Reaction and mood of 3,000 match-going Leeds United fans at Southampton must not be ignored amid Marcelo Bielsa discussion

The mood on Leeds United social media on Saturday evening was dire and frustration with Marcelo Bielsa and his penchant for a small squad was rife, yet the response of the 3,000 who travelled to Southampton should not be lost among gloomy tweets and Facebook rage.

Monday, 18th October 2021, 2:59 pm

Judging by the conversations on the walk from St Mary's back to Southampton Central, on platform one as they awaited the two trains heading to Waterloo and Birmingham Central and on the packed carriages themselves, the lucky few thousand holding match tickets also felt that frustration.

But the reception they gave Bielsa's players at full-time - the vast majority applauded Liam Cooper and his side as they approached the away end - and the general feeling on the trip home was a good barometer of the head coach's standing with the fanbase.

Firstly, they recognised the adversity Leeds were facing even before David Coote blew his whistle to start the game.

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The injuries that have besieged Bielsa could not have come at a worse time, right after a win over Watford had given the Whites a little momentum going into an important run of games.

As a block of four, the fixtures against the Hornets, Southampton, Wolves and Norwich represent 12 very winnable points against teams with whom Leeds can realistically hope to compete.

A dominant performance and victory in the first of the four was a great start, not perfect but perfectly sufficient.

Going to Southampton confidence was high and the only significant concern was whether or not Raphinha would make it back from Brazil in one piece.

DARK DAY - Leeds United fell to a dismal defeat at Southampton but the mood among travelling fans still held optimism. Pic: Getty

He did, but didn't play due to fatigue and was joined in the stands by a not-yet-fit Kalvin Phillips nursing not one but two injuries.

Junior Firpo missing out was an added complication and an unpleasant surprise to add to the expected absences of Patrick Bamford, Luke Ayling and fresh-from-the-operating-table Robin Koch.

The absences and a woeful showing from the starting XI, along with a solid if unspectacular performance from the Saints, left Leeds holding three points from six at the halfway mark of the block.

The six points they have accrued overall, from eight Premier League games, and a scant return of seven goals from them, are obvious reasons for concern, yet the prospect of grumbles about the lack of midfield options, whether or not 3-3-1-3 is a problem and the inexperience of the bench turning to more serious discontent still feels a long way away.

Bielsa has built up a serious amount of goodwill with Leeds fans, for good reason. That was reflected in an inquest that began on the south coast and worked its way back up north on Saturday evening.

The phrase 'still a genius' was aired frequently. This is not a fanbase on the verge of turning and as many have recognised, frustration and belief can co-exist.

The Championship title, the stellar first season in the Premier League and his win ratio, which still stands at an impressive 50.67 per cent after 150 matches, give Bielsa significant credit in the bank with supporters. The improvement he has brought in so many players has not been forgotten.

Football unifies and divides in equal measure - accusations of 'happy clapping' will be as prevalent as charges of disloyalty or a lack of faith - but the reaction of match going supporters should be given equal importance to whatever is said online in the wake of that defeat.

Talk this week will quickly turn to Wolves, at home, and hope of bouncing back. Football also offers fresh hope every week at this stage of the season and nine points from 12 is still an achievable result. The start to the season has not been good but in Bielsa they still trust.