'Underdog' Jesse Marsch spells out Leeds United goal and challenges Whites after huge wins

Jesse Marsch has challenged Leeds United to do more than just survive this season.

By Graham Smyth
Sunday, 20th March 2022, 4:51 pm
Updated Sunday, 20th March 2022, 4:54 pm

The first three weeks of the American's time in charge at Elland Road has brought a pair of defeats but two hugely significant victories.

What's more, Leeds' performance in their narrow loss at Leicester, along with the fight and character they showed to beat Norwich City and come back from two goals down to defeat European hopefuls Wolves, has given them momentum ahead of the final eight games.

The 3-2 comeback at Molineux created a seven-point gap between Leeds and 18th-placed Watford.

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Speaking ahead of the international break, Marsch reaffirmed his belief that he's in the right job, regardless of the difficulty Leeds were in when he arrived. Despite the wins and the breathing space they have given themselves, with a small squad continuing to creak under the weight of injuries and uncertainty lingering over the fitness of key players, Marsch knows they remain in a scrap for their Premier League lives.

"I like being the underdog," he said.

"I like having to fight for things. I like not taking anything for granted. I like having my back against the wall. I don't know why. It's easier to be the other way around I think but, that I identify with. I tried to say that without being condescending in my first press conference that where I'm from, I should never be here. I'm not afraid of it. I want to be here, I believe it's the right place for me. And I'm finding that out more and more every day. So I'm really again thankful for the opportunity to be attached to this club."

What gives the 48-year-old confidence is the group he has inherited and the culture he walked into at Thorp Arch.

BIG CHALLENGE - Leeds United boss Jesse Marsch wants his players to do more than just survive in their relegation battle. Pic: Bruce Rollinson

"I heard from Victor and from Angus before I came about how good the young men are and not just that, how incredibly selfless the workers around the team are in the training centre and inside the club," he said.

"From the first day, I could feel the positive energy. The mentality of the group is really strong, really strong with everything that they've been through this year, it's amazing. So we have more work to do. We have to enjoy moments like this [the Wolves win]. I learned this in football if you're only focused on every result, you have to enjoy moments. So we tried to enjoy the last result, we'll enjoy this one, but then we'll get back to work and we'll try to get better so that we can continue to control our own destiny."

Late winners in each of their last two games have brought an incredible chaotic feel to what was already an eventful, dramatic and stressful season and as Everton's 10-man win over Newcastle United proved, there are sure to be more twists in the Premier League relegation battle. Marsch says Leeds must keep their heads and focus on what's important - themselves - but he doesn't want them to just scrape by.

"I just want us to stay true and stay calm to our process to push ourselves every day, to growing to getting better, to finding a way to control what we can control," he said.

"And if we do that, I believe we have the quality of people and of players that we can control our own destiny and find a way to not just - and this is another thing I've challenged them to do - not just survive the situation but thrive in it. Thrive in it. That's the goal."