He called it ‘football’ rather than ‘soccer’. He said Saturday’s visit to Leicester was an ‘away match’ not a ‘road game’. In fact, aside from one stray use of ‘roster’ instead of ‘squad’, Jesse Marsch passed his first test in English football with flying colours.
As the new manager of Leeds, Marsch faces many challenges, not least trying to avoid relegation and having to fill the shoes of the much-loved Marcelo Bielsa, who he described as a ‘living legend’.
But the 48-year-old knows he must also battle what he says is the ‘stigma’ of being an American coach in England, something made even more difficult by a certain TV show.
Jesse Marsch (above) was appointed as Leeds’ new manager on Monday evening
‘I’m not sure Ted Lasso helped!’ laughed Marsch during his press unveiling at Thorp Arch, referring to the popular comedy series about a hapless US coach. ‘I haven’t watched the show but I get it.
‘People hate hearing the word “soccer”. But I have used the word “football” since I was a professional football player. More and more in the States, we are adapting to the game in England.
‘I think there probably is a stigma. I can understand they think we don’t have the experience that can be created in Europe. Frankly, they are right.
‘It was the reason I came to Europe, it was the reason I learned German. This is the fifth country I have coached football in. It takes me out of my comfort zone.
Marsch has said he has worked hard to prove he can be a successful American coach in Europe
‘I am not perfect. The only way I know how to do things is to go all in, give everything I have, believe in who I am and who I work with and to maximise what we are every day.
‘If you do that effectively, you can be incredibly surprised with the human spirit and what you can achieve… that sounds like Ted Lasso!’
Marsch laughed again but he was deadly serious about respecting Leeds’ history amid fans’ fears over a growing American influence. The San Francisco 49ers own a 44 per cent stake in the club and are expected to eventually complete a full takeover.
‘To say there is an Americanisation of this club would be inaccurate,’ insisted Marsch, just the second American-born Premier League manager after ex-Swansea boss Bob Bradley.
Marsch is only the second American to manage in the Premier League after Bob Bradley
‘Everyone here has distinct vision for what this club is and will become and the 49ers, or me, are side notes. But I think my ethos fits well with the team and the city.
‘Where I am from, Milwaukee in Wisconsin, reminds me of Leeds. My father worked in a factory for 32 years. Working hard is the only thing I know. I was here until 9pm last night talking about tactics and what we think needs to change.’
While Marsch, who arrived promptly for his media address holding a notebook and pen, talked up Leeds’ potential, he was careful not to make any bold claims about qualifying for Europe or winning trophies. He has signed a contract to the summer of 2025 but his only aim right now is to secure his side’s Premier League status.
‘We know we don’t have a lot of time and we have to find success quickly,’ said Marsch, a former assistant at RB Leipzig to Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick, who sent him a good luck note this week.
Marsch has previously worked with Ralf Rangnick, but has never managed in England before
‘This is a big league in a big moment and we have to get points to make sure this team is where it deserves to be.’
Marsch revealed he had been speaking to Leeds director of football Victor Orta for two years and expected to take over at Elland Road in the summer when Bielsa’s contract expired.
His appointment was fast-tracked because of the Whites’ disastrous run of six games without a win, which has left them just two points above the bottom three. Intriguingly, though, Marsch said he advised Orta not to sack Bielsa.
‘I didn’t want Marcelo to have to go out like this,’ he admitted. ‘I wanted to see him continue and finish his legacy and keep the team up. I wanted to make that argument with Victor when he called me.
‘But I could see the group was suffering, so I had to wrap my mind around doing it now. My focus is not on the Championship, it’s on finding ways that we will be in the Premier League. But I am committed to being here no matter what the situation.’
Marsch has accepted he may struggle to win the fans over as he takes over from Marcelo Bielsa
However, he wants to get straight to work on getting Leeds back to winning ways on the pitch
Given Bielsa’s God-like status amongst supporters, Marsch is well aware he could have his work cut out winning some of them round.
‘I know there are factions of people that may not accept me so well because of their love for Marcelo,’ he said. ‘But I want to show that as good as Marcelo was, that the team and players are good too.
‘I don’t have to be Marcelo Bielsa. I need to be myself. I’ve followed Marcelo’s career and respected a lot of what he did, but I am different and I have my own ways.’
The first thing Marsch will do is ‘get away from man marking’, the flawed system favoured by Bielsa which has led to Leeds leaking 20 goals in their last five games.
‘Clearly, the adjustment of tactics is No1,’ he added. ‘A lot of teams had developed match plans against the way the team played which had started to become very successful and easier and easier to implement.
‘Our style of play is fearless. Fear to fail equals failure.’ Whether Marsch is a success or failure will be judged over the next 12 games.