Yes! Leeds have finally resurfaced into the Premier League, after sixteen years submerged in the lower divisions.
Don Revie’s glory years legends dominated my childhood, and younger fans grew up enjoying the teams of Howard Wilkinson and Dave O’Leary. Now a new generation will enjoy the thrill of seeing the Whites in the top tier, thanks to the footballing genius of Marcelo Bielsa.
Leeds started the new millennium third in the Premier League, with David O’Leary still in charge. We reached the semi-finals of the Champions League with a team that included Nigel Martyn, Rio Ferdinand, David Batty, Lee Bowyer, Harry Kewell, Alan Smith, and Mark Viduka.
The club then financially imploded. Chairman Peter Ridsdale had been spending money that wasn’t there. We sold Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Keane, Robbie Fowler, and Jonathan Woodgate to repay his loans, and an insolvency specialist took over the club.
Leeds were relegated to the Championship in 2004. Ah well, we surely won’t be there for long, I thought. I was right, but not for the right reason. Former Chelsea chairmen Ken Bates bought the club, we sold the stadium and went into administration, then dropped down to League One in 2007.
We started our stint in the third tier with a 15-point deduction for not exiting administration. It took another three years before Simon Grayson inspired us to claw our way back to the Championship in 2010, beating Manchester United in the FA Cup along the way with a glorious goal by Jermaine Beckford.
Leeds have since been an average mid-table Championship side with a fanatical Premier League fan base. We bizarrely went through fifteen managers in a decade, nearly half the amount we had in the previous ninety years. New owner Massimo Cellino wanted one player dropped because he had an unlucky birthday.
Then at last came a new owner who would change things. After a shaky start, Andrea Radrizzani brought legendary Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa to the club. Bielsa turned around the team, the club, and the supporters.
His relentlessly attacking, hard-pressing team typically features young goalkeeper Illan Meslier supported by four defenders from Luke Ayling, Liam Cooper, Ben White, Stuart Dallas, Gaetano Berardi, and Barry Douglas.
The midfield five typically comes from Kalvin Phillips, Mateusz Klich, Pablo Hernandez, Jack Harrison, Heider Costa, Jamie Shackleton, and Ezgjan Alisoski. Patrick Bamford or Tyler Roberts usually start up front.
Players who also featured include goalkeeper Kiko Casilla; defenders Pascal Struijk, and Oliver Casey; midfielders Adam Forshaw, Ian Poveda, Robbie Gotts, Jordan Stevens, Robbie Gotts, Alfi McCalmont, and Mateusz Bogusz; and strikers Eddie Nketiah and Jean-Kevin Augustin.
After sixteen years, these heroes have brought Leeds back to where we belong.
Bring on the next season!