The Athletic’s Phil Hay has dropped a Leeds United update involving the club’s improvements to both the training ground at Thorp Arch, and at Elland Road too.
Writing for The Athletic, he said:
“Leeds were committed to overhauling their Elland Road pitch this summer, replacing all the drainage and lower layers at a cost of more than £1.5m. The stadium will have a full-spec hybrid surface next season and Leeds requested that their first game of the new term be away from home to allow the pitch as much time as possible to bed in. The work will also see the old dugouts replaced, in line with Premier League requirements.
“As preparations were made to lay the surface, Bielsa made another suggestion. If Leeds were playing on a specific hybrid pitch at Elland Road, would it not make sense for them to train on identical grass too? That way the players would enjoy some continuity.
“The club agreed and at his insistence, another substantial sum of money was set aside to install the same surface at Thorp Arch. He wanted other, more aesthetic, changes to the complex too but an enhanced training pitch was the big idea, a route to more marginal gains.
“These, for Orta and the club’s board, are the surest signs of where Bielsa is mentally: still fixated, still banging the drum for improvements, still glued to his office.”
Amid a superb Premier League season that saw Leeds finish in the top half of the table in their first campaign back in the top-flight, one of the big concerns for Bielsa and the club was the state of the pitch at Elland Road.
At times, it simply didn’t look fit for purpose, and would have looked out of place even in the lower leagues, let alone the top-flight.
When pictures first emerged of the work being done, former Leeds man Noel Whelan said: “They’re going to spend a lot of money on getting the surface right at Elland road. I think when you think about the style of play that we like to play, it’s imperative that you get the pitches, training pitches, everything that’s going to give you that extra edge over other teams.
“The surface is a massive part of it, the way we play. So we need to have our pitches right, you need to have that surface right. Hence why teams play at the training ground with the same dimensions as the first-team ground. You get a feel of it and for progression of players, this is what you need to have now. You know you need to have those standards set high on and off the field.”
Whelan’s comments are a snapshot of just why the extensive work being done is such exciting news for Leeds and why Bielsa will be buzzing. As Hay says, those “marginal gains” are what could translate into points over the course of the season that potentially sees the Whites finish in a European place for example.
The Leeds boss’ meticulousness needs to be matched off-the-field as well, and the fact the club have taken his ideas on board so seriously and have looked to address some of the big problems from last season, shows the level of backing and support they have for him.
A newly renovated pitch at both Elland Road and on the training ground is sure to have Bielsa delighted.