Pundits and bookies certain Leeds United will be just fine in Premier League, but faith, trust and patience will all be tested
Leeds United’s step into the big unknown of the Premier League will require large doses of faith, trust and patience, all of which will be severely tested, but there is good reason for confidence.
Having made the dream come true after 16 long years, the task now is to make it a reality beyond this season, even if staying up by the skin of their teeth is all they can manage.
In the days leading up to tomorrow’s glamour opener at Anfield against the champions Liverpool, it has become clear the common consensus is that Leeds will do just fine.
Pundits, journalists and the bookies alike believe the Whites are capable of finishing anywhere from the top half to lower mid-table, but there appears to be a universally-held belief that come the end of May next year they will be clear of the drop zone.
For a club who have existed in the EFL wilderness for the better part of two decades and with just two new senior signings on board, it is remarkable that so many are so certain that Leeds can take so comfortably to an alien and hostile environment.
Even had they not splashed £27m on Spanish international forward Rodrigo and a further £13m on Germany international defender Robin Koch, a pair of top-flight operators in the countries they abandoned for a life in Yorkshire, there would still have been those holding fast to the belief that Premier League status would not be fleeting for Leeds.
The reason for that is simply and largely Marcelo Bielsa.
It is a logical enough thought that a man who took a mid-table Championship team and made them almost unplayable can take the best team in the second tier and make them function in the league above.
Leeds trust Bielsa, to the point that we arrived on the cusp of a new season without news of a contract extension.
Bielsa used his press conference for the Liverpool clash to confirm he was staying.
He may not have gone so far as to say he had put pen to paper, but he was clear: “Everything is sorted. It’s definite.”
There never has been any sign of panic at Elland Road over the summer as weeks dragged on and his extension remained unsigned, because all the signs were there that Bielsa had every intention of managing Leeds in the Premier League.
Bielsa has always been focused on the job in hand, ‘100 per cent’ in his own words, even on a rolling contract, for his Championship salary.
Therein lies the reason behind Leeds’ assurance that he would remain. Contracts can wait when there are games to prepare for. It doesn’t help the collective anxiety of a fanbase needing no encouragement to conjure up the worst-possible scenarios, but putting your all into pre-season before you’re legally contracted to manage the team you’re preparing in the matches you’re preparing them for, might just be another example of the ‘side before self’ culture at Elland Road.
In any case, the contract situation has had little or no impact on how Leeds are predicted to perform in the Premier League, by the rest of the footballing world however.
Even those with no skin in the Elland Road game have faith in Bielsa and trusted that he was going to stay and make a mark on England’s top division with his mesmeric brand of football.
That’s not to say that everyone will remain on board and back the Whites to the hilt if results go awry, as they well might on a far more frequent basis than they ever did in the Championship.
Peacocks supporters’ patience will be tested not only by their side’s form, but by the way in which their team is appraised by pundits and Bielsa will continue to find that there is almost wilful misunderstanding of him and his ways in some quarters, because Leeds equals clicks.
That will only play in the head coach’s favour, however, and further entrench his Elland Road faithful in their view that this is the man in whom they should put their trust, and why not?
What he has accomplished with these players, thus far, is astonishing.
No-one knows what the Leeds United squad are capable of more than Bielsa and, if he is prepared to send them out against the champions, it is a sign that they retain his trust, and why not? The dedication to his methods has been, thus far, absolute.
What they can achieve is impossible to exactly predict but what can be said with utmost confidence is that Leeds United in the Premier League, with Bielsa at the wheel, will be oh-so-good to watch. It’s not going to be boring.