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beej

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At a time when the bare-faced self-interest and pernicious greed of the football industry is being shown up for all it is (much as the authorities are seemingly trying to do a quietly efficient job of listening and remaining as 'sporting' as possible), it's refreshing to be retaining such a classy perspective on matters—something that clearly emanates from the top, be that the manager himself or the organisation at large. Meanwhile (in an admittedly shameless plug), should anyone care for a break from the stresses of the "What happens next…" thread, you can read my (far too) extended original football-related post here.

 

In trawling that exhausting thread (and special thanks must go to @waltzingmassinga99 for his erudite legal interventions), I recall @Mulder suggesting that the image of Ayling's goal celebration vs. HTAFC (the 4th of the 5 pics below) might well end up becoming "the image of our promotion", and while I'm far too cautious to prematurely predict any such outcomes, such a goal and celebration would certainly seem appropriate and merely serve to confirm many of my own positive beliefs about this team, the squad, its peerless manager, and the wider organisation.

 

The first of the five pictures points to both the fitness (as much as this is admittedly just the 3rd minute of the game for a change!) and positional awareness of the team, highlighting just where Bill Ayling is on the pitch when super Jack Harrison receives the ball. That he arrives just 7 seconds later into the box, in such wide-open space to hammer the ball home is testament to the training of physical ability and spacial opportunity that pervades the current team. I also love Klich's intuitive back-pass and subsequent striving to find space both wide and inside as a demonstration of implicitly knowing where his team-mates are and trying to open up running lanes for them. That the goal should stem from a pinpoint JH cross seems somehow similarly fitting. 

 

The second image is undoubtedly the most iconic, whether in colour or black and white. But aside from its icon status, imho it's also further evidence of Bielsa's forensic and inspirational approaches to training. Not only are we subsequently made aware of this link-up being successfully practised the very day before the game, if you've watched Juani Jimena's apostolic translation of Marcelo's 75-minute presentation to the Amsterdam Aspire Academy, you'll recall how he proposed that, in bridging language barriers, he'll often teach players by showing them photographs of the best players' body positions that he wishes them to adopt in order to improve their own game—and if this is not proof of this approach, then I don't know what is. In fact, I'd wager that Ayling's body had never taken up quite such a majestic and technically correct position let alone so high off the ground until he met Marcelo!

 

As for the rest of the images of celebration, they further exemplify not only Bielsa's innate and unswerving belief in this team (that he doesn't even have to look up in picture 3 to acknowledge what they've achieved) but also the hugely impressive (and often overlooked) selflessly supportive family spirit that runs throughout this entire squad. That both Douglas (so rarely used this term) and Roberts (still deputising, despite his brace at Hull) are so utterly ecstatic goes to show how much a part of this team's efforts they feel, just how much is at stake, and how delighted they are for their fellow team-mate. That (the imho despicably maligned) Berardi is first on the scene to congratulate as part of another quiet, selfless display in deputising for the supposedly indispensable White (who's already covering for The Yorkshire Pirlo) seems most apt—yet another clean-sheet victory is testament to his own strength of character and discipline in effortlessly filling in. Our developing young-blood U23 prospects of Casey, Caprile and Struijk are equally beside themselves at Ayling's heroics, and Costa and Dallas are quick to join the throng. Indeed, that we can achieve all this without the talismanic Phillips speaks volumes about this squad.

 

I began my positive outlook on this season by sharing images of KP with his arm around his Bielsa dad as they approached the HT tunnel at Ashton Gate. If the below images were to serve as its close, they'd make for a suitably inspiring book-end to yet another remarkable season. Should the season play out, I've absolutely no doubt that this group of players would be by far and away the most up-and-at-'em team of any in the division, dismantling all who might lie in their way with yet more incredible goals. For now, this goal and its celebrations truly encapsulate all that is good about Bielsa's impeccable coaching and this squad's genuine and honest 'Side-before-Self mentality, courage, application, improvement and strength. They continue to fill me with pride.

 

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