Leeds United set for proper test after Marcelo Bielsa's gruelling pre-season regime
Leeds United return to action with their pre-season friendlies this week and as a player you always look forward to that, especially given what we think Leeds will be doing on a daily basis from a fitness point of view.
The work in training is still very game related but now they will be able to get out and actually play and also see fans who can finally turn up and watch the games after not seeing them for quite a while.
For the fans to be able to see the team up close and personal and vice versa will be fantastic.
Any squad is always broken up a bit in pre-season anyway moving from game to game and I don’t think you can read too much into it early on.
You read more into it as you get closer to the kick off.
But it’s just good for everyone to touch base with each other and to get back into the swing of it before all of the serious stuff starts.
I always enjoyed the friendlies.
You want pre-season to be as successful as possible from a fitness point of view first and foremost but good results do help when it gets closer to kicking off.
But you get the sense of people being very excited to see Leeds back in the flesh and the minute that comes around, you know that the proper stuff is only just around the corner.
After tomorrow evening’s pre-season friendly at Guiseley, United’s fans have been given an entire stand for Wednesday night’s clash at Blackburn Rovers through an allocation of 4,500 tickets.
Leeds’ support is obviously huge and there is now the chance to go somewhere like that for a fixture which in a certain era would have been a top-flight game between two teams duking out at the very top of the division.
The game will give Blackburn the chance to reminisce and perhaps give them something to strive for but also show Leeds as they are – the big hitters in town who take a hell of a lot of people with them when they can, as they always did from League One upwards.
It will be great to see that stand packed out at a ground that has been a Premier League venue and just to see them back inside somewhere like that ahead of what this season could hold.
Friday night will then present the trip to a Fleetwood Town side managed by former Whites boss Simon Grayson who started the club’s journey back from League One.
Simon is local to the area and a self professed Leeds fan who had a wonderful opportunity to manage that football club which he did and he took that first step by taking the club into the Championship.
Doing that was fantastic given the amount of time spent in League One and where that first step needed to get them to.
Leeds obviously went close in the play-offs and then went again and managed to go up automatically with Becks scoring in the final game against Bristol Rovers and Simon deservedly got the scenes and the send off that he got.
His career has gone in several different directions since but while I might not have played that much underneath him I can quite clearly see his qualities and his record of getting teams promoted is fantastic.
When all is said and done, it’s a friendly next week but I am sure Marcelo Bielsa will know exactly where Simon sits in the history of Leeds.
Especially with the way that Marcelo is, there will be that humility to know that without someone like him as a stepping stone in their recent history, maybe Marcelo Bielsa wouldn’t have taken on the mantle of a Leeds United manager to get them into the Premier League.
Both men sit in a position where they have been vital in the recent history of Leeds.
United will then take on Real Betis the following day at Loughborough University and imagine if that was a European game.
That would be amazing, an away day in Betis with this type of team.
The game is a nice little tasty aperitif because it shows the standard of team that Leeds could be playing against longer term.
You can’t put the cart before the horses and Leeds need to make sure that this next season is about getting to a certain points level and then moving on from there and seeing what the aspirations are as the season unfolds. But the Betis game should really whet the appetite of a Leeds United fan.
The game is at Loughborough and having been there and done pre-season there it is a fantastic facility.
It’s not the hallowed footballing halls of European football but playing that type of opposition within an established league is something that gives us a decent taster and decent test of where they are at.
Maybe it is then food for thought.