Former Scotland international Gary McAllister has acquitted Marcelo Bielsa of fault in Leeds United’s issues, but claims the Whites struggle with the mental pressure of chasing promotion.
Bielsa has often been criticised for overworking players in training, with murder ball one of the Argentine’s most infamous methods to get players at a level he feels is needed to be able to play his intense pressing style.
Calls of players being fatigued and burnt out in the final third of a season go hand-in-hand with Bielsa as a result of his demands, though, especially when our grasp on promotion wavered last season and again over the recent festive period.
But McAllister doubts that Bielsa’s methods are the true cause of why we let slip what was a 11-point lead over the Play-Off places on December 10 to now find ourselves forced to pull away from third again, as the weight of expectations is the much more pressing issue at Elland Road.
“I don’t think that problem is there,” McAllister told France Football, via quotes by Sport Witness. “The problem for this club is the incredible mental pressure on players who are not necessarily the best in the division.
What has been the greater issue?
“Patrick Bamford, for example, has enormous pressure on his shoulders. He’s the goalscorer, and when it goes a little worse for him, the team has a hard time converting their opportunities.
“I don’t know if we realise the size of this club outside Yorkshire. United is the only club in town, which is extremely rare in England. They have to be first in the area, and they see Sheffield United going fantastically with Chris Wilder… it’s not easy to live through. But talk to the fans, they are still fully behind them, they believe in them like me.”
This season is the 16th endured without Premier League football at Elland Road, and the urge to return to the top-flight has surrounded the club each and every campaign we persist in the Championship – and those three terms in League One.
The players will no doubt be aware of how much it means to the supporters to see the club finally back in the top-tier of English football, so it would only be natural for some of them to feel the pressure from time to time.
Thankfully, the first-team have not given in and completely buckled under that pressure having now won two games in a row to re-open a gap to Fulham in third.
Only time will tell if their mental resolve can withstand the test and ensure our lead over the Play-Off places does not disappear again.
In other Leeds United news, an Elland Road exodus is expected if Bielsa walks out on the club this summer.