Roofe begs English footie chiefs NOT to follow Belgium and KO season… with ex-club Leeds on brink of promotion – The Sun

KEMAR ROOFE hopes English football does not follow in Belgium’s footsteps and call time on the season.

The former Leeds striker had his first season at Anderlecht ended by the coronavirus crisis.

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Belgium’s top flight – the Jupiler League – decided last week to declare Club Brugge champions but are yet to make a decision on relegation and promotion issues.

There was one game left of the regular season with Brugge 15 points clear while Anderlecht were eighth.

But the league has a different format to this side of the Channel with the top six going forward into a play-off mini-league to compete for the title, which Anderlecht had a chance of making.

If English football follows suit, it could mean Championship club Leeds ending their 16-year exile from the Premier League.

He told SunSport: “You must finish the season or try to, otherwise I believe it’s not right to declare teams champions and promote and relegate clubs because there are too many games left to play.

“In our league, I wanted to play the remaining matches because after the last game of the regular season there were another 10 games in the play-offs and so much can happen.

“At Anderlecht we still had a chance of finishing sixth and there was an opportunity of grabbing a European place. And that is why I signed for this club – I had the ambition to play in the Champions League or Europa League.

“But – of course – you must flip it and look at the other side of the coin and think how can you finish this current season and play the following one as normal as you can. It’s difficult.”

Roofe believes there are just two fair options in England – come back and play the remaining games when it is safe to do so or, at the last resort, call the season null and void.

He said: “Null and void is a fairer way than not completing the season.

“You just say the season didn’t exist and everything stays the same, no-one won anything, no-one lost anything. Then you scrap it and start the next season.

“There’s too much riding on it. It changes people’s lives and careers when you get relegated – and all because of something you can’t control.

“That’s why you should try to finish it. But public health is the absolute priority.”

Roofe knows, however, that null and void will cruelly rob Leeds of promotion to the top flight.

The Elland Road side top the Championship and are seven points clear of third-placed Fulham on the back of five straight wins.

Roofe spent three years at the club – and was in the team that looked certs for promotion last season but imploded towards the end, eventually losing to Derby in the play-off semi-finals.

He said: “That is the unfair side of calling the season null and void – those teams like Liverpool who have waited 30 years to win the title.

“And, of course, Leeds have been waiting for this moment for so many years to achieve this promotion.

“But both clubs hadn’t got the points on the board yet to win anything and, if you award them their prize, you have to relegate teams too and that is the big problem.

“You can’t call a team like Liverpool champions and then not relegate the sides at the other end of the table. It’s all or nothing.”

Roofe believes Leeds were better equipped to get the job done this season because of the experience of last year.

One point from their last four games killed off their chances of automatic promotion and they then incredibly tossed away a 2-0 aggregate lead to lose 4-2 to the Rams.

Roofe – who scored the goal in Leeds’ 1-0 first-leg win at Pride Park – had to watch the second leg at Elland Road after being sidelined with a calf injury.

And he admitted: “It was painful to watch especially as I was sitting next to Derby fans who were giving me stick. It was like a funeral in the dressing room afterwards.

“No-one could say anything, no-one knew what to say. Usually there’s someone who will say some wise words to lift everyone – but no-one had any. We were all in shock.”

Roofe believes the brilliance of boss Marcelo Bielsa has been the main factor of Leeds’ success.

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Although he admits the Argentine manager is not a man who any of his players have grown close to.

He said: “They’re the same as last season but more refined because they’ve had that one year of experience beforehand.

“We were learning on the job last season. Bielsa came in with new tactics and style of play and we had to learn fast.

“It gave us a lot of information to pick up and also physically he built us up well.

“And this season they were reaping the rewards because they’re naturally fitter than all the other teams.

“With Bielsa, I know it sounds silly, he’s put square pegs in square holes. It’s as simple as that, there are other teams that I’ve been at where some players shouldn’t be playing in certain positions or certain formations shouldn’t be used in the team but Bielsa has his way of playing and has the players to do that.

“You must execute his demands as well. If you can’t do that, you’re not going to play.

“Marcelo is a manager who likes to keep his distance from the players. He has a team of coaches that are very good so when he isn’t around they can take control.

“He had a team of coaches and fitness people that would run the ship pretty much while he was looking at the top and making sure everything was running smoothly.”

Roofe believes striker Patrick Bamford has had a lot of unfair criticism in the centre forward position.

He had fired 13 goals in 38 games this season – and was maligned for not scoring more.

But his ex-team-mate said: “Playing as a No9 is the hardest position on the pitch. It’s hard to get a top, top striker who can score week in, week out and when you can get one it’s expensive.

“You have to deal with so much pressure. If you don’t take those chances people say you’re not good enough or if you don’t score for a while you start to think, ‘When am I going to get another chance to score?’ and when you get that chance it might be on your mind, ‘Will I score it?’ You have to be mentally strong.

“It’s a bit unfair for him because he gets a lot of stick and sometimes he doesn’t deserve it.

“Bielsa keeps faith in him because he has that system and players that he trusts play in.

“For Marcelo, the most disappointing thing is not for him to not be scoring, it will be not doing the work on the pitch or getting yourself into the position to score.

“So if for example he sees a player not making a run to get on the end of a cross he will be very disappointed.

“If you’re in that position and miss an open goal, he won’t be happy but not as disappointed as the first scenario.”

Roofe, meanwhile, is back home in the UK after Anderlecht allowed their foreign star to return to their home countries.


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The striker has enjoyed his first season in Belgium under player-manager Vincent Kompany.

And said: “He leads by example, he’s not just telling us what to do he’s doing it himself on the pitch. I’m learning so much and have two more years here.

“Brussels is a great city and I’m very happy learning and improving myself as a player.”

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