Leeds in race to shed self-destructive streak as Premier League relegation threatens
11th May 2022

Luke Ayling was sent off at Arsenal and it leaves Leeds with gaps to fill

Jesse Marsch cited Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa and John F Kennedy. None, it should be stressed, as an option to fill the vacancy at right-back after Stuart Dallas and Luke Ayling ruled themselves out of the remainder of Leeds United’s battle against the drop with overly violent challenges; Gandhi, that most famous of pacifists, might not have condoned either. The Leeds manager is inspired by a number of historical icons. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, had to deal with the Cuban Missile Crisis. His compatriot Marsch has to navigate the Leeds Relegation Crisis. Kennedy held off Nikita Khrushchev but Marsch could lose out to Frank Lampard.

He is approaching his quest for survival with a methodology that some of his predecessors may not have adopted. Don Revie felt team spirit came from carpet bowls, dominoes and bingo. Howard Wilkinson removed the pictures of Revie’s team. Marcelo Bielsa liked “Murderball” training sessions though, by the end of his reign, it felt as though the casualties were Leeds themselves. Enter Marsch, who has 52 excerpts of books he likes to give players to motivate them, aided and abetted by hundreds of quotes. “I love quotes, I love from learning from people of the past, sports figures, historical figures, whoever,” he explained.

Perhaps it is unsurprising that many of those sporting reference points come from his homeland and that those sports stretch beyond football. He mentioned France’s 1998 World Cup-winning team but also the United States’ gold medal winners at basketball in the 2008 Beijing Olympics; a documentary covering their progress was called Road to Redemption and Leeds may hope their journey has a similarly happy ending. “I love basketball culture, the way they combine inner-city kids with university graduates,” said Marsch, a Princeton history major. His hometown of Racine, Wisconsin, is north of Chicago on Lake Michigan and he looks to two of the Chicago Bulls greats, Michael Jordan and coach Phil Jackson.

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