Leeds Marsch-ing to Jesse’s beat

Last season was quite traumatic for Leeds fans.

Much was expected after their stunning first season back in the English Premier League in 2020-2021, where they finished ninth.

But a spate of injuries and a loss of confidence saw Argentine maestro Marcelo Bielsa part ways with the Whites, which then appointed American Jesse Marsch as his replacement.

The team would eventually finish 17th, one place above the relegation zone.

“It was bittersweet when Bielsa left as he was instrumental in us returning to the top flight,” said Leeds fan, Azura Toop Abdul Manaf (main image, left)

“I love Bielsa, but his tactics were getting predictable. Teams could counter our attacks, and we dropped points.

“It did not help that we had plenty of injuries. I was a bit worried when I heard an ‘American’ would be our new manager, but from his first interview, Marsch filled me with confidence.”

Azura is confident Marsch has what it takes to help Leeds stay in the Premier League this season before pushing for Europe in the subsequent years.

“We lost two outstanding players – Raphinha (Barcelona) and Kalvin Phillips (Manchester City) – but invested wisely in several new players,” said Azura, who started following Leeds during the David O’Leary years (1998-2002).

“I am not hoping for much. I will be happy with a mid-table finish after what happened last year. Hopefully, we can build on that the following season.”

Asked why she opted for Leeds, Azura admitted she was not a football fan before she studied mechanical engineering at the University of Sheffield.

But once in England, every conversation centred on football.

“My ex-boyfriend was a Chesterfield fan, so I followed him to a few games. One day, his father received tickets to the directors’ box at Elland Road, and they asked if I wanted to follow them.

“That was when I fell in love with Leeds. The atmosphere was outstanding, and the stadium was huge,” said the mother of two girls, aged eight and two.

“I have been to more than 10 home games through the years, and several away trips. I consider myself a good luck charm. Leeds never lost when I was at its matches!”

Azura, who has been back in Malaysia for the past 12 years, said her husband, Andrew Toop (main image) who was a non-football fan, is now a Leeds fanatic.

“I managed to convert him! Every birthday or anniversary, he buys me club merchandise!” she said with a laugh.

“He even joined the official fan clubs in Malaysia and England.

“Once my daughters grow up, they will be Leeds supporters, too!”

Azura, who is pursuing a diploma in social work, will be watching with bated breath when Leeds kicks off the season at home against Wolves tomorrow (10pm).

FIXTURES (Malaysian time)

SATURDAY
Crystal Palace vs Arsenal (3am)
Fulham vs Liverpool (7.30pm)
Bournemouth vs Aston Villa (10pm)
Leeds vs Wolves (10pm)
Newcastle vs Nottingham Forest (10pm)
Tottenham vs Southampton (10pm)

SUNDAY
Everton vs Chelsea (12.30am)
Leicester vs Brentford (9pm)
Manchester United vs Brighton (9pm)
West Ham vs Manchester City (11.30pm)

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