Marcelo Bielsa said he hoped Bailey Peacock-Farrell would benefit from knowing his place had been under threat after taking the extraordinary step of revealing that the goalkeeper was set to be dropped this weekend.
Bielsa outlined his original intention to relegate Peacock-Farrell to the bench and field Jamal Blackman ahead of him against Bristol City on Saturday despite losing Blackman to a broken leg suffered in a development-squad game last week.
Blackman’s season-long loan from Chelsea is over after a serious injury ended his campaign and forced him to return to London without making a league appearance for Leeds United.
The loss of Blackman should have seen Peacock-Farrell cling onto the keeper’s shirt but Peacock-Farrell is himself a major doubt for Bristol City’s visit to Elland Road after sustaining knee injury in training.
The 22-year-old has been ever-present in the Championship this season after starting the term as Bielsa’s first-choice but Bielsa made no secret of the fact that he planned to drop him on the back of a 4-1 defeat at West Bromwich Albion two weeks ago, a game in which Peacock-Farrell was at fault for the second goal.
United’s head coach said he felt compelled to publicise his plan to demote Peacock-Farrell but praised the youngster for maintaining a place ahead of Blackman, a keeper who Bielsa described as “the best young English goalkeeper.”
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“I could have avoided telling you I took the decision to play Blackman but I wanted to make it public for two reasons,” Bielsa said.
“Even if it doesn’t have any value, it’s good that people know that Jamal Blackman reached the goal he had when he came to Leeds. Regarding the impact of this information on Farrell’s mind, I could have avoided telling Bailey that he lost his position as a starter but when you go from a starting position to a substitute it can have a positive impact.
“I didn’t want Bailey not to find out he had lost his position. It’s not very serious when you lose your position because that’s football. You have good moments and bad moments and it’s the same for every one of us.
“But it’s important that when someone loses that right, he finds out why this happens and makes the corrections he needs to make.
“If I had hidden the situation I wouldn’t have given Farrell the opportunity to find out the consequences of his performance. When I tell the whole truth about a subject, it’s because I think it will have a positive effect.”
Bielsa said his decision had been based on more than Peacock-Farrell’s disappointing performance at West Brom, insisting he “never changes a goalkeeper just because of one game”.
Peacock-Farrell got his first run in the senior side at Leeds during the final two months of last season and had never started a campaign as number one prior to Bielsa’s appointment.
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“He played 17 games as a starter and he’s going to play again,” Bielsa said. “This shows the trust I had in Farrell, who’s only (22). During 17 games he had to undergo competition from the best young English goalkeeper.
“I say that Blackman is the best English young goalkeeper, not because I made this conclusion myself. I’m repeating the opinion of specialists on the subject. The fact that Farrell was a starter during 17 games while having Blackman as a second goalkeeper shows I trust him. You can’t become a great goalkeeper if you don’t lose your position and win it back.”
Bielsa expressed sympathy for Blackman, revealing that the 25-year-old had shed more than a stone in weight after signing from Chelsea in July.
Blackman played 31 times for Sheffield United in the Championship last season but was able to make just two outing for Leeds in the League Cup.
“I’m very sad for him,” Bielsa said. “He’s a great person, a great goalkeeper. He made a huge effort to do what we asked him to do. To give you an example, he lost 12 kilos. This indicates his level of application as a professional.
“When he won the opportunity to start a game he got injured. I’m sad for the team and the club but I’m especially sad for him because destiny is unfair on him.”