I’m not sure what it is about July that makes everyone so highly-strung. Maybe it’s the rise in heat coupled with the predictably dreadful weather. Maybe it’s the footballing vacuum, the absence of the 90-minute hits of adrenaline that keep the junkies sane. Maybe it’s just that everyone is on holiday and has had a few drinks.
Zeroing in on the mania that associates Leeds United Twitter over the past few weeks, a holiday and a few drinks would probably do everyone the world of good.
The Jack Clarke sale raised temperatures early in the month but the reaction to this was more of a resigned shrug, supporters disgruntled to see him leave but comforted by the fact that he had not yet become a star whose departure would cause great hurt. We’ve seen it all before.
His return on loan further soothed any separation anxiety, as did the arrival of a few further signings. Harrison’s return and the astute-looking acquisition of Ben White were mildly pleasing, but merely the appetizer for the coming of Helder Costa.
The social media team outdid themselves on the Costa signing, linking it in smoothly with the announcement of a further partnership with Deliveroo and the future outlay of £ 15m suggested that we actually did have some form of transfer kitty.
Storm clouds were gathering high above the smiles and social media though and the rumble of thunder from a faraway Swedish training ground was growing ever more deafening. Just where was Pontus Jansson?
The answer it proved was in a Bielsa-enforced exile, searching for redemption and no doubt flailing his arms about in astonishment at this perceived injustice. As the lightning struck and the story of his exit was firmed up, it split the Leeds United fanbase.
His talent is in little doubt but his attitude and supposed ego did not appear to sit well with the fiery Argentine manager who has silently wielded the ax in the most brutal fashion. It’s easy to get swept away by his extrovert shows of passion, but a more forensic look back over the season reveals more subtle flaws.
The seemingly needless, petulant fouls became costly. Jansson gave away the free-kick at home to Norwich that Vrancic curled home to see us a goal down after 5 minutes. The constant theatrical arguing with referees that drew countless yellow cards became tiresome for supporters, but especially for his colleagues. There was always a feeling that Jansson needed babysitting at a more sober center-half.
Frustration appeared to finally boil over in the Aston Villa match where Gaetano Berardi and Kalvin Phillips were visibly agitated with the Swede at his refusal to execute Marcelo Bielsa’s orders to concede the goal.
There is no doubt that Pontus Jansson loved Leeds United and at times we adored him too. There are many in the fanbase who see the reported £ 4m paid by Brentford for his services as an insult, but the fact there was no higher offer on the table tells its own story. With the swish of a badly-maintained Bic pen, he was gone.
For many fans, the frustration lies not with the Swede’s sale, but with the anxiety that he will not be adequately replaced. With Aapo Halme and Paudie O’Connor’s departure, Leeds have now sold three of their center-backs and supporters are hoping that the inexperienced Ben White will not be thrust in at the deep end.
Discontent following Jansson’s imminent sale was exacerbated by Adam Pope confirming that the rumor swirling around a possible Kemar Roofe move to Rangers ‘has legs’. The anger is beginning to swell and with Kalvin Phillips’ contractual negotiations continuing, patience is in short supply.
What the events of the past few weeks has done is ramp up the tension and expectation on the Leeds squad, but particularly on Bielsa. The feeling seems to be that having played hard ball with Jansson, he and his squad must now back it up with action both on and off the pitch.
Tomorrow sees the beginning of our pre-season program away to York City, the first chance for us to get a look at Bielsa’s Leeds post-Jansson. The glamor tie with our cross-Pennine rivals is the one that sticks out, but the eyes of the more pragmatic supporters will be already turned towards that opener with Bristol City.
Lose that, or cobble together an inept performance, and the pressure is on. Let’s not forget that football is the measuring stick. All the machinations in between are simply cannon fodder for clickbait.
Blow your whistle, ref.