Without the fans we are nothing. But, for them we will do everything in our capabilities to take them and this club to the Promised Land. That is a fair and honest assessment of the thoughts of Leeds United head coach Marcelo Bielsa as he prepares to take his charges into the fray once more when they head off to Cardiff City on Sunday.
Bielsa takes his charges to Wales to try to extend their lead at the top of the Championship table, knowing that their fate is in their own hands to a large extent. United are top of the pile with nine games remaining and, realistically it is either the Elland Road giants or West Bromwich Albion, who sit in second spot in the league standings, who will gain that prized automatic promotion slot into the Premier League.
Like the rest of football around the globe, the Championship has seen its football curtailed for a three-month period as the nation tries desperately to get to grips with the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic. But football is back and Leeds are keen to pick up where they left off. And Bielsa has pledged to crack on with his mission — but says he and his players will miss the supporters who so passionately support the West Yorkshire side.
Because of the new health guidelines to protect the nation from the coronavirus, the Championship games — like the Premier League before it — will be played on a behind-closed-doors basis. It is something that clearly rankles with Bielsa. And speaking to the media ahead of the game against the Bluebirds at the weekend, the respected coach said:
“Not being able to share this last period of nine matches with the fans is something I would never wish for. We know public health is above everything else and football is secondary if we compare it with public health, but we have to say that the communication between the players and the fans makes football a very different sport, without this relationship football is different.”
This last point is putting it mildly judging by the games in England we have seen since the great comeback.
And so, without fans, it falls purely to the players to bust a gut to thrust Leeds United to the top flight, with the very fragile safety net of the play-offs should they fall from top spot. And Bielsa adds that the most important thing is the mental adaptation of the players to what he calls “the new situation”. It is a situation that the Peacocks will meet head on. In the final analysis, the Argentinian coach is both pragmatic and practical in his approach. But flair, too, plays a big part in his philosophy. He concludes:
“This is a situation everyone has to face without exception. It is the best way to try to resume the season. We are ready to go.”