Sunday Mirror


- By STEVE BATES Sports · Soccer · Soccer Stars · Leeds United A.F.C. · Leeds · Leicester City F.C. · Championship · Jürgen Klopp · Liverpool Football Club · Liverpool · Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. · Josep Guardiola · Manchester City Football Club · Manchester · Fulham F.C. · Sheffield United F.C. · Sheffield · Aston Villa Football Club · Birmingham (England) · Patrick Bamford · Gareth Southgate · England national football team · England · Chile · Argentina · Argentina national football team · David Villa

MARCELO BIELSA has claimed the Leeds United party can’t start un­til their fans are march­ing along­side them in the Premier League.

El­land Road would nor­mally be bounc­ing against Leicester to­mor­row af­ter a strong start to life back in the top flight for the first time since 2004.

Al­though be­spec­ta­cled foot­ball pro­fes­sor Bielsa is no party an­i­mal, the stu­dious 65-year-old is miss­ing the rowdy vibe the home sup­port­ers pro­vide. He said: “Foot­ball with­out fans... there is no com­par­i­son to foot­ball with them. They in­crease the spec­ta­cle and add some­thing ex­tra to it all.

“With­out the con­tact from the fans, it is not the same for the play­ers. Foot­ball is not the same and be­comes less at­trac­tive.

“I know there is a big drama in the world pre­vent­ing this. But foot­ball is a party and it is dif­fi­cult to have a party with ev­ery­thing that is hap­pen­ing.”

It’s agony for Leeds fans who al­ready had to curb their enthusiasm over pro­mo­tion from the Cham­pi­onship – and they must now watch from afar while their en­er­getic he­roes grow in stature af­ter tak­ing to the Premier League like ducks to wa­ter.

Bielsa has in­stilled a no-fear strat­egy into his high-press­ing, hard-run­ning stars – and it’s paid off so far.

Hav­ing been edged out 4-3 on the open­ing day by Jur­gen Klopp’s Liver­pool cham­pi­ons their only other loss has been a nar­row 1-0 de­feat by Wolves. In their other con­tests, Leeds bat­tled to a more than cred­itable draw with Pep Guardi­ola’s Manchester City and have beaten Ful­ham, York­shire ri­vals Sh­effield United and As­ton Villa.

Vic­tory at Villa was earned through a daz­zling hat-trick from cen­tre-for­ward Pa­trick Bam­ford – a player crit­ics said would strug­gle to step up. But the dan­ger­ous Bam­ford al­ready has six goals, with his ad­mir­ers be­liev­ing he should be a can­di­date for Gareth South­gate’s next Eng­land squad to be un­veiled later this week.

Bielsa (above) is too wily to be telling South­gate his job af­ter man­ag­ing on the in­ter­na­tional stage him­self with Chile and Ar­gentina.

He added: “I’d have had to study all the other strik­ers be­fore I could make a good com­par­i­son, and ev­ery man­ager is con­cen­trat­ing on their own team. If you ask me if Bam­ford is a good player, though, I’d say yes and I would be very happy if he is un­der con­sid­er­a­tion with Eng­land.

“But there is an­other per­son re­spon­si­ble for mak­ing those sort of de­ci­sions, and it would be wrong for me to make a con­clu­sion on it.”

Bielsa isn’t mak­ing any judge­ments on their start to life in the Premier League, ei­ther. He added: “It’s much too soon to say how we are do­ing.

“We can­not start say­ing who is go­ing to do well yet. We have al­ready had some ups and downs, and there are still more than 30 games to go.”

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