Why Leeds United can beat Tottenham Hotspur but 'idiots' do not belong - David Prutton
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It’s been a chastening week to say the least for Leeds United.
The fever-pitch build-up to games against two of the grand old names of world football, fixtures Leeds fans have been crying out for and viewed from afar during their 16-year Premier League absence, was felt keenly both locally, nationally and, I’ve no doubt, farther afield.
The chance to play the mob from over the Pennines on home turf, packed to the rafters at an as noisy an Elland Road as many remember was truly mouth-watering for both the partisan and the passer-by.
The pre-match roar gave way to torrid conditions and torrid defending either side of a deafening 60 seconds that showed what happens when the energy of the crowd permeates down through the team as Leeds struck Man Utd with a swift one-two, leaving the visitors staggering as a famous victory loomed into view, only to be extinguished by what are becoming familiar failings.
A bright start at Anfield on Wednesday was disrupted by a questionable handball but the ensuing barrage that blew Leeds away was once again facilitated by an openness and irresponsibility that’s unfortunately characterised what this season has become for the Whites.
Now, don’t get me wrong, opinion is being passed here from this former Leeds player that wouldn’t get within throwing distance of Thorp Arch, let alone this current crop at Elland Road.
But hear me out … Man Utd aren’t their best incarnation but still possess potentially world-class players and, as for Liverpool?
Jurgen Klopp’s men are quite simply one of the most dangerous, exhilarating and well-drilled teams in world football.
To contain them is a job the very best have shown to be almost impossible, bettered only by Guardiola’s team from another galaxy.
So consider the title race on as Leeds find themselves in a different battle altogether, that of distance, any distance, between themselves and the bottom three come the final whistle in May.
Spurs is next of course, a Jekyll-and-Hyde team with an increasingly perplexed-looking boss and I’m sure Leeds fans hope they meet the side that succumbed to Burnley and not the stand-ins who punished Man City last weekend.
The standouts of Harry Kane and Son Heung-min remain the threat with the addition of a player I’ve always admired in Dejan Kulusevski being a welcome addition along with Rodrigo Bentancur.
Both, though, along with most of Spurs’ playing personnel, are yet to consistently hit top form, hence their current seven-point gap to the top four, albeit with games in hand.
Kane’s performance against City reaffirmed what we all know, that of his world-class status.
But the frustrations coming out of the Spurs camp, most vocally by Antonio Conte, suggest that these are choppy waters they’re navigating, reflected in their four defeats from their last five games.
Whether it’s labouring under undue expectation, paling in comparison to their rivals or just enduring a torrid run of results, Conte demands more from himself and his players which, as ever, always begins with the next match.
Make no mistake, this game is definitely winnable but the fundamentals will never change. Bravery in possession, yes. Energy both with and without the ball, of course.
Basic marking at set-pieces, organisation, communication and a sense of collective responsibility which starts on the training pitch and is then solely the remit of the players on the pitch.
Doing your job, basically.
Marcelo Bielsa has, undoubtedly, dragged the collective standard of this group of players who began this journey with him far up and above what many thought possible.
The additions along the way have varied in both effect and price but his job has encompassed more than purely the football; he’s dived headfirst into the open arms of all that is Leeds United and this unique part of Yorkshire and the love has been reciprocated.
The worry, at the moment, is that what’s served them so well in the cycle is threatening to be their undoing.
Key players are always a big miss, of course - even the best teams can be undone - and Leeds have missed the defensive militancy of Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper, their voices as well as their ability and Patrick Bamford’s absence up top has been felt keenly.
A full-strength, fully-available, first-choice Leeds United is, undoubtedly, more than a match for half the Premier League and getting over the line to safety is and has always been the first and only major port of call for Leeds in this second season back at the top table.
Whoever is in the door with a number on their back shares this collective responsibility and these next few months, beginning with Spurs on Saturday, will show us who can truly stand up and be counted.
One more thing ... the coin throwers. The missile launchers. The object hurlers. Another name for them is idiots. Just stop.
There’s absolutely no game, no opponent, no occasion that can possibly justify the action of hurling something at a player and the argument of “they do it is as well” is as weak as it is immature.
The interaction is part and parcel of match day theatre - the good guys, the bad guys, the pantomime villains and the heroes.
There is a line though.
Football thrives on its tribalism, its identity and its sense of belonging, the us and them, the enemy and the battle.
I’m preaching to the converted here as proper Leeds fans are some of the most committed, loyal, engaging, demanding and lovable of people.
The coin throwers do not, and will never, belong amongst them.
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