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Can Leeds Return to The Glory Days or Is It Just a Pipe Dream?

Can Leeds Return to The Glory Days or Is It Just a Pipe Dream?


Leeds United fell hard and fast. In the blink of an eye, they went from Champions League semi-finalists to League One. Unlike Wolves, they stopped the rot on the pitch, only for an infestation in the boardroom to erode the club’s soul.

The fans never gave up, for which the club should be grateful but rarely show any appreciation of. They believed better times lay ahead, even with storm clouds permanently stationed about the West Yorkshire city.

Elland Road, a seething cauldron, spoiled on glory, refused to bow under the pressure as the lunatics ran amok in the asylums. And now, the faithful may be rewarded with a run into the promotion play-offs. Can 2017-18 be the year when the Phoenix rises from the ashes?

To return to the glory days, you must know when they were. Dominant in the late 1960s through to mid-70s, Leeds were champions twice and runners-up five times. FA Cup winners, League Cup winners (when it was a trophy worth winning), Fairs Cup winners and losing finalists in the Cup Winners Cup and Champions Cup.

At once, they were one of England’s most feared and despised teams.

Twenty years on and they were champions again; still hated outside of their home city but the last champions of the Football League. The Premier League brought with it reflected glory as David O’Leary’s vibrant team became a fixture in the European places.

Leeds United Team in Champions League Semi Finals vs Valencia

Leeds United Team in Champions League Semi Finals vs Valencia

He led them to the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup and Champions League, the former overshadowed by tragedy when two Leeds fans were callously murdered in Istanbul. A year later, Valencia ended the fairy tale with a crushing win in the Mestalla.

That’s real glory. Can Leeds return to those heights or is glory now becoming a permanent fixture in the Premier League?

If promotion is hard, staying in the top flight is harder still. Brighton, Huddersfield and Newcastle are all struggling to do that with arguably better squads than Leeds currently have. Youth and enthusiasm are on United’s side but there’s a gap to top of the table Wolverhampton Wanderers which doesn’t lie.

The current squad, a mix of enthusiastic players and loanees but is it Premier League quality? If you look at the players brought in, on permanent deals or just for the season, the test is how many would make it in the top flight? How many are coveted? While that isn’t by any means a definitive benchmark, it’s an indicator of quality.

Standing them in good stead is the way Thomas Christiansen integrated a high turnover of players into the first team. Leeds will need the same next season if they reach the Premier League, leaving the XI almost unrecognisable from that which takes the field now. They can win promotion but almost certainly face the drop immediately.

Goals are an issue, but the weakness is also a strength. Kemar Roofe is their leading scoring with six this season in the Championship. As a number, it’s at the level where a team in a division higher is generally struggling.

However, Roofe is part of a multi-pronged attack, with goals coming from all areas of the pitch. Alioski, Phillips, Lasogga, and Saiz all have five goals each in the league. Leeds strength is that they are not reliant upon one player for goals; they have a number who can score, making them difficult to defend against.

If only they were so tight at the back. Conceding more than a goal per game on average will slow progress, as it is now. Four of their defeats this season have been by a single goal margin; scoring once might have been enough to win a game in Revie’s era but the current group are not modelled to defend that way.

Despite reaching seventh, there’s a feeling Leeds have yet to hit form. The seven-match unbeaten start to the season is very much a distant memory. Since then, two three-match runs of defeats punctured the promotion balloon, allowing the air to seep out.

Deflating as they were, hope is once more rising. The draw at home to Aston Villa was the prelude to back-to-back wins over QPR and Hull; Leeds are coming again and face a Christmas programme which will surely see them take a maximum twelve points from the four games.

The Championship is a division in which the promotion race changes fast and a strong run in the second half of the season could secure an automatic place. From thereon in, they need the owners to develop deep pockets if the visit to the Premier League is to be anything but a short stay.


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