Speculation over Marcelo Bielsa's future but he remains Leeds United's best hope in Premier League - Daniel Chapman

Daniel Chapman has co-edited Leeds United fanzine and podcast The Square Ball since 2011, taking it through this season’s 30th anniversary, and seven nominations for the Football Supporters’ Federation Fanzine of the Year award, winning twice. He’s the author of a new history book about the club, ‘100 Years of Leeds United, 1919-2019’, and is on Twitter as MoscowhiteTSB.

By Daniel Chapman
Tuesday, 28th July 2020, 8:03 am

I’ve somehow still got a promotion glow, if you can call a 10-day hangover glowing.

The Championship title and promotion to the Premier League feel simultaneously like things that happened long ago, things that happened yesterday and things that might happen again tomorrow.

This, it turns out, is what winning feels like.

Delving through the past week’s coverage of Leeds United, there’s been a lot of emphasis on how long it has been since the city’s football team generated that feeling, although the fans haven’t been completely unfamiliar with it.

Josh Warrington was 13 years old when Leeds were relegated from the Premier League. He’ll watch their next game as champion of the world, a hero when Leeds needed one most.

Rachel Daly timed her glory to coincide with her former club. Harrogate born into a Leeds-supporting family, she was part of the exodus from Leeds United Ladies in the seasons after Ken Bates pulled funding from one of women’s football’s most promising teams. “After all,” said Bates, “the ladies are playing for the fun of it.”

As trophy-lifting captain of NWSL Challenge Cup winners Houston Dash, winning the golden boot and voted the tournament’s most valuable player, Daly looked like she was having fun this weekend.

SPECULATION - As Marcelo Bielsa's name gets thrown around, speculatively, in the media, he remains Leeds United's best chance in the Premier League says Daniel Chapman

Houston have overcome a similar reputation to Leeds United, banishing their ‘Same Old Dash’ tag the way ‘Typical Leeds’ has been crossed off at Elland Road. A reporter asked Daly, what will people call the Dash now? “Winners,” she said.

And winners always have fun. Not that Ken Bates would know much about that.

It’s been a long time since these shared victories, like the titles won by Fabian Delph and James Milner, have been emulated in LS11. From the evidence United’s players are posting to their Instagram stories, their fun hasn’t subsided yet. Even Marcelo Bielsa let his guard down and his smile through.

He once famously said that the five minutes of “effervescence” after success is soon replaced by “that enormous and huge emptiness, and an indescribable loneliness”. But if he’s already gone there, he’ll be filling the emptiness with VHS tapes of The Premier League Years as research for next season.

We hope. If anything can pull us back from bliss, it’s these doubtful days when Bielsa’s future is uncertain, when his third season is based upon trust and hope rather than ink on a contract.

Meanwhile, speculation grows. There have been cheeky links to Atlanta United in MLS, previously managed by Bielsist Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino, whose team rampaged through that league the way his mentor’s Leeds tore Barnsley and Charlton apart.

Another Newell’s Old Boy, Lionel Messi, is rumoured to be letting his imagination soar like Victor Orta, shrugging and saying, let’s just get Bielsa to Barca. There were never reports of Messi petitioning to get Paul Heckingbottom to Camp Nou, and while the stories might be tenuous, they’re an early sign of the stature Leeds are reassuming on the world stage.

Websites across the globe are being recoded to insert the Leeds United badge into their Premier League pages. Let’s hope they pick the right one. Exciting as it is, though, it’s not enough. I hope Orta, Angus Kinnear and Andrea Radrizzani are making that point to Bielsa now.

Leeds didn’t wait 16 years for promotion only to suffer the humiliation of relegation again.

Projects like new stands at Elland Road need the stability of sustained Premier League income. A category one training ground, now at Thorp Arch and later in Holbeck, should supply a top-flight first team. That improved academy status means tougher league competition for our Under-23s even without loans to Carlos Corberan’s new ‘feeder club’ on the banks of the Colne.

With a short pre-season and pandemic-affected transfer market, United’s best chance next season is building on the strength from this one, on the first team, reserves and staff who know what Bielsa wants.

The same players, the same style, the same principles. That means the same manager.

It’s hard to imagine the depression that might fall across the city were Bielsa to leave now, especially after so many managers over the last 16 years left with our shrugs or boos.

It’s the nature of football to always want the next success, but we’re not being greedy. The Premier League title can wait a bit. But looking at Aston Villa’s celebrations this weekend, we can already start dreaming of our staying up party – hopefully much earlier than theirs – with Marcelo Bielsa again at the heart, sharing his five minutes of effervescence with Leeds.