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Marcelo Bielsa is up for the cup and full of respect for the football pyramid

Marcelo Bielsa
(Image credit: Ian Walton)

Marcelo Bielsa has bucked the trend of most Premier League managers by declaring he is ready to “pay homage” to the FA Cup.

World football’s oldest knockout competition has been viewed by many top-flight clubs as a distraction, especially since the advent of the Premier League.

But the Argentinian, whose side play at Crawley in the third round on Sunday, said: “It represents English football in its purest form.

“It allows you to link with the history of the clubs in England. That’s why I’m very happy to be in this competition.”

Bielsa acknowledged a more pragmatic approach by clubs fighting relegation or for a Champions League place was “understandable and acceptable”.

He said there were “arguments in favour and against”, but added he would “give hierarchy to a competition which is the essence of our country and to pay homage to it by competing in this competition”.

“From my point of view, Leeds shouldn’t lose contact with the base of football in this country because those teams give nutrients to the pyramid of the league,” he said.

“Also because the ambition to play against these top teams has to be available.

“Thirdly, I feel it’s healthy for the bigger teams to be able to help the smaller teams, to be generous with the smaller teams. An expression of generosity is to view them as equals.”

Crawley boss John Yems has urged Leeds to donate their FA Cup prize money to the Sky Bet League Two club following Sunday’s tie and it remains to be seen if Bielsa’s goodwill stretches that far.

The West Sussex side have been denied bumper gate receipts due to the national lockdown as all lower-league sides battle the coronavirus pandemic’s harsh financial impact.

The winners of the televised tie at Broadfield Stadium are set to pocket £61,500, while the losers will collect £20,500.

Bielsa, meanwhile, has assured Tyler Roberts that he still has a key role to play for Leeds this season.

The Wales forward, unavailable on Sunday, has been linked with several Championship clubs after being restricted to eight Premier League appearances this season and only two starts.

“Tyler has always been in my plans,” Bielsa said. “I value him in the football point of view and also in the human aspect. He has an important role inside our team.

“It is true he is having difficulties to manage to have continuity, but, for me, he is a player who is full of resources and very important for us.”