Premier League football for Leeds United does not boil down to bare ambition.
Ambition plays its part but this is about something else and something deeper; about Histon, Sutton United, Hereford away, 6-0 at Hillsborough, Ken Bates and the League One years, GFH, Massimo Cellino, the play-off final defeats, the 14 managerial exits, the players who contributed nothing and the prospects who were sold in a long, dark tunnel which often feel like it will never end.
So many kicks in the teeth that Leeds are lucky to have any left and the pain of last night’s ambush will take many weeks to subside. There is only so much Marcelo Bielsa can know about the timeline behind a club who, through his cerebral coaching, rediscovered their bite this season.
The Championship is good at writing fairytales – Bournemouth, Burnley, Huddersfield Town, teams who had never seen England’s Premier League before – but Leeds were two games from completing an unparalleled epic: so much carnage leading to the happiest of endings. As always, redemption waits for another day.
Bielsa came here for the football, his life’s work and his life’s passion, but he was in it for the people, working for them as they rooted for him.
He has barely found time to explore the city of Leeds so he will not have had the chance to pick through 15 years of horrible history but he could feel it in the air, the over-our-dead-bodies resistance of a downtrodden support who put up with it all in the hope that someone like him would save them.
“They’ve already given what we need,” Bielsa said of the crowd on Monday.
It should have been back to Wembley for the club and Bielsa, a coach who saw the ground in its old, decaying glory when he managed Argentina in a goalless friendly against England almost 20 years ago.
Leeds and Doncaster Rovers in 2008, the League One play-off final in which United appeared in body but not spirit, feels every bit as distant but less forgettable, a day when Wembley was decked in a sad swathe of white.
Leeds had no promotions in four previous attempts at the play-offs but records, they say, are made to be broken, like Bielsa descending on England and becoming the first Leeds boss to win his first four games in charge.
Some refuse to buckle.
With Argentina, Bielsa had Batistuta, Crespo, Veron, Zanetti, Ortega and Simeone with him at Wembley. In his job at Leeds it is Hernandez, Roofe, Cooper, Jansson, Phillips and the rest, the contrast between international and club management where one lets you take the cream off the top and the other makes you churn the milk yourself.
Leeds made the play-offs because of these players but also because of Bielsa’s faith in human nature and the capacity of footballers to go further than they have before.
“I’m not thinking I would like to have other players to what we already have,” he said recently and that comment can be taken at face value.
Aston Villa have Jack Grealish, Tammy Abraham and John McGinn, names other coaches would covet. Derby had Harry Wilson and Mason Mount, both of whom turned it on. All the same to Bielsa.
Leeds had a popular movement behind them this season, capacity attendances and crowds who have been free of dissent, and Bielsa had a popular movement behind him too.
Any coach who drags Leeds out of the EFL is guaranteed the keys to the city but there was something romantic about Bielsa being the one, a man who has walked on water in these parts and in other parts of the world.
The club have found him the strangest mix of drive and humility: unable to accept light switches in the renovated sections of Thorp Arch which were slightly off centre but happy to use his own money to fund a Christmas lottery for the day-to-day staff at the training ground, raffling off a laptop, a phone and an £11,000 Volkswagen Polo.
The kit man who won the car felt so guilty he sold it and shared the cash with his colleagues.
It has been a neat match between a manager and a following who think football means more than the ball on the pitch, the area where Leeds have been letting their public down for 15 years.
That same public turned out for Bielsa and Bielsa, in his own words, could have asked no more of them.
The door to the Premier League was almost open and all they asked of him and his players was two more wins.