Now is not the time for a Leeds United meltdown but as anxiety over striker hunt rises, seeing is believing - Graham Smyth

It is remarkable that a man who preaches patience, performances and process over immediate results has found himself a home at Leeds United.

Thursday, 16th January 2020, 5:57 am
Leeds United's thus-far unsuccessful pursuit of Che Adams has left the club's fanbase on edge as the transfer deadline grows closer (Pic: Getty)

Of all the clubs he could have joined, this is one where almost nothing matters but the result at the end of the season.

Marcelo Bielsa, of course, did manage to get immediate results with United, in an undeniably impressive fashion last season.

And by running so hard and for so long as a 2018/19 promotion hopeful, Bielsa has only heightened the expectation at the club.

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They came so close to what they have so badly wanted since exiting the top flight in 2004, they could taste the champagne before it all turned so sour in the play-off semi-final.

It is the brush with glory and the knowledge that, with a couple of January signings, it could and should happen this time round, that has given rise to the current desperation and – in some quarters – panic.

This is no suggestion that there is panic, yet, in the corridors and offices of Elland Road and Thorp Arch but even the need to state this shows just how close the collective nerve of the fanbase is to fraying.

There is a tension that exists between the mentality of the fans, given all they have been through in some very dark times, and an Argentine they have taken into their hearts.

Bielsa is a man willing to wait for what he believes will come, if the right thing is being done.

Take Jack Harrison for example – the winger struggled to produce much in the way of end product in the earlier stages of the season yet Bielsa believed that the work the Manchester City loanee was doing would eventually pay off, so he stuck with him.

And it did pay off, with five assists and three goals in a 10-game spell, not to mention the work-rate, defensive contribution and everything else Bielsa demands. Patrick Bamford is another who, had Bielsa listened to the clamour to drop the striker, might not have enjoyed a six-goals-in-nine-games purple patch following a 10-game drought.

Bamford, warts, missed chances and all, has earned Bielsa’s trust and he is the club’s first-choice striker. He is also the only senior striker the club has so, with a little over a fortnight to go before the transfer window closes, you can forgive anxiety and constant timeline refreshing for updates on new arrivals.

The club’s owner, Andrea Radrizzani, responded recently to a supporter’s tweet about January transfer-window fears with a somewhat sarcastic suggestion that faith should be shown in him, in Bielsa and in the team.

Faith in the leadership and their ability to recruit exactly what is needed this month is a big ask when supporters, for obvious reasons, cannot be party to all the details and inner workings of what we are told are strenuous and multifaceted attempts to land a much-needed goalscorer.

The pain of January 31, 2019 is still being felt, after all. Dan James was last January’s number one target, he wanted to sign, he arrived to sign and Swansea pulled the plug. It still stings.

It is somewhat easier for fans to trust Bielsa; they can see what he is trying to do on the pitch and they can see the league table – it shows them in an automatic promotion spot, even if recent performances have not been sparkling and recent results have been patchy, at best.

What they cannot see is Che Adams holding a Leeds scarf on the Elland Road pitch or enough goals going in to ensure they stay in the top two, particularly if Bamford picks up a knock and that is why pessimism and doubt have naturally crept in.

Bielsa himself lamented earlier this season: “You are no more tolerant when you feel frustrated. It is more attractive now, the immediate result.

“This as a social message is very negative. Also for football.”

He’s right, of course, we want everything right now and it’s rarely a good look on any of us.

But that does not mean Leeds fans are in the wrong for fretting and no amount of words from the head coach, the owner or the press will provide the reassurance that the action of signing a striker will bring.

Seeing is believing.

Now is not the time for a meltdown, however. Mark February 1 in the calendar for that, if needs be.

The last thing a team in a slump needs is a fanbase transmitting doubt.

These players, coached by this manager, dragged this club to within a couple of wins from the promised land last season.

They have got themselves into position to have another go and need help from the fans, from Victor Orta and from Radrizzani to get over the line.

Everyone has a job to do.