It has been eleven seasons since Leeds United were a Premier League side. As much as we (opposing fans) will chant “You’re not famous anymore”, the fact is Leeds are still a massive club.
Their fans (in my opinion) are right up there in terms of passion and atmosphere. I hold them in the same bracket as the likes of Newcastle, Portsmouth, West Ham, Liverpool and Stoke. You can have nothing but respect for the fact they consistantly have best away followings in Football League and most of Premier League too.
The problems started with relegation. I like most believed the squad that was “too good to down” was such, but how wrong we were. I recall watching a game late that season where an Alan Smith inspired side drew with Man Utd to keep the belief, but it wasn’t to be. A squad that included the likes Robinson, Duberry and Viduka could not avoid the drop and one of the most iconic images of the modern era (the young fan crying) was taken.
In the 2004/05 season Leeds began their first season outside the top flight for fifteen years. With crippling debts in excess of £100m, mass changes were made to the playing squad. On top of those released, seven influential first teamers were sold before their opening day win at Derby. These included Danny Mills joining Man City and James Milner joining Newcastle.
In January 2005 Ken Bates would purchase a 50% stake to save Leeds going into administration. Finishing 14th (13 points off the playoffs) looked disappointing when in truth it could have been worse.
The following season promotion was the aim and looked possible. In Feb 06 Leeds sat third. Form dipped and they had to settle for a playoff place. Getting to the final, the asumption was Leeds were going up but a poor performance saw them lose to Watford.
It was definitely not third time lucky. A poor start saw Leeds swoop for then Swindon manager Dennis Wise, but from October Leeds could not escape the relegation zone. With League One a near certainty Leeds entered into a C.V.A. meaning they received a ten point deduction.
2007/08 was Leeds first ever season in the third tier but it started as negatively as the previous ended. Leeds were hit with a 15 point deduction for exiting administration without a C.V.A.
On the pitch things were more positive as Leeds won their first seven games. Programmes were issued with “The real League One table”. Despite the deduction, Leeds finished 5th and another playoff campaign. Leeds would again get to the final, but again failed losing 1-0 to Doncaster.
In 08/09 Leeds would again get to the playoffs but this time did not suffer final heartbreak. They failed to make the final , missing out to losing finalists Milwall. This despite Jermain Beckford carrying on his excellent form from the previous season, scoring over 30 goals.
Leeds would finally taste success at the third time of asking. Forming a squad of real talent including Johnson and Becchio they won promotion in dramatic fashion. On the final day any one of Leeds, Milwall or Swindon could get promoted. The latter playing each other. Leeds form was not great having lost 3-0 twice to Swindon in quick succession not long before. Playing an under strength Bristol Rovers side it did not start well. Max Gradel got himself sent off and the visitors went one up. Howson equalised and a late Beckford winner sealed promotion. During this season Leeds would beat arch rivals Man Utd in the cup and lose in the Johnstones Paint Trophy area final to Carlisle on penalties.
Since their return to The Chanpionship Leeds performances have been disappointing. 7th, 14th, 13th, 15th and 15th place finishes.
During their most successful campaign in 2010/11 Ken Bates took a majority share in the club and Leeds took Arsenal to an FA Cup replay.
The following season Arsenal again knocked Leeds out the FA Cup while Man Utd knocked them out the League Cup. Simon Grayson would be relieved of his duties and replaced by Neil Warnock. Off the pitch, fans were growing impatient with Bates who seemed relunctant to spend the money needed to escape the division, despite receiving millions for star players.
Another nothing season on the pitch was to follow, the highlight was a league cup tie at Chelsea. Off the pitch however GFK Capital would buy out Ken Bates.
A little over a year later and Leeds were sold again, this time to Massimo Celino. The Italian bringing with him an entertaining if not frustrating run of court appearances and suspensions, as well as a reputation for wielding the axe. To date Celino has overseen Brian McDermott, Dave Hockaday, Neil Redfearn (caretaker), Darko Milanic and Neil Redfearn again.
So, history lesson over, why do I think the next 7-19 months will be different? In Celino they have a shrewd businessman. He is also happy to spend the money on the right players. They have just added Will Buckley who will add a real threat to their attack. This summer he has spent almost £10m improving the squad. He also seems to have learnt from last season and is targeting proven players. In Uwe Rosler I think they have an excellent manager. If given time he can do for Leeds what he did with Brentford and more. The squad looks more balanced and full of quality. Silvestre looks an excellent keeper, Bamba (although liable to a costly error) is a solid, dependable centre back and Chris Wood is a very good striker who will form an excellent partnership with Antenucci. Leeds also continue to develop some of the best youngsters in the country. Byram, Mowatt and Cook have great careers ahead of them.
There are a lot of positives I feel at Leeds at the moment and, in my opinion, it will not be long until they are back where they belong.