In two weeks’ time this will all be very real and it is going some to say that Leeds United look ready.
Another pre-season game ticked by yesterday and the scenario threatens to be dicey if Leeds are half-cocked when Stoke City crash through the door of Elland Road on August 5.
The problem to the naked eye does not lie with Marcelo Bielsa’s preparation.
After a month under his wing his players appear fit and drilled in his methods, barring their concession from a set-piece at Southend United, but the squad at his disposal smacks of insufficient depth and a dearth of summer investment.
The big window which Leeds promised at the outset is dependent now on a very big fortnight.
The club would prefer their recruitment to be judged in its entirety when the deadlines for permanent and loan signings elapse but there is no pretence behind the scenes that they planned to reach this point with so little business done or activity stagnant.
Little sign of movement has been evident since the club’s attempt to sign Florian Jozefzoon fell apart last Thursday and the priority positions have not been solved by pre-season form of existing players.
A centre-forward is at the top of the list, irrespective of a debut made by the hitherto injured Tyler Roberts at Roots Hall.
Where Bielsa is concerned, there is plenty of integration left to do. Goalkeeper Jamal Blackman, brought in from Chelsea with the expectation of being first choice, is still to play and was again notable by his absence at Roots Hall.
Blackman is not injured but Leeds are working to hone his match fitness having signed him three weeks into pre-season.
Pontus Jansson is due back shortly from a holiday taken after the World Cup and has not trained under Bielsa to date. Yesterday Roberts kicked a ball in anger for the first time in a Leeds shirt.
In managing a clutch of six friendlies in 13 days, Bielsa has resorted to relying on small squads and 15 players went with him to Essex, Roberts among them.
The young striker has been tipped for big things but having failed to play once since a £2.5m move from West Bromwich Albion in January, a 28-minute outing in the second half at Roots Hall was a red letter day in itself.
He finished without any complaint about the cracked shin bone which troubled him from early February onwards.
Leeds believe that Roberts has goals in him but the 19-year-old is too raw and, at present, too short of his peak to drive the club through a difficult first month of the season.
The striking duties this summer have fallen to Kemar Roofe, who notched a goal at Forest Green Rovers five days earlier, but it is asking much for Bielsa’s system to work against savvy Championship teams with Roofe alone up front. Southend – 10th in League One last term – did a good job of containing it.
York City had used their height and a route-one approach to unsettle a different Leeds defence at Bootham Crescent on Thursday and Southend scored after 20 minutes in a similar manner, direct from a set-piece. Michael Kightly wafted a corner into United’s box and centre-back Harry Lennon was given all the space he needed to rise and nod a downward header past Bailey Peacock-Farrell, unchallenged at close range.
Stephen McLaughlin almost claimed a second goal with a shot on the turn but Leeds were level 10 minutes before half-time when defender Luke Ayling picked Southend open with a one-two with midfielder Adam Forshaw and curling in a deft finish. Creativity largely failed to flow, though, and Roberts was sent on in the 62nd minute in a position wide on the right. John White came within inches of forcing a winner from Southend as Leeds struggled to deal with a free-kick and Roofe was denied by an alert save from Mark Oxley after Stuart Dallas bullied his way into the box on 74 minutes.
Ayling – the source of most threat in pre-season so far, cutting loose down the right – was unlucky to see an 86th-minute attempt from an angle blocked on the line.
There were glimpses of encouragement but reminders too of all that Leeds still need to do.
Southend United: Oxley, Demetriou, Lennon, White, Coker, McLaughlin, Mantom, Dieng, Kightly, Cox, Hopper. Subs: (not used): Bishop, Hendrie, Turner, Hyam, Bwomono, Kyprianou, Barratt, Batlokwa, Klass, Ba, Robinson.
Leeds United: Peacock-Farrell, Ayling, Berardi, Forshaw, Cooper, Alioski, De Bock (Roberts 62), Dallas, Saiz, Phillips, Roofe. Subs (not used): Miazek, Edmondson, Stevens.
Referee: Gavin Ward; Attendance: 3,815.