Leeds United need to seal promotion from the Championship this season or else Marcelo Bielsa may not remain at Elland Road, according to Nigel Martyn.
The West Yorkshire club appeared on course to end their long wait to seal a return to the Premier League when the 2019-20 season was halted in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Bielsa had his squad sitting top of the table and while only a point clear of nearest rivals West Brom, they had created a comfortable cushion between themselves and the rest of the chasing pack in the race to clinch one of the two automatic spots.
It remains unclear when the action will resume in the Football League – chairman Rick Parry has said the campaign must be completed by July 31 – but Martyn fears Bielsa will not stick around without the prospect of playing in the Premier League in 2020-21.
The former Leeds and England goalkeeper is full of praise for the work done by the Argentinian coach, describing him as a “breath of fresh air” while applauding his impact on the players, both on and off the field.
“Without wanting to sound too downbeat, I didn’t see him doing another season if they didn’t get promoted,” Martyn told Stats Perform.
“It was kind of a last chance saloon with Leeds and this manager, and he’s been a breath of fresh air with his attitude, not just to playing football but to life in general.
“What he’s brought to that club and the humility he’s bought, is good to see. It’s rubbed off on his players, who looked like they were enjoying winning and everything that went with that.
“Let’s hope we don’t miss out on Bielsa in the Premier League, because that would be good to see.”
Leeds had seemingly overcome a wobble prior to the suspension in proceedings, recording five successive league victories to get their promotion push firmly back on track.
However, Martyn acknowledges the long hiatus will allow all in the Championship to reset in preparation for a short run-in, while some teams could be hampered by changes in personnel due to the different situations concerning loan signings and their parent clubs.
“At this point, you’d say they [Leeds] deserve to go up. I would love to see them in the Premier League with everything back to normal, but that’s not the situation,” Martyn said.
“I want the season finished, obviously, because so much has been invested into it. However, there are a lot of players out of contract, on loan from other clubs that might have to go back, so it won’t be the same.
“Situations have changed, so it is going to be new for everybody despite being a continuation.
“They were in a good place and you would say they would have gone up this year, all things being equal, but if the season is able to be completed, it’s the same for West Brom, Nottingham Forest, for everybody.
“You can put all the excuses there, but it’s the same for all. Possibly it won’t be the same squad that finishes it, but it’s the same for everyone. If you all sign up to it, there’s no coming back.”