When you put the Championship trophy, England caps, Elland Road sell-outs and the restored pride of a city to one side, Thorp Arch must be high on Marcelo Bielsa’s list of chosen accomplishments.
Leeds United’s training ground is Bielsa’s nerve centre, his canvas for mixing the watercolours we see painted on a weekend. For a man defined by his successes in player development, the tools at his disposal have to be state of the art.
Rather than race home for vital, priceless, limited time with his family in Argentina this summer, Bielsa instead chose to remain in West Yorkshire with his adopted child, to nurture it and watch over its progress in the close season.
As he has been on every day of his Leeds United tenure, Bielsa was exacting and precise with what he felt should be done to push Thorp Arch on again.
Rather than making ultimatums, the head coach sets out to the club how things could be improved and it is their decision to execute or not.
Thankfully, no expense has been spared and the head coach has proven delighted with what’s been done to a rural base thought to soon be a part of the club’s past until the tables were recently turned on the Matthew Murray High School proposals.
For now, Thorp Arch will remain the beating heart at one of the country’s finest football academies and most improved first teams for that matter.
Bielsa recently provided a full description of the works he had overseen at Thorp Arch across the summer.
Alongside the millions spent gutting and transforming Elland Road’s pitch, a similar revamp was carried out on one of the pitches at the training centre.
“Thorp Arch a year on has been improved and the focus is on some details that weren’t resolved,” he said.
“Free spaces that previously couldn’t be used have been made into spaces that can be used with grass.
“One pitch has undersoil heating so in the winter there aren’t any problems with regards to training due to snow and the weather.
“The facilities have been improved so that that can happen for two further pitches in future and there’s a path been created for the machinery that does the work around the pitches, so it doesn’t damage the pitches.
“Then after there was a lot more minor details that make the options for work to be better. All of this is done with a lot of professionalism.
“The director of the club and those in charge of the construction have been impeccable in their work.”
In the quest for marginal gains in every department, Bielsa and Leeds can see how money spent at the training ground and on improving their existing assets will go some way to bridging the gap to those with bigger wage budgets further up the league table.]
Bielsa wants to maximise every pound spent by his paymasters. What use is the quality scouting or investment made in a Cody Drameh or Crysencio Summerville if they do not have the right environment to unlock their potential?