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Marcelo Bielsa: 'Lower league football is the heart of the English game'

Marcelo Bielsa: 'Lower league football is the heart of the English game'
© Reuters
The debate continues over how to find a new way forward through the coronavirus pandemic.

Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa believes the Premier League have a responsibility to help protect the “heart” of English football further down the pyramid.

The controversial Project Big Picture proposal was rejected by Premier League clubs earlier this week, but the debate over how to find a new way forward and funding for EFL teams to help them through the pandemic continues.

“The tip of the iceberg is responsive to the whole iceberg,” said Argentinian Bielsa, who helped guide Leeds back into the top flight for the first time in 16 years.

“If anything describes English football it is League One and League Two. As a spectator of football in this country, I feel these two categories have the essence of English football.

“If there is anything to distinguish English football, it is the spirit you compete with. This spirit is no better represented than in these lower categories.

“With any structure, we can’t interpret it without looking at its history and League One and Two are a description of what English football was in its essence in the beginning.

“It’s the nucleus, the heart, the essence of football in this country.

“This is a view of mine and perhaps I am wrong, but it is important you do not forget the history of where you came from.”

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola echoed Bielsa’s sentiments.

“For the local teams, the old towns, the little village, they love their own teams and that is the point,” Guardiola said.

“I’m pretty sure they will find the best solution for English football and football itself.”

Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer also feels the leading teams “have a responsibility to protect the football pyramid or smaller clubs”, while Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp believes the debate is one which is needed, albeit perhaps not emerging through what has proven to be such a divisive proposal.

“I can say all the people I know who were involved (in PBP) are concerned about football,” the Reds boss said. “We will play on in football, but there are things we can improve.

“I really think you always have to improve them now before you see the real problems in the future – that is what these people tried to do.”

Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho welcomed a collective approach.

“Of course it has to be good for everybody and not just for a certain elite,” he said. “That (PBP) project is dead, hopefully people can work on different projects, but one which satisfies everybody.”

Newcastle manager Steve Bruce believes a dilution of the Premier League’s collective power is “not the right philosophy at all”.

And Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers accepts it is a “complicated issue”, but is one which “definitely needs looking at”.

The Northern Irishman said: “If all the governing bodies and all the organisations that have a say in running football come together for greater good of the game, and that’s through every level – from the grassroots – with everyone together working for the same cause, I’m sure that would be the best solution for the game going forward.”

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard feels “people are trying to find solutions all the time” for the common good in the game.

“We (Chelsea) are certainly intent on making sure that we help and are involved in conversations around protecting the football pyramid, from grassroots all the way up to EFL and Premier League,” the former England midfielder said.

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West Ham boss David Moyes did not agree with PBP, but also believes Premier League clubs cannot just be expected to help out further down the pyramid themselves.

“Having managed top teams I have seen the other side of it and it can’t always be the top clubs looking after smaller clubs, but we have a big job to do, it is a difficult time for everybody,” the former Everton and Manchester United manager said.

“The Government needs to do more for the lower levels of football and sport because it is such a big part of this country.”

Aston Villa manager Dean Smith feels “it’s the responsibility of everyone, not just the Premier League”.

He said: “The Football Association, the EFL, the LMA (League Managers’ Association), the PFA (Professional Footballers’ Association) need to all get their heads together to help teams who are in financial trouble.”

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