It all happened overnight. Suddenly everything was different. They were in Murcia with the suave Dane. Then they were in the snow in Wetherby with a bloke from Barnsley.
In one decision, Leeds United’s world shifted. We haven’t just changed managers. We’ve left Europe.
Thomas Christiansen was the Kappa-wearing Danish Spanish international who played with Catalan Pep Guardiola and was managed by Dutch Johan Cruyff. He was trilingual, he wore a belted trenchcoat and his last job was in Cyprus.
Paul Heckingbottom was managed by Paul Sturrock, his first trip out of South Yorkshire was probably the day he was appointed Leeds manager and he definitely knows what a ginnel is.
He says it how it is. He’s more Barnsley than Toby Tyke. He only wears tracksuits. He has tracksuit pyjamas. He wears one in the shower.
This is Brexit Leeds United. Like the day after the vote in 2016, this is just what we’re doing now.
Once the Brussels influence of De Bock was gone, a hard border was erected around the penalty area
Christiansen was a softly spoken (or highly pitched) ‘modern’ head coach. He had a laissez-faire approach to discipline. There were even suggestions that Victor Orta had too much influence in the dressing room pre-match.
None of that nonsense for Hecky. He has full sovereignty over the dressing room. ‘No, I’m in charge a’Leeds United. These are my boys. Yorkshire man and a bloody Yorkshire squad’.
Ian Harte will be happy. A few weeks ago he was complaining about the overly international of the Under-23s. ‘Load of bloody foreigners,’ he didn’t say. A week later, what he said, what Leeds fans saw as a joke, was being uttered by Orta as official recruitment policy.
Behind the scenes the same party is in charge but it has a new leader. On the pitch, the evidence of what Hexit will mean is starting to take shape.
At the end of Christiansen’s reign, we were softer than brie. Now we’re as solid as cheddar.
Where the season started with continental play from the back, Heckingbottom has already shown a willingness to hit the large striker.
The last man was wedded to a stylish 4-2-3-1. Heckingbottom’s second game was four-four-fucking-two.
Christiansen could cause chaos with his substitutions. Hecky’s just ensure we take back control.
Just look at the Brentford game. There was none of the ill-discipline that put an end to Christiansen. When Hecky sends eleven men out there, every single one of them lads are coming back.
There was staunch defending, once the Brussels influence of Laurens De Bock was gone. A hard border could be erected around the penalty area.
The special relationship with Liam Cooper is coming through already. He had a million and one headers at goal under Christiansen and never got closer to the net than the corner flag. After two games under Heckingbottom, one goal.
Eastern European labourer Mateusz Klich has been sent back to the continent. Proper English midfielder Adam Forshaw is already the backbone of the team.
Proper young British footballers like Tyler Denton and Bailey Peacock-Farrell are back on the bench like an Ian Harte wet dream. Proper shite is jettisoned to run laps around Pride Park pre-match.
Heckingbottom is basically a mean PE teacher.
The question really is whether this is going to be a soft Hexit or a hard Hexit.
A soft Hexit would mean Orta still in situ next summer. European experts like Italian Gianni Vio will still have an influence at Elland Road. Samu Saiz and Gianni Alioski will be key men. 87-year-old Pablo Hernandez’s contract will be what it should be — a priority.
A hard Hexit is far more severe. If he wants to stay at the club, our No. 9 will have to change his name to Peter Michael the Soccer. Even Eunan O’Kane will have to be sent back across the hard border to Ireland. The first game of the season will see Steve Morison back up front with Billy Sharp. And snow will always fall on Elland Road, even in August.
There won’t be any more trips to Murcia. The only warm weather training Hecky’s lads will get will be a long weekend in Whitby. Nutritional advice will stretch as far as not having scraps with dinner every night. After all, Heckingbottom considers mushy peas to be one of his five a day.
Even now we don’t know how this will shape up. So much still has to be decided. The new badge, which might have even been too Brexit for Brexit, is going to be replaced by another likely disaster. Democracy might rear its ugly head again.
But it could be a positive. There’s been enough to suggest that it could go right. Switzerland isn’t part of the EU — we definitely get to keep Gaetano Berardi.
Some people were sick of the way things were going. People rose up and there was a revolt. As the Bristol City game showed — it was the people what nearly won it. ◉
(written by Sophie Levin & Eric Casavino)
(artwork by Grady Tidy)