Leeds United Q and A: Jean-Kevin Augustin update, coronavirus, loans, FFP, Marcelo Bielsa's plans, Berardi future, Whites response to crisis

Saturday is no longer matchday but you can still join YEP chief football writer Graham Smyth as he answers your questions on all things Leeds United.

Saturday, 21st March 2020, 1:44 pm
Jack Harrison has been superb this season on the left flank for Leeds United (Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Jean-Kevin Augustin's injury, Gaetano Berardi's future, Marcelo Bielsa's plans and financial fair play are some of the topics tackled.

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Leeds United Q and A with Graham Smyth

Last updated: Saturday, 21 March, 2020, 12:18

  • YEP chief football writer Graham Smyth answers your questions on Leeds United

Good afternoon Whites. In the absence of any live football I'll be taking a few questions

Top three Leeds players this season? (@StyleLUFC)

Tough one. Ben White has been a revelation, for one so young and a Championship rookie. His consistency has impressed me along with his reading of the game. Luke Ayling has been a man on a mission since he returned from surgery and shown real leadership, not only with his goals but his barracking of others to keep standards up. And while Stuart Dallas was superb at right-back, excellent at left-back and did a job in central midfield, I think Jack Harrison just edges the Ulsterman to the third spot. So White, Ayling and Harrison with honourable mentions for Dallas and Phillips. And the rest.

Favourite moment following Leeds so far? And favourite current Leeds player? (James Campbell)

The Birmingham City game, a 5-4 win, was a standout in terms of sheer entertainment. As a journalist I did actually quite enjoy those spiky, tense press conferences during the team's blip in form. But there was something about Pablo Hernandez' goal at Bristol City on the opening day that made me realise I wasn't in Chesterfield any more. As for a favourite player, contrary to Joe Urquhart's accusations, I don't have a favourite. There are players I enjoy watching of course. Harrison's first touch is a joy to watch. Klich in perpetual motion is fascinating and he's terrific to interview as well. Leeds are blessed with several great talkers. 

Has Leeds United been what you expected it to be like since you took the job of covering them? What do you think of the club, fans, stadium etc? (Oliver Medd)

I don't think anything could really have prepared me. I'm well used to covering clubs where things happen. But as Don Warters told me and as he was told when he took this job decades ago: "If something can happen it will happen to Leeds United." Adjusting to the pace of a daily newspaper is a challenge but so to is adjusting to the size and scale of Leeds United, its fanbase and their expectations. It's been fun. The atmosphere on matchdays is obviously fantastic and reporting on football amid that emotion is exactly why anyone would want to do this job.

What’s the situation with the loan players should the season extend into June/July? (Mark Reid)

Fluid. Everything, at present, is fluid. The loan situation is one of many challenges for the game's authorities to sort if we extend beyond the usual calendar, which is now a certainty. I expect the FA are looking long and hard at the legalities of player contracts and loan deals. It could lead to some huge complications for clubs but most are in the same boat. I can't see Manchester City making life difficult for Leeds, not when there's a permanent deal likely to happen in that particular instance. The FA may consider putting something in place that prevents recalls until the competitions are completed, so clubs don't attempt to strengthen their squads or negotiating power by taking their players back.

Are we in talks with Berardi over a new deal? Definitely feels like he deserves it with performances this season. Second question is if Brighton are relegated and Leeds promoted would we sign Ben White? (@Lufcluca_)

I've heard nothing to suggest that talks have been opened with Gaetano Berardi. Angus Kinnear suggested not so long ago that they had completed their contract renewal programme. If you listen to Marcelo Bielsa it's obvious how highly he rates Berardi's contribution this season. He's played incredibly well despite going in and out of the team. Certainly did himself no harm against Arsenal either. He has a big case for a new deal. As for White, that's got to be a priority but Leeds wouldn't be the only club looking at the defender. There would be stiff competition and a big, big price on his head. What Leeds have in their favour is how at home he is in this squad, under Bielsa.

Graham, as a non-Leeds United fan, can you give us a run-down on what it's been like to report on the club this season? Oh, and just where do you rate the football you've seen the Whites play against other matches that you've reported on? (@365DaysofWhine)

Touched on this in an earlier question but it's been a whirlwind, from day one when Bailey Peacock-Farrell's move to Burnley began to happen. Something is always happening, which is handy during times when there are no games. Marcelo Bielsa is quite different to every other manager I've ever dealt with, so that has brought challenges. But the football has been a pleasure on so many occasions. Watching the little three-man moves and players dropping deep to create space for someone else, before turning and sprinting into another space themselves, the big switch to the left flank and White running the ball out never gets boring. I've been entertained by teams before (Worksop Town had a three-pronged strikeforce who scored circa 100 goals between them in one season) but not to this degree.

Do you think Bielsa will see the enforced break as an opportunity to restart/refresh and outwork teams like at the beginning of the season? (Dan_Lee85)

Bielsa's aim is always to outwork and outrun opponents and, as Adam Forshaw pointed out, Leeds are likely to work harder than anyone and be prepared to hit the ground running once training actually begins. But so much depends on when Bielsa can actually get his hands on the squad again, so to speak. Some sense of normality will have to be restored first and who knows how long teams will get in terms of a mini pre-season? But while the players are currently working from home, there is still a level of accountability and they're still enduring weigh ins. 

You might have seen the managing rankings for who would win in a fight going around on twitter, could you do a set of rankings for the Leeds squad? (Joshua Kelham)

Gaetano Berardi the last man standing, without doubt. In the words of Liam Cooper: "I think you'd have to kill Berra to stop him." I suspect that while several of the Leeds squad might relish the chance to square off with Gjanni Alioksi, he'd be an unpredictable, wild fighter. Unorthodox to say the least. Kalvin Phillips is made of stern stuff. Patrick Bamford might only fight under strict Marquess of Queensberry rules but he's a strong lad, rangy too. Of the younger, smaller players, Jamie Shackleton would be your archetypal Mexican-style fighter. Non-stop action, a million punches thrown. Ben White would see your punches coming and intercept them, hitting you from long range and not breaking a sweat.

Out of all the youth prospects at Leeds, who are seen as the next stars with huge potential? Bogusz? Struijk? Casey? Kenneh? (@jrdeacon)

Good question. Bielsa obviously likes and trusts Struijk and Casey or else he wouldn't have used them. But he's fond of the likes of McAlmont too and has rued the lack of opportunity for those players. I liked the look of Bryce Hosannah against Sheffield Wednesday and from what I've been told, he's rated by the head coach and liked by the players. But there are youngsters in the first team squad who have real potential yet to be fully realised. Shackleton, Davis and Gotts all look very decent, but have had varying levels of frustration this season. There's always the question of whether or not they'd benefit from time out on loan and while I think they undoubtedly would, in the way it has aided Ben White's progression, I also understand why he keeps them in the 23s, learning his style. 

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