As far as pre-season runouts go, Thursday’s 4-0 victory over Blackpool at York’s Community Stadium was a pretty ‘complete’ night for Jesse Marsch’s Leeds United, in the words of the American boss.
First-half goals from Robin Koch, Junior Firpo and Rodrigo set the Whites well on their way to a comprehensive win, with Mateo Joseph’s late strike rounding off a solid performance in front of a record crowd in North Yorkshire.
The win was made even more impressive by a number of individual displays, none more so than that of 16-year-old Archie Gray who continues to impress and is set to be part of Marsch’s first-team plans this season.
As the saying goes, if you’re good enough you’re old enough, and the great-nephew of Leeds legend Eddie Gray is certainly good enough as he spreads the same excitement among United fans as when James Milner broke onto the scene a decade ago.
You would have had no idea of his tender years watching Thursday’s game, as he was calm on the ball, composed under pressure and strong defensively – showing all the characteristics of fan-favourite at Elland Road.
Despite all this, as well as rave reviews from his manager after the game, fans of last night’s opposition Blackpool were not too pleased having to watch their midfield get, as one fan put it, ‘bossed by a schoolkid’, as they watched their side struggle to contend with their Premier League counterparts.
Some Pool fans seemed a little too irate for a pre-season game, one tweeting: “Don’t kid yourself, this manager has no clue. It might be pre season but our team is no league 1 standard. Leeds have a 16 year old in midfield and he is better than all our players. We have been outclassed since the 1st min.”
Another tweeted: “When the 4th goal went in, not one Leeds player on the pitch has ever been on the 1st team bench and most were being played out of position. The Leeds player who ran the game sat his GCSE’s a few weeks ago.”
The anger continued with another fan: “my season ticket i can confirm will NOT be extended.”
Popular Leeds United journalist Phil Hay summed up Blackpool and Gray’s night: “Archie Gray had a right old game in the middle but he’s also been kicked all over the place. Charlie Allen on for him, last sub. 73rd minute. 3-0. #lufc”
There was a more sensible approach taken by Blackpool manager Michael Appleton who said the ‘step up in class’ was too much for his players.
Appleton added: “It’s one of them when you play the Premier League teams. When you come up against a side like that who are up for it, it’s always going to be tough. Apart from their international lads who were missing tonight, they played a really strong side and they were up for it and knocked it around really well.”
Meanwhile the Blackpool Gazette newspaper simply went with the headline: “Blackpool well beaten as they make big step-up in quality against Leeds United”
The quality told, but don’t kid yourself Appleton!
It was nice to see that Leeds are still a cut above Championship level as they made light work of the Seasiders.
Archie Gray’s masterclass was a joy to behold and Blackpool fans shouldn’t be too downbeat about him dominating the middle of the pitch, because this is no ordinary 16-year-old.
What we have to mention though is Michael Appleton claiming Leeds fielded a strong side. Sure it was a decent line-up to start with, but we still had over 10 players missing.
There is also the fact that we finished the game with all our under-23 team barring Adam Forshaw, and we still dominated possession and scored a late goal.
Jesse Marsch put it best, it was a complete performance and night for all his squad. A good start to pre-season, which cannot be underestimated given how poor we were last summer, which then resulted in a shocking start to the season.
Now we’re onto Australia before the serious stuff starts, let’s keep the momentum going!