Leeds United 4 (Koch10, Firpo 22, Rodrigo 30, Joseph 85)
There isn’t usually too much to report on a pre-season friendly, but, in the light of how we struggled throughout last season, the early moments of this campaign do feel important. It does appear that lessons have been learned too; six new signings with a total market worth approaching £100m is encouraging and looks likely to give us much greater strength in depth than we had, even after accepting that the loss of Kalvin and, probably, Raphinha, will take some getting used to.
So, this was our first chance to see the boys in the flesh this season and, I have to say, I was impressed. We have no idea as to how good or bad Blackpool are of course, so the fact that we dominated the game and gave them only one real sight of goal all evening may mean nothing much at all but, as they say, you can only beat what’s in front of you and we did look sharp doing that.
Of the new boys we only got to see Marc Roca in action; the other five newbies – Aaronson, Kristensen, Adams, Gyabi and Sinisterra - were all there but sat in the seats behind the dugouts patiently waiting for their turn in Australia no doubt. If they all prove to be as good as Roca though then we may well be in for a good season! He looked composed and calm and decisive throughout his hour on the pitch.
If you’ve read the various reports already posted about the game you will also know that the stand-out performer last night was young Archie Gray, the 16-year-old great-nephew of club legend Eddie Gray and I can confirm that some of Archie’s footwork last night reminded me of Eddie in his pomp. Archie grew and grew during the game, playing alongside Roca for much of it, flying into tackles, making sharp passes all over the pitch and then mesmerising the Blackpool defenders with some clever trickery that left many on their backsides just as Eddie used to do! We’d already heard that Jesse Marsch was likely to include Archie in his first-team plans but the manager confirmed it after the game telling reporters: "I think he’ll play… If he shows he’s ready for big challenges like he did tonight, we’ll give him those big challenges.”
Elsewhere on the pitch, Pascal Struijk and Robin Koch looked a good pairing and dealt comfortably enough with the threat of the ageless Gary Madine and, at set-pieces, the now rather ageing and weighty Martin Keogh. Illan Meslier had little to do but got down sharply at this near post to save the one decent shot the Tangerines managed. Junior Firpo looked good going forward but did get pulled about by the Blackpool right-winger while Sam Greenwood disappointed by putting all three of his free-kicks over the bar and not really being as visible as he probably should be in open play. Joffy Gelhardt was a handful as ever. Of the players that came on later, Lewis Bate showed his usual touches and Mateo Joseph got the fourth goal with a fine finish following great work from the flying Jamie Shackleton.
It’s always too soon to gauge how the season will go by looking at pre-season games but, as Jesse said last night after the game, it was as “close to complete” as you could ask for at this stage. Now it’s off to Australia for the team and I’ll be out there too to hopefully witness all the new signings start to get underway. To all those making the trip – have a good flight and hope to see you out there!