RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Monday, August 3

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: LEEDS UNITED

{the man lovingly known as "El Loco"} 

[25-Man Metaphysical Roster is a football metaphysics methodology utilizing dork methodology of minutes played over the past 100 club competitive club matches to determine which 25 players constitute the strongest psychic force on a club’s current trajectory. Then intuitive analysis is conducted utilizing football metaphysics, performed from an un-American soccer fan’s perspective. We do this every 1st and 15th of the month, cycling through the 20 clubs currently in the English Premier League, because it is the top domestic league based in an English-speaking country, which as un-American miscreants, we were all born to be saddled with this limited, segmented tongue of the global colonizer, oppressor, and capitalizer. Also, it is what comes on TV here in the USA most prominently, where we live. And yet, it is really important we clarify we hate English, and also America. Maybe we hate ourselves. Our panel consists of chairman Raven Mack, director tecnico Paul Robertson, and director rudo Neil Bulson. Our individual contributions to this 5000 words of gibberish will be noted by our name at the end of the blurb. If you enjoy this absolutely free internet content from an un-American soccer perspective, VENMO US FOR OUR METAPHYSICAL LABOR @ravenmack23.]

Leeds United is a storied club with ghosts of grand successes in the past, including three English top tier titles, but all before the Premier League era officially began. Their first grand era happened under Don Revie, who led them to two First Division titles, four second place finishes, and in fact never finishing worst than 5th for an entire decade from 1965-1974. This golden period for the club culminated in Brian Clough guiding the post-Revie squad to a European Cup final, which they lost to Bayern Munich. Clough couldn’t maintain Revie’s aura though, and the club tumbled back into the second division. In the late ‘80s, under Howard Wilkinson, they again rose to prominence, and in fact won the First Division title right in 1992, with the Premier League being created as an entity following that season. They seemed poised on the brink of international fame and glory. The ‘90s did not play out like that though. They remained a Premier League club through the turn of the century, and in fact even made the Champions League semifinals in 2001. But their rivals Manchester United, under Alex Ferguson, became the dominant force in English football. Leeds chairman at the time, Peter Ridsdale, had borrowed against continued continental successes, and failing to qualify for the Champions League a couple seasons in a row strained the club’s finances.  A dark period of offloading players and disputes between boards and managers happened, as the club spiraled from prominence to one sold to the highest bidder as a League One entity for less than some of the players they had offloaded. Having returned to the Championship, Italian investor Andrea Radrizzani bought half-ownership, then full ownership of the club a few years back, purchasing the other 50% from fellow Italian Massimo Cellino. Radrizzani has poured money into the club to get it back to the Premier League, with the final management piece coming in the form of noted kook Marcelo Bielsa in June of 2018. Bielsa is an absolute quirky madman at the helm, noted for toting around cases of player tape back in the day, and coming to fame as the animated guiding hand that led Chile’s national team to great successes, most notably returning to the World Cup after having missed qualifying two times in a row, which was inexcusable to Chileans. The nation’s supporters clamored for Bielsa to stay after the World Cup, but he announced his intentions to leave. A sign of his personality is evident in that next career spot, as he went to Athletic Bilbao in Spain, and visited a Franciscan Order of nuns in the contemplative tradition, and asked them to pray for his club. They have done so ever since. He had high profile positions after that at Marseille, Lazio, and Lille, which always ended abruptly with conflict with management. He’s a strange man, and very influential intellectually. Pep Guardiola has called him the greatest manager there is. But his style is not one that respects the economic value of players over their performance, nor does he go easy on prima donnas. My beloved Swansea City was courting him at one point, trying to avoid relegation, and everything I read about him made me love him dearly. He is a man of psychic clout, that is obvious. But of course Swansea’s American owners botched the negotiations, likely by putting too much value on abstract wealth over the unseen realm. A man like Bielsa can read that, and he was at a point after multiple frustrations with shitty ownership consortiums at major European clubs, there was no need to compromise himself. Thus when Radrizzani (and his deep pockets) came calling in June of 2018, but without complaints about Bielsa’s way of thinking, a match was found. And Leeds dominated the Championship last season, and really should’ve been promoted then. But a second half of the season collapse allowed Norwich City and Sheffield United to bypass them. And then they were shocked by Derby County in the playoffs, specifically in the second leg. They’d taken a 1-0 advantage in the first leg, at Derby, and returned to Elland Road with an almost certain trip to Wembley to regain promotion awaiting. And in fact, they went up 1-0 early. But the second half saw Derby County rain three goals, to steal a 2-4 second leg win, and a 3-4 aggregate win. It seemed like an epic failure, and there were rumors of Bielsa leaving. He remained though, and Leeds finished off the entire season this time around, even with the added drama of the Covid-19 shutdown, and they return to the Premier League with a storied past, with some pretty big failure demons hovering around, and a genuine genius madman at the helm. It could be the beginning of a return to first division glory, or it could be an epic letdown of the most expensive sorts. Shit, it might end up being both. But I’m excited to see what Bielsa conjures up in his first swim through the glorified Premier League, where his influence has already been felt, through disciples like Guardiola. But the man himself has never managed there. It promises to be something fascinating, either way. These are the 25 men who executed Bielsa’s vision over the last 100 competitive matches, and got this club back to the top level… [RAVEN]

#1: MATEUSZ KLICH (and his FIRST METAPHYSICAL STAR) – My maternal grandfather was the child of Polish immigrants, who lived somewhere in upper Jersey. My grandfather never shared a lot of specifics, and in his waning years, I’d sit on his porch in rural Virginia, and he’d tell me stories that nobody had apparently ever heard before. I get the sense life was a kid was harsh, and he disappeared into the Navy early on, and did some wandering, living with natives in Oregon, falling in love with some crazy woman in New Orleans, but ending up marrying my maternal grandmother outside of Chicago, because she was homeless and widowed or left or some shit, and living in a car with two young boys. My grandfather gave up drinking, dedicated himself to holding a job, and basically didn’t do shit but provide for his family, which I’m not even sure actually gave him any happiness to be honest. But that’s what one did. I have always assumed this is the Polish influence on me, whatever’s in my blood from that getting accentuated by those conversations with my grandpa, which was only me listening to him, not doing much talking. Anyways, as I’ve gotten into football, I’ve wondered where in Poland my people came from. After his death, we found the ID card my great grandmother had coming through Ellis Island, but we don’t really know shit about them, and because my mom is a piece of shit, I have no way of making communications with distant cousins or uncles or anything. And strangely, my mom’s youngest sister is a staunch confederate flag flying southerner, who lives in the suburbs outside of Richmond, which has always seemed odd to me because her grandparents were Polish and Norwegian immigrants. Polish football is very much like my grandfather too – unglamorous and just getting shit done. The second most prominent Polish player on the world stage is Juventus GK Wojciech Szczesny, who personifies this stereotype. The biggest Polish name though is Robert Lewandowski, the extra prolific goal-scoring superstar for Bayern Munich. It has never made sense to me he’s Polish, to be honest. I mean, Lewandowski looks Polish, sure enough, but all those goals? That’s not Polish culture at all. Polish dudes, even if midfielders, are rugged shitheads just as likely to get a yellow card as an assist. That brings us to Mateusz Klich, who has become the cornerstone of executing and enforcing Bielsa’s vision on the pitch. Klich rarely missed a Championship line-up these past two seasons, under Bielsa, and sure enough, had more yellow cards than assists plus goals, although he was a significant contributor on offense. And it all adds up to perfect metaphysics actually. The genius sketchbook babblings of a brilliant Argentine madman mean nothing without a psychic workhorse from some marginal power zone like Eastern Europe, perfectly situated between Russian dominance and western culture’s beacon lights of avarice, and not really a full part of either. And yet somehow, still European, thus blessed on the global stage, to a relative extent. It creates humans who have the confidence to actually try, but have also relegated themselves to a certain amount of destined doom, so they do it almost anonymously, and at times with brutal effort. But more important than brutality, they do it consistently, every day, for a lifetime, and might not even be happy about it. That is what Klich brings to this Leeds United club, and it makes me excited for him to make it to a top European domestic league. But I know he won’t care. He’ll just keep plugging along, and thirty years from now, he’ll talk about these years with Marcelo Bielsa, to this grandchildren, seemingly with reverence, but no smiles or tears, just matter of fact restating history, because it had to happen and he had to do it and that’s just how it was, from the very beginning. [RAVEN]

#2: JACK HARRISON – As a youngster, Jack Harrison first got started in Liverpool’s academy but ditched them to sign with Manchester United so fuck him. That may be harsh but it’s a harsh world and that sort of weakness of character can’t be tolerated. He’s actually had a weird career so far as he left ManU to move to the US, where he played high school soccer, which is a hell of a comedown from the rigors of youth football for Premier League superpowers. He then joined MLS, selected #1 overall where he flexed on the shitty players there, which to me is kind of a cowardly thing to do for a dude who should have been playing in Europe all along. He only spent a couple of years there before coming back home and signing with Manchester City, which is another shady move in a career full of them. Since then he has been on loan to Leeds, and it will be interesting to see what ManCity wants to do with him now that Leeds is headed for the Premier League. He is already well traveled, still young and reasonably talented, but probably not at a major level. Destined, I think, to be a Championship level player, but that isn’t so bad a life. It’s more honorable than sucking at the Manchester teats or hanging out in America, which no one should do voluntarily if they don’t have to. He’s a Leeds man for now, but ManCity could always jerk him around, maybe loan him out to someone else. There has been talk of making the Leeds move permanent, but this dude seems determined to sniff around the big clubs, probably because he has an overinflated view of himself. Anyway, he has made a lot of shady and weird moves already for a dude so young and eventually karma will reveal him to be Not Good Enough for the big time, which sucks for him, but fuck it, life in the lower levels of English football can’t be all that bad. He can probably still get his dicked sucked by a stripper, and what more can anyone ask for? [NEIL]

#3: LUKE AYLING – Luke Ayling’s Wikipedia picture looks like he just woke up after a long night of some sort of physically abusive sexual tryst, and a self-identifying anarchist friend was just sharing some entry-level pizzagate bullshit on social media, so honestly I’m too shook about the dangers of the internet to write about Luke Ayling. Beware the youtube rabbitholes you fall into though, friend. Side note: I sometimes feels sorry for rabbits, because there they are, just minding their own lives, about to climb down into their safe, secure, warm, inviting hole they live in, and then have to think about how humans refer to “rabbitholes” so horribly in the digital age, and how it is an entryway into destroying one’s mental health. We’ve ruined the sanctity of a rabbit’s hole. [RAVEN]

#4: KALVIN PHILLIPS – If there is a true homegrown spirit upon this squad, it is Kalvin Phillips, born in the actual city during their last era of Premier League-dom in the ‘90s. Landed on the non-profit Wortley Juniors youth club as a tyke, but graduated on to the Leeds United academy at the age of 15. And he’s been a proud Peacock ever since. And here is the thing about metaphysics, and how local connections and strong cerebral personalities intersect. Phillips first took off as a senior professional during Garry Monk’s days at the Leeds helm, winning his first Young Player of the Month award, as well as getting his first red card, signifying the yin/yang pull of a player’s spirit. Both are required for the greats, to identify the limits of your spiritual plane on the pitch as much as possible. And he’s flourished in terms of on-pitch presence under Bielsa as well, further steeped in strange football metaphysics. Stepping up to the Premier League stage will be the test of development. Will Phillips blossom into a defensive midfielder spirit warrior, who gives a club like Leeds the same possible top tier clout as Wolves, or Sheffield United has seen? Or does he shrink in the perceived pressure of superstars’ presence, and Leeds becomes 2021 or 2022’s Watford? I have faith in Phillips to be honest; there’s an aura about this guy, and in fact I think it’ll come down to how he unleashes extra powers through hairstyle to be honest. The high ponytail was like actual aura shooting out his head this past season, especially when combined with the dark kits with pink trim. Such a lovely combo. But his deadliest spells came with cornrows pulled back. What will we see this fall? Their away kits lack the punch of the pink, and perhaps a devastating but subtle change is they’ve moved from more obscure Kappa as kit manufacturer to Adidas, which is a sign of respect, sure. But the Italian Kappa brand has what appears to be two naked women as its logo, which – despite the patriarchal overtones – has to be seen as a boost on the pitch. I hadn’t seen this before just now in looking up the stylistic power of Kalvin Phillips specifically, and sadly I think this is a crushing blow to Leeds United’s metaphysical trajectory, and a sign of how a well-to-do front office can completely destroy all the unseen things a deranged spirit like Marcelo Bielsa is able to do, just by trying to be a respectable football club and sign a deal with Adidas. Fuck. [RAVEN]

#5: STUART DALLAS – I see this guy’s name on the metaphysics team sheet, combined with his Northern Ireland affiliation, and it’s fairly straightforward to assume that Stu hear is a diehard Hun, of the ORanger persuasion. But even therein lies some deep contradictions, harsh cleavages of absurd identitarianism that afflicts community solidarity in the Gaelic-Celtic cusp of Europe. Despite the almost certainly Presbyterian William of Orange background, Dallas here is named for the Stuart Dynasty, closet-to-full-on Catholic as fuck. King Billy’s enemy at the Battle of the Boyne. Still an extremely popular surname and Christian name in the society that John Knox wrought. Closest I could come by American analogy is some Neo-Confederate dickhead choosing to name his son “Grant,” which I guess probably has happened, because Grant is a pretty white-ass name (and also Scottish, no less). “Dallas” gets just as complicated. As a Celtic supporter, it’s automatically going to conjure images of notorious Scottish referee Hugh Dallas—a bald-faced, openly-Hunnish, bigoted piece of shit that ran officiating in Scotland for like two decades, the High Sheriff of the Laird, working to keep the Green scum in subjugation. His ugly-ass son has even inherited the family business and roams the pitches of the SPL at present. Then we get Dallas, the U.S. city in Texas. Which leads us further in the impact of that co-opted, footsoldiers of Empire Celtic Fringe on the American Imperial project—Dallas, Houston, and Austin—all surnames with Scottish/Irish associations (even if the dude’s for which they were named lacked those direct connections). Then you add in Scotland’s relationship to oil extraction in the North Sea and tie it in with Scots expats dudes showing up in Texas and likely Texan dudes rolling around the Isle of Skye, it all gets thick, and ugly, and the march of whiteness evolving and mutating under the guidance of Anglo-American Empire. And finally, just to emphasize that yes indeed, the U.S. South and Appalachia is still Scots/Irish/Welsh as fuck in residual metaphysics, our next door neighbor growing up was the Dallas family (Raven lived next to a trailer of Bruces, if I remember correctly; Barry Ferguson makes me hate my own Ferguson lineage—my g-grandmother who was names “Mary Francis”—which ain’t particularly Calvinist-sounding; my wife has the same last name as one of the historical heavyweights of the PIRA; and my mother’s family surname sits on the Republic of Ireland’s central army barracks). It’s all a mishmash of vague identities, sometimes meaning everything, and sometimes meaning not a damn thing. So Stu Dallas here, barring any overt rattling of his likely Rangers sympathies, is a hard player not to like (which is probably common in this Bielsa Battalion of a Leeds squad). He’s one of those relatively uncelebrated but necessary components—the raw utility player. A supposed left-back by nature and experience, Bielsa has him all over the pitch—everywhere but goalkeeper and striker. And he seems to be meeting the challenge. He’s also an integral part of O’Neill’s Northern Ireland squad, which has been a pleasing underdog to watch in international competition. [PAUL]

#6: LIAM COOPER – Scottish defender and also Leeds’ captain. I feel like Paul should write about this dude because of the whole Scottish thing but fuck it. Butt fuck it. He’s actually bounced around quite a bit, first with Hull City and then with a variety of teams, even going so far as to play in League Two for a while, which means that this dude has fought the good fight and come up the hard way which I can respect. He also plays for the Scottish national team, which again I can respect. Bonnie Prince Charlie forever and all that. He was actually eligible to rep England because he was born in Hull, but he said fuck that and chose his adopted homeland of Scotland which is the only honorable move and I like this dude. He’s been with Leeds for years now, which means he’s done it all The Hard Way, and he’s done it well according to my nerd stat sites. Leeds sure beats playing for Chesterfield, and this is a dude who will likely stay loyal, being the captain and all. Every squad needs that loyal warrior, and Liam Cooper is that for Leeds. He hasn’t seen Premier League football since 2010 with Hull so it’s been a ten year journey back to the top and that is the sort of thing you have to root for. The whole Scottish thing helps too, especially since he chose his Scottish identity over his English birth identity. That is very meaningful, and in an earlier age he would have been in a kilt waging guerilla warfare on the English, waving a goddamn sword around and massacring redcoats which is all any of us can hope to do, just like The Great Willie Young, who you may or may not have heard of. It’s not important. What’s important is this dude has made all the Correct choices in order to be a Spirit Warrior and he will lead Leeds (lol lead Leeds, fucking language) into the Premier League. [NEIL]

#7: BEN WHITE – White's the young center back who gave Leeds the spine it needed this past season. Unfortunately, he did so on loan from Brighton & Hove Albion. Supporters fell in love with the young English defender, and with the late end to this season, quick beginning to next, everybody's reading into every single social media message, hoping White will return on a permanent move (which is never permanent). Leeds will have to spend some money to upgrade their squad on the jump to the Premier League, and you'd think spending that money on a guy like White would be well spent, but Brighton occupy the same middling Premier strata that Leeds are jumping into, so that complicates things. Young talents who have highly successful seasons loaned down one tier usually either become their parent clubs' new delusional hopes, or they cash them out to a bigger club. And there's already whispers of him moving to Liverpool, which automatically increases the price tag beyond Leeds range most likely. Such is the plight of a solid Championship level club managed by a kook like Bielsa - you make the most beautiful lemonade from the young lemons other clubs loan you to ripen; but you can never afford to buy the development you give them. Or if you do for one, you lose the other four, and it becomes this gamble of a potential albatross that hangs over your squad, which often times drags you back into the Championship after a single season, maybe two. [RAVEN]

#8: PATRICK BAMFORD – Oh man, I really, really do not like this asshole. Rolling up with a raft of metaphysical transgressions, such that I have to consider him an honorary USMNT player. First, Paddie here is an English blueblood, with corporate family ties. Even sort of half-assed lamented that he’s suffered some bias because of it, from the scumfuck players up from the streets. That’s some Landon Donovan-ass motherfuckery [I bet that little shit could never look Clint Dempsey in the eyes, fuck, I know he didn’t]. Second, Bamford *claims* to have spurned Harvard Business School for football (supposedly with a “scholarship” offer to, I guess, kick on the Crimson concussion ball team). I’m more likely to assume family just bought him a slot in case football dreams fell away, again, like a real American asshole. Third, he gets stockpiled by Chelsea, bouncing around for five seasons of loans, and never really doing much—barring this year at Leeds and one other in the Championship, he’s never been a reliable striker. So hype train again. 3) He’s got that “colonial grandparent” (Ireland, in this case) that leads him to hem and haw over whether he’s gonna hold out hope for the England call up, or sigh and pretend that he’s down with the Green. After dicking around for too long, Roy Keane essentially told him to get fucked (which Roy Keane is especially good at and I honestly love him for it). 4) He’s got one of the most disgraceful and shameful awards in the world’s football—the “falling on the ground and rolling around like a jackass without any contact from another player” resulting in a red card for the wronged party. It’s a fine line, because the beautiful gamesmanship of attacking football allows for a player to totally sell limited contact—a knee brush in the box, one little heel nip, an ass-thrust too far. I get it, I enjoy it, I’d pissed if the game went all VAR on it and started putting monitored pressure sensors in those techno bibs players wear under their jerseys now. But to sell without any contact (and knowing that cameras are gonna catch that shit, and replay it in slow motion while even your own supporters stare at the ground in shame). I honestly don’t know how a dude can even live with that, particularly without some upfront “haha, I’m an asshole, yeah!” exculpation. 5) I think even Bielsa called him a selfish, non-team-minded git, and to be honest, I don’t know how you last for long running afoul of Marcelo on that point. Again, Landon Donovan-ass behavior. I strongly suspect Bamford is gonna get found-the-fuck-out in the EPL next season, since Bielsa just here recently seemed to groan and accept keeping him around. I’m not going to be too sad about that, because an English footballer that acts like an American footballer is just unforgiveable. Send him to his spiritual home with Colorado Rapids and sign some Wilfried African dude. [PAUL]

#9: KIKO CASILLA – Casilla was Leeds' most prominent player, after transferring in January of 2019 from Real Madrid, where he'd fallen to third on their depth charts after Thibaut Courtois joined Keylor Navas (North America's greatest GK since Jorge Campos). His presence wasn't enough to keep Leeds from failing to secure promotion in 2019, but he was a big-time player that gave them hope of being an actual Premier League level club. Towards the beginning of this past season, he dropped the N-word towards Charlton Athletic's Jonathan Leko in September, and tied up his pending penalty in lawyerball, until finally suspended for eight matches at the end of February, which bled into the pandemic shutdown, until Casilla wasn't able to join the squad on the pitch again until their last few matches of this promotion campaign. Ilan Meslier filled in admirably, but once he had served his time for his racial crimes, Leeds had him back between the posts. Seemingly, he's got a few good years left in him at age 33, but how will that play out once he's in the Premier League, for the first time ever? His success or failure will determine the psychic energy of this Leeds United attempt to remain a Premier League club pretty quickly. [RAVEN]

#10: PABLO HERNANDEZ – Pablo Hernandez is a thousand years old, and looks every day of it, and to be honest had already entered that strange far-flung foreign asset part of his career, after having been a high profile signing for Swansea City upon their growth into a Premier League club. He was signed to a Qatari club, and getting loaned out all over the Earth as their property. But that Swansea City connection came back around, because his former teammate Garry Monk, had moved on to management, and was in charge at Leeds in 2016, and came calling for Pablo’s services on loan. The loan ended up being permanent, and he’s pieced together a steady string of six-month and one-year contracts to remain with the Peacocks. And even though he’s 35, he’s proven to be a goal scorer in the most clutch of situations, and has gelled well with Bielsa. I actually am excited to see Hernandez’s post-career development as a manager due to this period of him cooking his playing philosophies in the cerebral stew that is Bielsa, and seeing what comes out on the other side of Pablo’s career, when he finally hangs up the spikes. He is an old soul, and even if he disappears from sight in the next year or two as a player, expect him to sneak back into prominence at the helm of some mid-level La Liga club five years from now, should the world not end before then. But even if the organized world ends, men like Bielsa, and Pablo Hernandez, and even myself, we find ways to embrace the referalized metaphysics that take over. [RAVEN]

#11: EZGJAN ALIOSKI – Alioski, known as Gianni, played most all his life before coming to Leeds in Switzerland, having joined Young Boys academy there, as a young boy ironically enough. There’s a strange piece of metaphysics involving Alioski, who played a lot last season but has featured a bit less this season, and likely even less at the Premier League level. He’s an ethnic Albanian, but was born in and lived in Macedonia. As a professional footballer, he could’ve played for either at the international level, but chose Macedonia (who, by the way, have one of the dopest flags in Europe, and thus generally speaking pretty dope national team kits because of this). Now understand, in international competitions, neither nation has ever qualified for the Euro or the World Cup, although Macedonia was part of Yugoslavia up until 1991. Alioski made his national team allegiance as a teen, but in the first round of matches for World Cup 2018 qualifying, in Europe’s Group G, which had both Spain and Italy drawn into it, thus a death sentence for the others, which included tiny Liechtenstein, Israel (who are in Asia), Albania, and Macedonia. Albania hosted Macedonia in the first match of group play, and were up 1-0 at halftime. Early in the second half, Alioski scored the equalizer, which was his first goal for the senior national team, and against his ethnic motherland, while there, at that. Bekim Balaj scored a second for Albania, so Macedonia lost, and has yet to ever qualify for any major competition. However, the Macedonian squad did finish first in their UEFA Nations League D group, which means they’ve moved beyond the minnows of Malta, the Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, and San Marino, to move up in this next Nations League cycle against C level national teams like Montenegro, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and Georgia. Football is so immense, and layered with fuckedness. [RAVEN]

#12: HELDER COSTA (previously ranked #21 for Wolverhampton on 01-Mar-2020) – Another one of those African-born players that have chosen to rep Portugal (this is a thing I don’t really see in any other national team setup and I really need to make time to deep dive into why the former imperial core attracts players born in the former colonies). After performing well in the Wolves Portuguese diaspora, Costa strangely got loaned to Leeds for this season, with the deal becoming permanent just here recently—Costa is a straight-up EPL quality player, so I imagine they were waiting on the full confirmation of Leeds promotion to really kick in with the formalities. He plays in a creative/attacking right wing position that’s integral to Bielsa-Ball (spreading the pitch, attacking in waves, rolling with intensity). Don’t know much of what to say here—I like the looks of the dude, long haired and scraggly-bearded not unlike a wispy winger-version of Virgil. I hope he does good work in the EPL. [PAUL]

#13: TYLER ROBERTS – This young Welshman is not really Welsh at all, been born in England, but had two grandparents who were Welsh, thus a bit easier to play for the Welsh national team than the English, although at the same time is that really true? I don't know. Had been a West Brom wonderkid at one point, so moved to Leeds in January of 2018, and has performed well with under Bielsa's tutelage. In the final rundown of Championship matches, Roberts was actually one of the dudes I enjoyed watching the most, still being young enough to give a flying fuck during every minute, and not yet beaten by the professionalism of the sport into occupying minutes. The true test of Marcelo Bielsa's alleged brilliance will be this coming season when Leeds are mired in the pack of not the best but just mixed up with eight other PL clubs, all of which separated by like 4 points max, and how well Bielsa can have guys like Tyler Roberts still fire on all cylinders all minutes of the match. The difference between 8th and 18th in the Premier League (and thus avoiding relegation) ultimately hinges on simply having one and a half dudes like that at all times. [RAVEN]

#14: GAETANO BERARDI – Another dude who came up the hard way (well, relatively speaking, it’s not like most of these dudes have had a hard life), Berardi is a Swiss dude who started off in Serie B, which is the Italian second division. He spent almost a decade toiling away there before coming up to Serie A with Sampdoria. He’s never been much of a player according to my nerd stat sites, but those sites can lie too. It’s not like I have personal knowledge of the dude, so it’s all nerd stat sites and Wikipedia for me here. But I can usually see the story when I put all that together and this one tells of a dude who has suffered the second division life to make it here now where he is a marginal player for Leeds who he actually took a pay cut to sign with back in the day. That tells me that he has a restless spirit and heart and just wants to make it in the first divisions of the world. He’s probably not gonna blow anyone’s mind or anything, but he can add some minor Spirit Warrior energies to Leeds and that’s not nothing. This is his first tussle with first division football since 2014 when he was in Italy so we’ll just have to see how this shit goes. Once upon a time he also had aspirations of playing for the Swiss national team, but it’s been 8 years since he ran with the home country boys so that world is probably behind him too. This is his last real shot probably, which means he might be a desperate man, I don’t know. All I know is that desperate men can do strange things, some good and some bad, and we’ll just have to see which Gaetano Berardi comes up with. [NEIL]

#15: PONTUS JANSSON – There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, he isn’t even with Leeds anymore after making the move to Brentford. What’s funny is that in 2019 Marcelo Bielsa called Jansson Leeds’ best player. By the start of this most recent season, Bielsa told him he was no longer in the team’s plans. lol, life comes at you fast, I guess. I mean, that literally was like a 3 month span from “best player” to “get the fuck out”. While at Leeds, Pontus had his own personal chant, which went 'Pontus Jansson's Magic, He Wears A Magic Hat.' That’s some weird yet Spirit Warriory shit right there. The fucker is magic and wears a magic hat. Well shit, who am I to argue with that? That makes it all the weirder that Bielsa kicked his ass to the curb. The fucker is magic and wears a magic hat. I mean, it’s possible this dude is a Swedish wizard. That’s what it certainly sounds like. You don’t want to fuck with Swedish wizards, they know things, ancient Viking things, like maybe he was a seer in another life. Who is to say? This fucker is a Swedish wizard which is for sure some Spirit Warrior shit. And yet they kicked his ass to Brentford. That may actually come back to doom Leeds, fucking with Swedish wizardry like that. Leeds fans also sang "Last Christmas, I gave you my heart… This year, to save me from tears, I’ll give it to Pontus Jansson" to the tune of an old Wham song. I am almost delirious with Spirit Warrior magic here and YET THEY SOLD HIS SWEDISH WIZARD ASS TO BRENTFORD. I mean, what the fuck? Naturally, he’s served as Sweden’s captain and is currently Brentford’s captain because I mean, come on, Swedish wizardry. Leeds will rue the day they fucked with Swedish magic. How does something like this contribute or take away from Leeds’ energies? So far, I guess it hasn’t been a problem, but these things can take years to develop and my guess is that one day something awful will befell Marcelo Bielsa and maybe even the entire city of Leeds. You just don’t fuck with Swedish wizards and expect to get away with that shit. [NEIL]

#16: ILAN MESLIER – Meslier was brought in this past January as a young GK phenom from France, preparing for the pending Kiko Casilla suspension. Meslier made his debut in an FA Cup match with Arsenal, and performed wonderfully. He did just as well during Casilla's suspension, and Meslier had his move made permanent this past week. Though certainly they'll go into the season with Casilla as the number one GK, Bielsa working his metaphysical madness with a young Frenchman would be fitting, and likely successful. Hard to predict metaphysics like that - perhaps the universe strikes down Kiko Casilla and thrusts Meslier into a glorious destiny that helps solidify Leeds as a Premier League mainstay like they were when the league was formed from the old English first division back in the '90s. [RAVEN]

#17: BARRY DOUGLAS (previously ranked #15 for Wolverhampton on 01-Apr-2019) – Despite seeming the stereotypical Scottish footballer (the name, the passage through the ranks of lower league clubs in that nation’s league), Douglas broke the mold a bit by wayfaring out to Poland and Turkey, of all places, playing regularly in that difficult-to-find-competence left back role. He was integral to Wolves (arguably the Scottish player destination club, before the Portuguese annexation) and their rise to the EPL, but then immediately got jettisoned back to the championship with Bielsa and Leeds. Since hitting that 30 years-old threshold, Douglas is pretty much the fullback bench-rider backup. I suspect that next season he once again gets bumped back to the Championship, or maybe head home to the SPL and possibly Rangers (Celtic are good on the left back tip now). If I have any deeper commentary here, it’s the frustration that Scottish players continually get shut out of the EPL—like perennial Championship fodder, with a few exceptions here or there. [PAUL]

#18: ADAM FORSHAW (previously ranked #18 for Middlesbrough on 01-Apr-2017) – Forshaw’s loyalty is questionable, especially if Brentford seal promotion in the Championship playoffs. They were his first club away from Everton, where he was a youth player, and the metaphysics is such that Forshaw’s first appearance for Brentford was at the League One level, as a 69th-minute substitute, which is strong entry point to a club the day after you’ve been loaned to them. And in fact, in February of 2018, the first match he missed starting for Leeds happened against that same Brentford squad, because his wife went into labor with their child. Obviously, no one would complain about such an event, but the 69th minute launching point plus his marriage’s fertility culmination happening around a Brentford match suggest Forshaw’s true spiritual home is with the Bees in west London, not at Leeds. [RAVEN]

#19: JAMIE SHACKLETON – I’m not going to read this surname without thinking of the English-as-fuck Antarctic explorer dude that all the business seminar corporate grifters were extolling a couple years back for “leadership lessons” (because it’s some English explorer dickhead doing stupid shit just because he’s white and English and white English people should be able to do whatever the fuck they want whenever and wherever they want, and then either survive through sheer boring will and perseverance [bailed out by whatever brown-skinned aboriginal that’s being paid pennies or less to carry their shit] or die all privileged and uptight and stoic while they’re shitting themselves to death from typhus or extreme frostbite or malaria is definitely going to appeal as a life lesson to aspirational middle management types at American real estate conglomerates or sit down service chain restaurants). On the other end, I contemplate Rusty Shackleford, Dale Gribble’s paranoid anti-government conspiracy alter ego on King of the Hill. What does this all have to do with Jamie, the diminutive and exciting central midfield dynamo that has come through the Leeds youth ranks at a tender age and seems to be Bielsa’s project? Maybe young Shackleford here will develop into a leader of men, a future Leeds captain to drag his colleagues through what will probably be seasons of frozen wastes at the bottom to mid EPL table (should they stay up). Will his soul perish as he feverishly seeks an England cap? Will he attain such prominence, with the Leeds faithful that he’ll earn his own alter ego, his own hallowed nickname—a footballer’s given name is irrelevant until he’s blessed with an earned name of the support, a choice he has no articulable say in whatsoever, but must accept graciously when and if it comes. But Jamie here, owning to his youth, is probably going on loan next season back down to the Championship, to gain that regular experience and mark himself as an expected Leeds hero. To be honest, he seems like the opposite of that aforementioned Bamford fucker and I hope he succeeds. [PAUL]

#20: KEMAR ROOFE – Kemar Roofe had bounced around various clubs in the League One and Twos of English football, being a former West Brom hot wonderkid with unlimited potential, which like always became obviously compromised. However, he landed at Leeds in 2016, and really flourished last season under Bielsa, who loved the developing striker. Sadly, his contract ran out, and Roofe became a big signing for Vincent Kompany, who had returned to his native Belgium to be player-manager at Anderlecht. His cousin is British R&B singer Jorja Smith. I illegally downloaded her album Lost & Found. It’s aight, but I’d say go for Jamila Woods first. [RAVEN]

#21: BAILEY PEACOCK-FARRELL – I’ll be honest, I chose to write about this dude because of his ridiculous name. He’s not even with Leeds anymore, having made the move to Burnley where he is a backup keeper. He never really did much with Leeds anyway, and his biggest priority is probably protecting the goal for Northern Ireland’s team, which means he’s probably a filthy protestant. I say this because my own family is from Belfast and are Catholic which means I almost certainly have blood relatives who have done some questionable shit in the name of a unified Irish Republic. This dude, though, wasn’t even born in Northern Ireland. His grandfather was. He was born in Darlington and is just carpetbagging. Again, his grandfather was probably a protestant, and my fam would likely slice this dude’s throat given half a chance. It’s been a long time since my grandpa’s grandpa or whatever escaped Belfast for a better life here, although “better” is relative. This is all distant cousin shit and really shouldn’t even mean that much to me, but it does in an old school old world kind of way. It’s weird to think I probably have relations in the IRA, or once upon a time anyway. I am just a dumb American and lol what am I even writing about here? What does this have to do with football? Fuck if I know. But it’s important to understand that this dude is willingly signed up to rep an English colony like a fucking bitch. That may sound harsh, but it’s a harsh world, which I believe I already wrote once in this writeup. I would fight this dude just on general principle. [NEIL]

#22: EDDIE NKETIAH – Young Arsenal striker who was loaned out to Leeds to gain some seasoning to get ready for that next level. He didn’t exactly dominate in competitions, getting 5 goals in 19 appearances, although two came in the League Cup. In January, Arsenal recalled the young gunner, and he added 4 goals in 16 appearances, with two of those in FA Cup action. He looks to be a reserve striker for the Gunners next season, one would assume, because you can’t really get a more prominent loan than to a high profile Championship club like Leeds, unless they loan him to like Brighton at the other end of the Premier League table or some shit. [RAVEN]

#23: JACK CLARKE – Young attacking winger whose been jerked around on the metaphysical tip—came up through the Leeds youth, before getting snatched up for significant cash by Tottenham, before getting loaned straight back for half a season, then recalled, then sent out again to ride the bench at Queen’s Park. Strange one, that. Although it could probably be argued that EPL transfer money helped put Leeds where they’re at right now. But maybe Bielsa doesn’t really like loanees, even if they were once one of his own. Maybe Clarke took a metaphysical hit being cleaved from his home and then borrowed back. But some of the current media chatter implies that the promising player here is languishing, and that Mourinho is probably going to fuck his future (which wouldn’t be out of character in the least for that Systems fucker). Loaning him out to a Mark Warburton club at the English Rangers (a former Rangers manager notorious for absolutely sucking at the job once it got the least bit difficult) probably wasn’t going to help matters. I don’t know, feel sorry for the wee dude, but I don’t see anything but the long road of three loan clubs in the next three years before Hibernian sign him as a feel-good blockbuster in 2024. I hate to be dismissive, but just another in that constantly inflating category of stockpiled young talent getting one shot of flair and feeling, getting noticed, getting paid, getting stockpiled—one season of exultation, four seasons of dread. I confess to not know the intricacies of their transfer regulations, but if I were manager, I’d be shipping these guys off on loan to Liga MX or the Turkish second tier left and right. [PAUL]

#24: PASCAL STRUJIK – Strujik's a young Dutch defender who came over from Ajax, where he'd played since he was 2016. Leeds was his first jump into the senior club circuit, though he featured a shitload for them on their U-23 club before finally getting called up to sit on the bench for the tragic two-leg playoff loss to Derby County that ended 2019 on a low note. He finally started getting minutes for Leeds proper, more so after the pandemic shutdown ended, and started making a place for himself as a defensive midfielder - one of the key metaphysical positions on a growing psychic force of a club. [RAVEN]

#25: LEIF DAVIS – Young dude who has barely played for anyone yet. He’s also been linked to a possible Liverpool move so he’s obviously talented. Still, it’s tough to know what to say about a dude who’s played, like, 4 games his entire career. He’s just riding the journey right now, 20 years old, half my age, and his whole life is spread out before him. It will be interesting to see where that life goes, especially if he joins up with my beloved Liverpool boys. Or he could stick with Leeds, help them grow as a club, keep them from getting sent back down next year. What more can I possibly say about this dude? He is a blank slate, which to be honest I wish I could be again. I’ve fucked up a lot, overdoses and Poor Choices, etc. and I’d like to have at least some of it back. This dude, though, has it all waiting for him. Hopefully he doesn’t get a stripper pregnant or get the herp, although everyone has the herp these days. Fuck it. [NEIL]

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