Leeds United were in dreamland on Sunday afternoon after coming out on top in a pulsating Christmas cracker at Villa Park.
Kemar Roofe has endeared himself to the Whites faithful in a productive season in front of goal but his reputation culminated when he fired home a dramatic late winner to put Leeds top at Christmas.
Statisticians and avid watchers of the Championship are firmly aware of what being top at Christmas means for promotion ambitions, so it’s no wonder Roofe’s strike felt like a real watershed moment for the club.
What was most impressive about Leeds’ victory was the character they showed to turn things around after going two goals down inside the first half an hour.
There was a resilience about Leeds which has been absent in seasons gone by, but it must be noted that the quality of the squad seems to be peaking at just the right time, with Marcelo Bielsa’s impact resonating throughout a rejuvenated squad.
It’s not only Bielsa’s work on the training ground which is enabling Leeds to thrive, as his decision-making in regards to substitutions has had the desired effect on more than one occasion in recent weeks.
With Leeds 2-0 down at half-time yesterday, he sent 18-year-old Jack Clarke into the fray and he made an immediate impact by making Ahmed Elmohamady look foolish before blasting the ball into the far corner – a sweet strike hit with a conviction seldom seen in players his age.
Clarke’s goal was his first senior strike for the club and his impact naturally evoked plenty of interest but, in the aftermath of proceedings, Bielsa was quick to ease the pressure on the rising star who gave Leeds the impetus to stage a dramatic comeback (via Yorkshire Evening Post).
“We know that a feature of any big player is to maintain the same level of performance. He’s a young player and we have to manage his playing time. That’s my opinion. If we build an imagine which exaggerates his capabilities, instead of helping him we will be hurting him.”
Football fans make a habit of over-hyping the next generation and demanding the manager to include the next big thing at every opportunity, but Bielsa’s admission is clearly one which is designed to give people a sense of perspective.
For all Clarke’s obvious quality he is still a boy amongst men at just 18-years-of-age. His development will require meticulous attention to detail, patience and a set of players around him who actively help him to improve and ensure that he remains grounded at a tentative time in his career.
As Bielsa has stated, it’s vital that supporters do not begin to go overboard with their expectation of the wonderkid due to their bias affection towards a local-born academy product, as tempting as it may be to tip him to reach the top.
Clarke’s future looks incredibly bright following his series of eye catching cameos, but it’s too early to expect magic from him on a weekly basis.
Leeds fans – thoughts? Let us know below!
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