Bielsa claims he let in Villa equaliser as a ‘noble’ gesture, but there’s no such thing in English football

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IF there was one man who stood up for the “noble features” of English football at Elland Road on Sunday, then it was Pontus Jansson.

The Leeds centre-half – clearly a man infused with the spirit of Revie and Bremner, of Hunter and Giles – was the only man standing up for the true soul of our game.

Marcelo Bielsa claimed he order Leeds players to let Aston Villa equalise to keep with the ‘noble features’ of the English game
PA:Press Association
Leeds defender Pontus Jansson wanted to disobey Bielsa’s command and tried to stop Villa from scoring
SKY SPORTS

When manager Marcelo Bielsa ordered his players to allow Aston Villa to walk in an equaliser, after Mateusz Klich’s controversial opener, Jansson was rightly furious.

Like any proper defender, the Swede instinctively tried to stop Albert Adomah from scoring, while team-mates waved the Villa man through.

Bielsa claimed he made the gesture in keeping with the “noble features” of the English game – but the English game possesses nothing of the sort.

The Argentinian is no more deserving of a sainthood for this than he merited vilification for his espionage at rivals’ training sessions when the amusing ‘Spygate’ storm erupted in January.

Had Leeds stood a realistic chance of gaining automatic promotion, there is no way on Earth Bielsa would have concocted an equaliser after his side scored with Jonathan Kodjia down injured.

And nor should he have done.

PLAY-OFF CALCULATIONS

Indeed, there was enough time, during the five minutes of chaos between Klich’s goal and Adomah’s staged reply, for Bielsa to have recognised the distinct possibility of a Leeds v Villa Championship play-off final.

And a man with Bielsa’s planet-sized brain might well have decided if Villa were fuelled by a sense of indignation and a desire for revenge, it could give them a significant Wembley edge.

If Bielsa did ‘the right thing’ then it may only have been in that calculated sense.

Most Leeds fans, who jealously guard their club’s age-old reputation as English football’s dirty rotten scoundrels, seemed to side with Jansson.

Bielsa has enriched English football this season and there are many neutrals who’d love to see Leeds return to their natural place in the top flight.

Boss Bielsa – a brilliant, eccentric visionary – adds to the gaiety of the nation.

Perhaps it was the weight of the phoney moralising he suffered when his spying scam was busted by Derby, that made him spout off about supposed English fair play.

But he doesn’t need to blow smoke up English backsides in that way.

NOBILITY? NONSENSE

Few football fans truly believe that old tosh about nobility.

Professional sport is no place for moral righteousness — it is a place for rampant gamesmanship and frequent outright cheating.

English football as much as any other football. English sport as much as any other sport.

Always has been, always will be. See the rival appeals to claim every single throw-in.

The godfather of English sport, the Victorian cricketer WG Grace, was a renowned cheat, who famously refused to walk after an lbw decision, saying: “They have come to see me bat, not you umpire.”

And those who claim diving in English football arrived with foreign imports never saw Franny Lee, nor many other players from those days of native domination.

Even the high-horse brigade no longer pretend modern English players are immune from going down too easily.

And Leeds striker Patrick Bamford produced a dismal example to get Villa’s Anwar El Ghazi sent off during Sunday’s brawling.

THE RULE OF THE LAW

But one thing English football does need is an edict to sort out the protocol surrounding injured players going down.

In essence, that simply needs to be a clear reiteration of the letter of the law — that the referee decides when play needs to be stopped and players play to the whistle.

For while the scale of the mayhem at Leeds was pretty much unprecedented, confusion over such instances is commonplace.

Frequently, an opposition team will play on until the crowd’s whistling becomes so shrill that one player feels embarrassed enough to kick the ball into touch.

That is not chivalry, it’s more like anarchy — an absence of the rule of the law.


The referee’s whistle is the only one which should count.

Referees need to get a grip on this issue. Their bosses need to instruct them to get a grip on it.

Then Bielsa should be left to concentrate on winning promotion, rather than polishing his halo for a Fifa fair play award.

Brawls broke out after Leeds took the lead while Aston Villa had a player down injured on Sunday
Reuters
Bielsa must have realised vengeful Villa could have had an edge in a potential Championship play-off clash at Wembley
Reuters

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