warning.

At Leeds United, though, there is an expectation to perform. Some thrive, while others suffer. And it was a tough place to begin a first full campaign in England.

Harrison admits he struggled with the mental aspect of the game last season. Opting to seek the help of a psychologist as he came to terms with the demands of life in the second tier.

Now, less than a month into his second term at the club he’s already starting to win over those dissenting voices.

And, at the DW Stadium on Saturday, 5,000 fans sang his name in unison as he twisted and turned in and out of the Latics defence.

“I heard them throughout the game,” Harrison admitted. “It’s amazing when you have that support behind you.

“It can always be tough when you know the fans are sometimes against you. But I understand it’s a massive club and you can see how much it means to them.

“I want to be at my best and play to my potential to make them happy. I knew it was going to be important to be prepared for that and be ready to make a difference, not only within the team but to make the fans happy as well.

“I’m just trying to improve my game. Each week I’m just trying to get better and better. I’ve got to keep my head down and keep working.”

A goal at Bristol City coupled with strong performances against Nottingham Forest and Wigan have earned plaudits. Harrison, though, knows he has a long way to go to show the best of himself.

But four games into the campaign and Bielsa’s insistence on his return is starting to look like a shrewd bit of business.

“It’s good to build confidence,” he added. “We need to stay grounded and keep working hard. That is what has got us to where we are. We just need to keep doing that.”