After six seasons outside the Premier League, Leeds United are in a position to get back to where a club of their stature belongs. Three years in the Championship, followed by three in League One, have been tough to take for Leeds fans; this is not what they are used to. Many are still old enough to have seen Don Revie’s dominance in the 60’s and 70’s or Howard Wilkinson’s era in the early 90’s, but there is a new generation of fans who have never seen their side compete with the best in the country. Unfortunately for them, it may suit in the long run, if they wait just that bit longer.
Regardless of how big a club is, successive promotions to the Premier League is a big ask, and holding grasp of that momentum to then avoid relegation is even greater. Under Graham Taylor, Watford reached the top flight after successive promotions in 1998 and 99, only to finish bottom the following year and head back to the second tier. Manchester City, a club with greater resources than most that come up to the Premiership, repeated the trick a year later, only to suffer the same fate.
It took Leeds three years to get out of League One because they were such a big scalp for teams; suddenly relatively small clubs had the chance to go to Elland Road in what must have felt like a cup tie, and try to take points off the big boys. This year the club may benefit from being more of a peer to the rest of the sides they face, despite still being one of the bigger clubs in the division.
As ever, the Championship remains one of the most competitive leagues going; any number of teams can lay claim to a promotion push including Hull, Burnley, Middlesbrough, Cardiff, Sheffield United, Forest, Bristol City, Derby and on and on…While Leeds have as good a squad as most, they are up against it, and it is a squad that would struggle in the Premiership, even with a few additions. Losing Jermaine Beckford is a massive blow, as strikers of that ability are a rare breed at that level, whether the likes of Luciano Becchio and Billy Paynter can score the 31 goals Beckford scored last season, only time will tell.
I still believe that Leeds’ promotion to the Premiership is a matter of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’, with that level of fan base, history and stature they will be able to attract better and better players to the club. Not being a fan of Leeds myself, it may be easier for me to say, but an element of patience is required from the Leeds fans. They can be secure in the knowledge that the club is moving in the right direction. After what must have been a pretty sickening few years in West Yorkshire, the club has turned a corner and is getting back on its feet. Fans also have to be aware how many clubs are trying to achieve the same goal. A season, maybe more, of consolidation is far better preparation for Simon Grayson’s men to have the armoury to survive the Premier League. The last thing the club needs is another relegation, and after such a topsy-turvy last five years, the relative boredom of a mid-table finish may provide a far more secure platform from which to launch their next great era.
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