A Little Bit of History…
Leeds United are perhaps the biggest cautionary tale in English football history, a warning of how terrible results, horrible mismanagement and woeful decision making can combine to take a club from the edge of glory to the brink of collapse.
In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Leeds United was a powerhouse, with regular top five finishes in the Premier League. They were a team that most feared and they had an exceptional squad of highly talented players. But on closer inspection, not everything was flourishing in the white rose garden. Unbeknownst to most, the club owners had essentially mortgaged the future of the club based on future qualification for the Champions League qualification and the riches this would bring. Unfortunately, Leeds United failed to qualify for the competition for two consecutive seasons, and when the huge loads need to be repaid, the money wasn’t available.
The first domino to fall was defender Rio Ferdinand, a key player who was sold to Manchester United in July 2002, to the surprise of many. He was the first of numerous players to exit the club, as the Leeds United machine lapsed into malfunction.
As the club began to fall apart, so did the results. The team that had finished third in the Premier League in the 99/00 season were relegated in 03/04. It didn’t end there; they fell through the EFL Championship and, by 07/08, found themselves fighting for their lives in League One. From Liverpool F.C to Leyton Orient in just four years. For non-football fans, that is a fall from grace (no offense to Leyton Orient fans; you’re a lovely club).
But, after 16 seasons in the lower leagues, the giant West Yorkshire club is back in the top tier, and the 2020/21 campaign was a superb one for Leeds United. Continuing the thrilling form that they showed in the EFL Championship, Leeds blew past other well established Premier League teams, including famous wins over Tottenham Hotspur and eventual champions Manchester City. Manager Marcelo Bielsa is heralded the world over (Pep Guardiola has described him as ‘the best’) and the club are well positioned for another fruitful season.
The Season Ahead…
Bielsa has crafted a terrific squad at Leeds United, who play a dynamic style of soccer. Raphinha and Rodrigo add creativity to an extraordinary energetic side. Patrick Bamford, who once looked as if a career as a journeyman player was on the cards, has developed into a cultured striker and a fine finisher. Club captain Luke Ayling (below) is a defensive rock and, of course, the brilliant Kalvin Phillips, a player with such composure with the ball at his feet that he has drawn comparisons to the legendary Andrea Pirlo.
It looks as if Leeds are going head-to-head with other EPL clubs for the signature of a couple of highly sort after players. Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio is apparently on their radar, but both Leicester City and Everton may be keen on the 25-year-old Spanish winger. Leeds might also be in the market for Adama Traore from Wolverhampton Wanderers, who’d come with a $41 million price tag, but rumours persist that both Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool will fight for his signature too.
Jack Harrison has permanently signed from Manchester City after a successful loan spell, and the club have also secured full-back Junior Firpo from Barcelona.
Several players have, most notably the fan favourite Pablo Hernandez, for has joined Castellon.
Location Leeds, West Yorkshire
Stadium Elland Road (37,792 capacity)
20/21 Final League Position 9th
Opening Game of 21/22 Season away to Manchester United
21/22 Predicted Final League Position 10th
For many fans, keeping Marcelo Bielsa at the club is more important than any player sticking around. While he’s at Leeds, and while the club continue to support him, it’s hard to see them falling into trouble. They might suffer slightly from the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’, but not enough to have a hugely negative impact. An enjoyable season awaits.