The conflicting views of Leeds United tour legacy - Graham Smyth's Verdict on top flight rehearsal

Determining Leeds United's size, stature and standing in the Premier League on their Australian tour has depended entirely on perspective.
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Up close, in the lager-infused frenzy of fan events in Gold Coast, Brisbane and Perth, as Whites from all over Oz mingled with their travelling UK, Singaporean and Malaysian counterparts, Leeds looked like a big deal.

The intensity of the following Down Under has more than met the expectations of new signings, all of whom cited the club's fanbase and history in their reasons for making summer moves. But even those in the travelling party with plenty of Elland Road experience have been caught by surprise during this trip, Pascal Struijk and Joe Gelhardt among those putting voice to that very thought.

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As more than 600 packed the Gage Roads Freo Brewery the night before the game against Crystal Palace to roar Gelhardt, Adam Forshaw, Marc Roca and Mateusz Klich onto the stage for a Q and A session, Leeds sounded like a big deal.

Event compere and Australian media personality Rich Bayliss put it thusly: "I don't think Crystal Palace will be having an event with 600 at it this evening."

Conversely, the sight of Jesse Marsch laying out cones and marking out training pitches, as the communications team mucked in with the kit men and coaches ferrying equipment from the coach to the training ground, gave Leeds the feel of a small, tightly-knit club. Aston Villa brought a muscle-bound security team out to Oz with them, Leeds brought none, happily relying on the stewarding provision in place at each venue.

Viewed in the wider context of the cities they have visited, Leeds' presence has had a varying impact.

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If they made a ripple in the Gold Coast and Brisbane, they made waves in Perth, where 60 Whites greeted them at the airport and where the badge was strewn across the city centre.

TOUR CLOSER - Rodrigo's penalty gave Leeds United a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace to close their tour of Australia. Pic: GettyTOUR CLOSER - Rodrigo's penalty gave Leeds United a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace to close their tour of Australia. Pic: Getty
TOUR CLOSER - Rodrigo's penalty gave Leeds United a 1-1 draw with Crystal Palace to close their tour of Australia. Pic: Getty

In Fremantle an entire street was decked out in yellow, white and blue. Everyone seemed to know the football was on and that Leeds were in town.

But the entire Leeds squad walking relatively unhindered through the middle of Perth, past a crowd of Manchester United fans camping out at the Ritz Carlton for a glimpse of the Red Devils, and the Australian media's clamour to cover the Old Trafford team's every move, or Steven Gerrard's every word, also told a tale.

Where Leeds can place themselves in the Premier League pecking order is up for debate. It’s hard to say if they really know what they are. Elland Road is dwarfed by some of the stadia Leeds visit on a weekly basis, just as the Elland Road operation and various departments are dwarfed by those boasted by divisional counterparts. Yet Leeds have spent big since promotion, attract global interest and harbour lofty long-term goals.

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An impressive first season and top-half finish primed them to become an established top flight outfit again. Their second season threatened to undo all of that hard work.

What happens on the pitch this season will give a much clearer picture of the club's direction of travel. Staying up, by a more handsome margin will represent a step forward and allow Leeds to unlock more of that incredible Premier League finance.

The longer you stay up the richer you become and the easier it should be to make a real fist of top flight football, or at least that's the theory.

Pre-season doesn't tend to be a reliable guide for what is to follow but the games against Brisbane Roar, Aston Villa and Crystal Palace have unearthed some early tendencies, both pleasing and alarming.

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The Palace tour closer was largely blighted by a ropey pitch and Patrick Vieira's squad was missing a number of key players but, like the Villa clash, it was closer to a real league game than a friendly.

One conclusion that can be drawn from what we've seen over the past two weeks, something Vieira was keen to point out, is that Leeds' aggression when the press is triggered will cause a few problems in the top flight.

It bothered Palace early on and forced them to cough up possession in their own half. Something Marsch duly highlighted was his side's need to do better when they do win the ball in advantageous areas.

Something else he will have to address is how exposed Leeds have looked during counter attacks and Palace, even without some of their best attackers, took advantage. Odsonne Edouard's botched overhead kick let the Whites off the hook early on.

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The biggest problem for Marsch early on came in the opposition half, however, Luis Sinisterra going down off the play after appearing to tweak his hamstring and trudging down the tunnel with fewer than 13 minutes played.

Rodrigo, a £27m signing, took his place, with £25m Daniel James remaining on the bench, but even with an influx of signings this summer, Leeds' squad is not so deep that they can afford to pick up many injuries in any area. They have suffered greatly over the past two campaigns with injuries to players on whom they spent millions and Marsch was distinctly unimpressed to pick up a hamstring problem in a pre-season game.

Adding to his consternation was another problem for Adam Forshaw. His department is one Leeds simply had to strengthen this summer and the additions of Marc Roca, Tyler Adams and Darko Gyabi undoubtedly soften the blow of a Forshaw absence. Each of them have shown enough to suggest Leeds are stronger there now but as challenges flew in, leading to more first half yellow cards than shots on goal, Marsch's heart must have been in his mouth on more than one occasion. The squad is bigger, it's not massive.

Leeds give as good as they get, though, and will continue to pick up yellow cards, although preferably not at the same rate as last season.

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In a messy first 45 minutes only Patrick Bamford's deflected effort, after a slick Leeds move, threatened the scoreline as the pitch continued to threaten player safety.

Referee Daniel Elder's hands were full throughout, flashing his yellow card liberally with neither side showing any desire to shirk a tackle, but he only really took centre stage in the second half when pointing to the spot after Joel Ward made contact with Cry Summerville in the area.

Palace were incensed, Luka Milivojevic so much that he put his hands on Elder, before Rodrigo put the ball in the net.

His place in the team has been questioned by the emergence of Joe Gelhardt and the arrival of Brenden Aaronson, but Marsch is convinced the club's record signing has an important role to play. If nothing else, the competition should give Leeds a Rodrigo who is hungry to impress.

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And as Roca's frustrated demeanour showed when he was withdrawn, players are already hankering fiercely after as much action as they can get their hands on, which also bodes well.

In amongst the senior pros are a bunch of youngsters seriously vying for game time and the second half allowed them to shine. Leo Hjelde shone in a centre-back role and

Sam Greenwood split the defence to put the always-dangerous Gelhardt in on goal, Vicente Guaita's fine stop denying his chip.

If those were the second half positives, the negative was evidenced by the resulting corner, Leeds losing the ball and leaving Mateusz Klich completely exposed as the last man. Jordan Ayew made the area, squared for Jean-Philippe Mateta and he equalised.

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Both teams could have won this but a draw between two clubs preparing for the battle to avoid the relegation battle, felt fair.

Marsch insists that progress has been made and that what his side showed against Palace was the best sign yet that they’re getting and producing what he wants, tactically. The new players have slotted in, socially and in the football sense and at least one of those – Rasmus Kristensen – has been among the very best in pre-season so far. There are some early signs that a few other new faces were worth the price tags. There is also a lot of work to be done at both ends of the pitch.

No matter your perspective on where Leeds stand after two weeks in Australia, it's an indisputable fact that a tough campaign awaits. But no matter the heights or depths of the ups and downs, this Leeds team will fight, doggedly. They will be backed, passionately. No one had to go to the other side of the planet to discover that. The rest remains to be found out and the real adventure lies ahead as Leeds United decide just how big they are.