Steve Bruce: 'I’ve seen big managers walk in like Tuchel, Klopp and Pep, but I’ve never seen an impact like Marcelo Bielsa's at Leeds United'
Newcastle United boss Steve Bruce has 'never seen anything' like the transformation Marcelo Bielsa has been responsible for at Leeds United.
Bruce goes into tomorrow's clash with Bielsa at St James' Park under pressure, with one point from four games and an unhappy fanbase. He faced questions about his future today and insisted he would not be walking away from the challenge, but there's no doubt that three points against Leeds would be huge for the 60-year-old.
Bielsa's Leeds side have just one point more than tomorrow night's hosts and have failed to hit top gear yet this season, yet the Argentine will not face the same level of scrutiny from fans or the media for some time because it is generally accepted that the job he has done since arriving in 2018 is nothing short of remarkable. He took a mid-table Championship side and made them promotion contenders in a short space of time, before ending a 16-year exile from the Premier League.
A Championship title and promotion were followed by a stunning first season in the top flight and a top-half finish, with wins over Tottenham Hotspur, Everton and Leicester City among the highlights, along with a famous 10-man victory at Manchester City.
Leeds also got the better of Bruce's Newcastle, twice, thumping them 5-2 at Elland Road and taking a narrow 2-1 win at St James' Park.
So while the Whites' start to the season has been a little underwhelming, last season's heroics are still relatively fresh in the minds of supporters and mild worries have not yet turned to panic. Tomorrow's game is the kind of fixture Leeds should be winning, if anything like a repeat of the 2020/21 campaign is to be possible.
Bruce sees Leeds as a unique challenge.
"He’s very well regarded, the manager," said Bruce.
"His team, now, are probably the team that you want to watch. They’re different to everybody else. I’ve got nothing but respect for the guy who’s transformed Leeds.”
That transformation, it's fair to say, left an impression on Bruce. Bielsa's impact on Championship players is like nothing he has seen before or after.
“When I took Sheffield Wednesday there a few years ago now, I witnessed first-hand, if you like, the change at Leeds," he said.
"I saw a group of players who had been in and around that league for a long time, no disrespect to them, and the impact of the manager on them. I haven’t seen an impact like that. Of course, I’ve seen big managers walk in, like Tuchel, Klopp and Pep at Man City, but I’ve never seen anything at that level, a difference quite like it."