Purple patch no longer the stuff of fantasy for Jack of all trades

1:01pm Apr 20 2022

Before a ball was kicked in 2021-22, Leeds United were fancied by many to go well on and off the field after making an eye-catching return to a Premier League stage.

With the mercurial coaching talents of Marcelo Bielsa calling shots from the touchline and an exciting mix of youth and experience blended together on the pitch, big things were expected at Elland Road.

It did not, however, take long for second-season syndrome to set in. The Whites stumbled out of the blocks, losing 5-1 to Manchester United on the opening weekend, and did not pick up a first three-point haul in the English top-flight until October.

Establishing any kind of momentum has proven tricky, although an upturn in fortune following the appointment of Jesse Marsch as successor to the popular Bielsa has allowed Leeds to drift in Premier League relegation odds to 10/1 for another tumble into the Championship to be taken.

Between March 13 and the middle of April, an impressive haul of 10 points from 12 on offer through a productive four-game run allowed daylight to be put between the West Yorkshire outfit and those occupying a dreaded drop zone.

In an hour of great need, once reliable figures who had endured uncharacteristic wobbles returned to the fore. Among those to step up and rediscover a much-needed spark was Jack Harrison, with value being found again in the tricky winger by online and on-field coaches.

I’m alright, Jack

After registering eight goals and as many assists through 36 Premier League appearances in 2020-21 – seeing him tally 160 fantasy points to finish as the sixth-best midfielder in the division – a man who took in three season-long loans with Leeds before completing a permanent transfer from Manchester City had shown that he could compete with the best in the business.

He appeared to represent good value in fantasy markets, as he currently costs £5.5 million, with creative influences worth their weight in gold. It did, however, take him until January 2 to hit the net for the first time in league action this time around – which may explain why he figures in just 1.5% of all teams selected.

After breaking his duck against Burnley and hitting a stunning hat-trick at West Ham a fortnight later, the floodgates appeared to have been opened.

That was not the case, as a further nine goalless outings followed, but Harrison hit a timely purple patch in March. On the 18th of that month, it was he that started Leeds’ remarkable fight back from two down to claim a dramatic 3-2 victory away at Wolves.

Harrison followed that effort up with the opener in a 1-1 draw with Southampton, before then putting the finishing touches to a comfortable, and potentially priceless 3-0 win on the road at Watford. When taking the stakes for Leeds into account, he could not have picked a better time to come good – with his fantasy haul for the current campaign taken to 97 and back into the top 30 when it comes to most profitable midfielders.

The challenge now is to surge past a finishing post and carry important momentum through the summer. Leeds will be hoping to have popular Fantasy Premier League picks Raphinha, Kalvin Phillips and Patrick Bamford still on their books and firing on all cylinders again next term.

Harrison will have another with an important role to play in future plans and he has shown, with confidence restored to his game, that purple patches need no longer be the stuff of fantasy as he delivers rich rewards in virtual and real-life worlds.