Marcelo Bielsa said he was “full of hope” but acutely aware of the expectation on his shoulders with three games standing between him and Leeds United’s first season in the Premier League for 15 years.
The club’s head coach is confident that a poor finish to the regular season would not hang over his players when they line up against Derby County in the first leg of their Championship play-offs semi-final at Pride Park tomorrow.
Leeds allowed an automatic promotion position to get away from them during the last four games having been in control of their destiny until the Easter weekend, but an optimistic Bielsa said he and his squad were being driven by the desire of the club’s support to end a decade-and-a-half of life in the EFL.
Bielsa was still in charge of Argentina when Leeds last played a Premier League fixture in 2004 and 10 months in the job at Elland Road has exposed him to the city’s appetite for overdue success.
“I always think that the salaries we earn are obscene or exaggerated,” Bielsa said, “but sometimes I think our salaries are not important enough and I have this feeling when I think about the responsibility on our shoulders.
“We always earn a lot of money and we think about the impact our role has on the hopes of more humble people.
“It’s harder for poor people to have access to another kind of happiness than football or to have opportunities to feel proud of things like they do about their club. It's a big opportunity for us to fulfil that hope for all of the fans.”
Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion contest the Championship second semi-final, the other half of a play-off line-up which brings together four of the biggest sides in the division.
“This event, it's a football episode which everyone wants to live,” Bielsa said. “Both semi-final games are going to be very attractive and the winner will play at Wembley. The team that wins at Wembley will go up and get promoted and you can't have a bigger goal than this.
“We analysed deeply our last four games but we did that on the first day of this week, we drew the conclusions we thought were the right ones and we started dreaming of what is coming.
“We’re full of hope, we have to hope that we reach our goal, we’re dreaming of this and when you feel like that you feel safe. We’re longing to face these new opportunities that we have.”
Bielsa’s last trophy in club management came at Newell’s Old Boys in 1992, although he led Argentina to the gold medal position at the Olympics in 2004.
“Of course it would be an achievement, I would feel very proud,” he said. “It's very important to me.”