MARCHING on together has been the battle cry of Leeds United for half a century.
For the past few seasons there has, in the main, been no doubt about which direction they have been heading, either.
both Manchester giants have been linked with Leeds’ local hero Kalvin PhillipsCredit: Getty
Barcelona and Chelsea are thought to be keen on Elland Road winger RaphinhaCredit: Getty
A Championship romp one year, a barnstorming return to life in the top flight the next.
While the last one was a little too close for comfort, it was ultimately mission accomplished in surviving that oh-so-tricky second season back in the Premier League.
A top-tier foothold established then, and chance to start edging one of football’s big names back to where they feel they belong.
We’re talking Leeds, a club of tradition and a history of going toe-to-toe with the best. One where the fans were starting to believe again. And to demand.
Why on earth wouldn’t they, and why shouldn’t they dream?
They may have struggled last term but the one before they got results against the best.
Local lad Kalvin Phillips became a star for England.
Patrick Bamford was capped by the Three Lions, too, while Raphinha became a Brazil regular.
Last term’s woes came as the first two made a combined 40 fewer starts, so with both fit from the off this campaign they could have been building towards another season to remember.
The right noises were coming from above, too. They rejected West Ham’s £55million-plus January bid for Phillips, and said Raphinha was staying.
All it needed was for the manager to get a decent pot this summer, something they’d held back on before, and there was cause for optimism.
To be fair, Jesse Marsch has spent a few quid. But if he’d hoped to do so on additions, the new faces will instead be replacements.
Phillips has gone to Manchester City for over £5m LESS than the offer rejected six months ago — and losing the heart of their midfield is massive.
Raphinha is on the point of packing his bags, too.
It leaves you wondering what the plan is, and doubting what managerial control Marsch has, when financial decisions that will have a huge impact are being taken above his head.
Leeds boss Jesse Marsch has plenty of work to do on the transfer frontCredit: Richard Pelham / The Sun
He’s clearly there as a coach, and nothing more. It makes you ask whether it’s the reason he was chosen to replace Marcelo Bielsa.
Phillips was not necessarily looking to move.
He wanted more money, fair enough, why wouldn’t he?
He played in the Euros final a year ago. But he wasn’t agitating, and was not demanding: “It’s dough or I go.”
And while the appeal of City is obvious, he won’t play as much as if he had stayed at Elland Road.
And what of Raphinha, who has got Leeds out of so many sticky situations in the past? He wins few admirers with his sulks, but he’s won plenty of games with his magic.
Losing one would maybe be acceptable and explainable. But for both your star players to leave in the same window?
That isn’t the move of a club determined to shoulder its way back among the big boys — whatever they say.
It is the action of one happy to merely be in the Premier League — and pretty much nothing else.
An acceptance that mediocrity and hopefully — given a couple of decent draws — a bit of a cup run will do.
It seems the Leeds power brokers are proving they will be happy with survival and very little else. And have taken a hell of a gamble to get it.
The arrivals include Salzburg duo Rasmus Kristensen and Brenden Aaronson, plus midfielder Marc Roca, who made ten starts in two years with Bayern Munich.
Others are being mentioned but all are players most fans will have to Google to learn who they are.
They may all turn out to be superstars. But Leeds had a couple of their own already.
Couldn’t they have done more to keep them? At least gone through the facade of it?
Maybe if you’d shown you were willing to take a punt, and to invest a little more this summer, they may have given you another year.
Don’t forget the manager hardly has a been-there-done-it, deep-rooted knowledge of the league either.
It just seems that the Leeds power brokers are proving they will be happy with survival and very little else. And have taken a hell of a gamble to get it.
Marching on together? Perhaps stumbling along in hope would be more apt.
CUT JACK SOME SLACK
WHY all the fuss about Manchester City midfielder Jack Grealish’s Las Vegas holiday with his mates?
When he was pictured clearly a little worse for wear, it seemed the world and his dog had an opinion. Most of them put the boot in.
One loon even said he is in danger of going down the same road as Gazza. No getting carried away there, then! Absolute b******s. Grealish is 26, earns a good whack and gets the chance for one proper holiday a year.
If he comes back out of shape, is way off it in pre-season training and checks himself into The Priory, then fair enough.
Until then let him, and all the other players who may have had the odd one too many these past few weeks, enjoy their time off.
Envy is never a good look.
ON the subject of Jack Grealish, in an age when footballers are feted with statues and paintings on the side of buildings, here’s one of the more bizarre…
Swinton fast food joint Food Station has recently rebranded itself as Jack Grillish, in tribute to the Manchester City and England star. You certainly can’t knock their nerve for it, either.
Swinton is in the City of Salford — the heart of Manchester United territory.
The chances of earning a Michelin star may be slim but it definitely deserves an award for bravery.