Bielsa’s Babes Dribbling into a Bucket at SJP this Tuesday?

NUFC vs Leeds United FC – Sky Money Premiership (with the obnoxious ‘Top 6’ playing in it, for now, bless their kind, humble and modest souls).

Date: Tuesday 26 January 2021 KO 6pm at an empty SJP.

Media: BT TV, otherwise throwing the radio at a wall after about 25 minutes and sobbing into a pillow at the inanity of it all.

Attendance: Zero fans as behind closed doors due to COVID restrictions, but more and more ‘folk’ seem to be able to get into most grounds these days, with more people now visible, sporadically scattered around the seats.

Amusing rebuttal of the Dirty Leeds ‘tag’, with a very funny article slating Soccer AM’s odious Tim Lovejoy at: Dirty Leeds (

And also try:  Why does everyone hate Leeds United? – Leeds Live (

Must-watch movie for anyone interested in football, tell the missus Michael Sheen is in it, so it is ‘art’, tell the kids it is ‘historical’ and ‘educational’ and get them all to watch:  The Damned United (2009) – IMDb


Football musings and plagiarism in lieu of a proper preview:


There are so many amazing lines in the film above, but this one is particularly pertinent at this moment in NUFC history is when:


Brian Clough says: “Don Revie. Prepares a file on every game. Leaves nothing to chance. Knows every opponent’s formations, strategies, everything”.


These words have never been uttered about our current manager.

The current Leeds Manager, like Revie before him, is also known for compiling and researching his opposition (sometimes in too much detail – ref Spygate).


Apparently Bielsa watches and collects numerous football videos to the point of obsession and he edits and analyses each video for each individual player.  He also uses statistical software and other technological tools to prepare his teams for games.  It has been said (Wikipedia), that Bielsa has “the most learned football library on the planet”.


I wonder if Rafa would have something to say about that as he’s packing his bags in China and pondering where next to land almost ‘Mary Poppins’-esque to bring joy to fans but instead of an umbrella, having little Paco and his clipboard.  I miss Paco.


And how we all would relish Benitez vs Bielsa – it would have been like watching two old heavyweights try and better each other with clever movement and precision hitting (and not just Bruce’s random flailing).  It would have meant NUFC had a chance – as we always did under RB (cue misty eyed, looking into middle distance, wistful shots of hordes of black & whites, swaying in unison – and…CUT).


Nowadays, we don’t even have that ‘chance to nick it’ in any games with Cabbage Heed at the helm.  The fact that the rest of the ‘Steves’ seem to mooch about with faces like slapped arses also doesn’t do anything for my morale – so how can it help the players?  Has anyone ever seen a smile on Steve Clemence’s grid? (thanks to Big D from PFP for pointing that out).  With the air of utter despondency that pervades from our dugout is it any wonder we look so dejected on the pitch?

The fulcrum of the film ‘The Damned United’ is set in 1974 – which is 47 years ago; almost another lifetime.  NUFC got undressed at Elland Road just 47 days ago from this rematch; which itself seems like ages.  That defeat (after back-to-back wins!! yes, the Mags did do that just last month), was the start of a run of now 10 games without a win for this NUFC team which is bereft of ideas, strategy and now even effort.  The very sad thing is I wrote the above on Saturday afternoon BEFORE the Villa defeat; so sure was I of us losing.


It is a bloody gloomy time anyway, and any thought about NUFC makes it worse.  I have just found out my match going pals for over 20 years Mick out of ‘Mick & Bev’ and Bev out of ‘Bev & Mick’ have now caught the ‘Rona and are housebound and suffering.  Big shout out to them from Castle Farm to Hedworth.  It is getting up to a year now since we last hooked up at the football and little things like that all add up to turn even the most positive person down – and I am far from positive anyway.  I am sure similar sad tales abound within our Magpie tribe – which is now scattered away from the shrine that is the oblong of grass at SJP.  It’s tough.


Leeds themselves have also lost their winning touch from that night and have had some very odd results, none so more than an early exit from the FA Cup; something we know all about.  But where we went out to the current Cup Holders and most successful team in the competition, Leeds fell to the mighty Crawley of League Two (Division 4 in old money – sounds more tragic that way).  Crawley is a charmless, characterless, concrete post-war New Town in the south near Gatwick Airport, and their team even gave a debut to a reality-tv has-been (and people query ‘if modern football is sh!t’ – of course it is).


Having lost to Brighton and Spurs either side of their FACupset, Leeds will be glad to not be facing a southern team for once, to try and halt their own losing slide (they lost to Chelsea and West Ham as well in the start of December); and, oh, how NUFC so often step up to that plate of ‘ending’ a poor run of form / losing streak.


Back to the oppo, as there is so little to say about NUFC, their Argentine manager has been criticised for his tactics, whereas we would be happy just to see some.

El Loco Bielsa likes to play a 4–1–4–1 formation, with Kalvin Phillips the deepest-lying midfielder (and also popping upfront) – which confuses the opposition with regards marking.  When facing a team who play with two central strikers, Madman Marcelo often switches to his preferred 3–3–1–3 (something which is lauded on The Continent and replicated by many of his protégés and imitators), with Phillips dropping further back into the defensive line in a sweeping role.  It works, but also it sometimes doesn’t.


More on this very weird and interesting bloke, (and see which bits I have pinched for this article) at:  Marcelo Bielsa – Wikipedia.  They say he paid the £200K ‘Spygate’ fine out of his own pocket – class, I love that sort of stuff.


So – is it simple, thwart Philips and crush Leeds – maybe.  Other teams have done that and Leeds have been humped; but that has been with effort and commitment and heart as well as some nous of your own – all of which NUFC currently lack.


Prediction: Once again I just cannot see where the b/w goals are coming from, or even if there is plan to try and create even half-opportunities.  So, my prediction is sadly another defeat, possibly by a hat-full if Leeds have a mind to it.


Castle Farm Mag


And now, if you want to reminisce about when NUFC went top of the league, beating Leeds on their own patch, get your ears wrapped around this freebie:  NUFC Podcast: The best of Newcastle United at Christmas Time by True Faith NUFC Podcast (


As I described in in the current issue of TF:

Leeds vs. NUFC @ Elland Road on 22 December 2001.  Five years older, no more wiser, I had decided to swerve traipsing down with the lads to Leeds on a Saturday a couple of days before Christmas, as no-one was staying over, Leeds were great back then, we’d get beat, it’s f##king sketchy outside the ground before & after the match, and, the weather would be shit and cold.  Also, being a pro-drinker (out all the time, all year round), the thought of being in a pub with once-a-year, Xmas w4nkers with no bar etiquette and false bonhomie churned my stomach.  However, the morning of the match, a certain Nick Clark claimed a tickly-wickely, coughy-woughy, and a ticket was going spare.  Our pal Boda drove a rear-wheel-drive Merc at the time, no-one had got train tickets, the snow was starting to fall and not only was I now going, I was f##king driving too.  Great.  However, the ultimate see-saw match unfolded in front of me.  NUFC 0-1 up, Bellamy: we’re hopeful.  A minute later, hopes dashed: 1-1, that little c**t Bowyer just off the hook from his court case; the home fans are going mental, more so at 2-1 after half-time, then 3-1.  All I can hear is “We are top of the league” in a nasal, Yorkshire whine.  Nick’s in a warm bed, I’m here freezing my nuts off, 3-1 down, p1ssed off, the snow is starting to fall more heavily and my black, low-slung, Toyota Celica, imported from Japan, looks cool as f##k, but ain’t all that reliable.  I’m hating everything, especially Nick.  Then it happens.  Robbie Elliot: goal: 3-2.  Handball Bakke, soft penalty, Shearer, blasts, no doubt, 3-3.  We’re all over these f##kers now.  Then, time slows, you just know a goal is about to be scored, Dyer through to Solano, time is almost stopped, I can still see it now, he’s far right, I’m low to the left of the goal as he looks, he shoots, straight at me, the ball is going past the keeper, towards me, into the bottom corner.  It is seared into my consciousness – my happy place I can go any time in my life.  I know it. Nobby knows it.  The net ripples.  Bedlam.  4-3, “We are top of the league”, we were.  The drive home was hell in deep snow, blizzarding at the windscreen sending you insane, but we didn’t slide off the road, and you couldn’t slide the grins off our faces for days.  I’ve never reminded Nick of this game, well, when I say: ‘never’, I mean constantly.  Castle Farm Mag (was Saltwell Mag back then).