Leeds United are hovering dangerously close to the top of the table. But is promotion to the Premier League a good thing for Simon Grayson’s team?
‘The pressure and expectancy of Leeds’ good form was evident from comments before and after the recent draw with Barnsley. Some saw the late goal conceded as a sign that it was time for Grayson to go.’
This time last year the whole city was on the edge of its collective seat as the team threatened to give up a seemingly unassailable lead at the top of League 1 despite knocking out Premiership competition in the FA Cup.
In typical fashion, it took a comeback from one goal down on the final day of the season to secure promotion to the Championship. Thoughts turned towards a season visiting some more attractive grounds than the trips to Colchester and Swindon.
What no one could have imagined was that as the 2010/2011 season entered its final 13 games, United would be in with a shout of a second successive promotion and the Premier League at the first time of asking.
If a play-off campaign has any part to play in proceedings, the likelihood is Leeds United will still be still in this league next year.
But if United did pull off promotion, would this really be such a good thing for a club that only last year was plying its trade in the third tier of English football?
Paul Beaumont, a lifelong Leeds United fan, can’t wait to see the good times back at Elland Road, and would happily take it next season if that’s what the footballing gods decide. “I think promotion this season can only be a good thing,” he says.
“A team as big as Leeds, with the support they have, would have every chance of staying in the Premier League. Plus, even if we get relegated straight away, we qualify for three years of parachute payments giving us the finances to give it another good crack.”
The pressure and expectancy of Leeds’ good form was evident from comments flying round both before and after the recent 3-3 home draw with Barnsley. It was ‘a must-win game’ if the club wanted promotion, although some saw the late goal conceded as a sign that it was time for Grayson to go. Unbelievable, as former Leeds lynchpin Chris Kamara would say.
I heard one fan bemoan: “Our attack is in promotion form, but its relegation form from the defence.” Other were more optimistic. Seven more wins for the playoffs is not out of the question.
Grayson is, of course, trying to play down and thoughts of promotion. With that win over Manchester United and impressive games against Spurs (twice), Arsenal (twice) and Liverpool in the last two seasons, Leeds need not fear of promotion. Chairman Ken Bates says the club is being run ‘carefully and wisely.’
That last phrase is indicative of the way the club now views itself; with a chairman determined not to repeat the mistakes of previous owners.
Although there have been grumbles about Bates, especially regarding ticket pricing, the fans seem to have a short memory. Had it not been for his last-minute purchase of the club in 2005, it probably wouldn’t exist today, never mind contemplate a Premier League return.
Bates, however, refuses to entertain fans who claim the prices are too high, saying: “It's the same at every club. They all want their club to buy Ronaldo and let them in for free.”
If and when Leeds do secure promotion there will be no return to the boom and bust transfer dealings of previous years. Bates says he is building the castle on stone, not sand.
A few sales will need to be made before new faces are brought in. Bradley Johnson and Neil Kilkenny look likeliest to leave having not signed new contracts, the rumour being that Bates refused to sanction wage increases for the two of them. But others, especially non-playing squad members like Richard Naylor or Leigh Bromby, could follow.
The nucleus of the squad is strong, even for an unlikely season in the highest echelon of English football. Kasper Schmeichel, Alex Bruce and Sanchez Watt have all been at Premier League clubs, Robert Snodgrass has played at the highest level in Scotland and both the aforementioned Johnson and Max Gradel were attracting Premier League interest in the last transfer window.
Another season in the Championship might not be a bad grounding, but a quick return to the Premier League would be nice enough.
“In this league anything can and does happen,” says Paul in the pub after the last home game. “Plenty can still happen; we’re only five points behind with 13 games to go.
“The play-offs are attainable and after that it’s a lottery. A few good games and we’ll be up. We could still get automatic promotion with a good run in the next few games against lower half opposition.”
To go up and compete or try and survive? Both can be hard to watch and costly. The fans are ready, but is the rest of the club?
I’ll tell you in 13 games time.
Are Leeds Utd good enough to go up this season or would the Premiership be too much too soon? Are Blackpool the model to follow or was their good start a fluke? Rant below...