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Can Leeds make the hard charge back to the EPL?

Beckford - Show me the money!

Back in 1998, I remember watching my favorite team, Leeds United, take the pitch and, as always, have an impressive performance. In fact, my first ever Leeds United game was when a young 17-year old Alan Smith took the pitch, and scored a goal.

But since those days we have seen a team go from great, with the likes of Nigel Martyn, Harry Kewell, Mark Viduka, Ian Harte, and a host of other great players (which the list seems endless really), to financial hardship. We saw them drop down to the Championship, and with a 15 point deduction, we knew that the drop to the First Division was almost certain. We have seen them go from David O’Leary to Simon Grayson (which is one of the only areas that Leeds actually improved in). Basically, the team that I used to watch back in the late 1990 is far from the Leeds United that we know today.

But is that all about to change?

After years to dealing with playoff losses, Leeds finally were able to squeak in with a second place finish and an automatic promotion. Now heading back to the Championship, Leeds looks to recapture the glory that they once had.

Unfortunately, the club was set a huge blow in the last week as Leeds’ star Jermaine Beckford will be leaving Elland Road and heading to Everton on a free transfer. Beckford, who scored an amazing 30 goals in all competitive games last season, might be more known for the goal he scored against Manchester United, which sent the Devils packing in the FA Cup competition. Still, his eventually departure was inevitable, as he was already handing in transfer requests after all the post-game hype against Manchester Untied.

Hopefully, Leeds United learned a little from this lesson. As we have seen with Marouane Chamakh at Bordeaux, teams shouldn’t expect a player to resign a contract once that players has already made it known that he is interested in transferring to another club. Therefore, Leeds lost out on a lot of money for one of the hottest players in English football. I guess that Beckford paid Leeds by way of being promoted to The Championship.

Still, even with the blow, Leeds are still looking to make that march to the top of The Championship. True, it might not be this year, and next year might be a reach, but Leeds will eventually make it to the EPL, where to storied side truly belongs.

Not all is lost after the eventual Beckford departure. Midfielder Andrew Hughes has signed a contract extension. Paul Dickov, who has a number of years of experience in the ELP (latest with Manchester City) also joined the team earlier this year. And while other teams in The Championship are nearly solely English, Leeds has a good international mix to it as well, bringing in players from Australia (Leeds has always been good with securing Aussies), Argentinians, Slovaks, Irish, South Africans, etc.

But even with a good core of players, Leeds will need to fight their way through other clubs that are looking to make a return to the EPL. Hull City and Burnley are looking to get back in the top flight of English football. Other storied programs like Nottingham Forest, Derby County, Leicester City, Crystal Palace and QPR also look to make a return to the EPL and, like Leeds, have had a damn hard time making that goal a reality. You also have the constant underachievers, like Sheffield United, who is always expected to move up to the EPL, but they never quite make it, with very few exceptions.

Most of us that watch soccer here in the US are just used to watching the EPL. And while there seems more and more of a gap between first and last, there is still the occasional surprise, like Burnley defeating Manchester United. But overall, the play is pretty predictable, and watching a game that the score is already known ahead of time is, well, boring.

That is there The Championship fits in. With all of these clubs in the hunt for the prize of moving to the EPL, the competition should be more intense, and less predictable, than the EPL. Wouldn’t it be nice to watch a match and not know who is going to win ahead of time? That is the beauty about English football in the leagues lower down.

Still, only a few top leagues in the World are as unpredictable as The Championship and English League 1. In France’s Ligue 1, last year’s champions Bordeaux, finished sixth and didn’t even make it to a European competition spot, losing to lower-down teams toward the end of the season. That is what makes watching Ligue 1 so fun (along with the fast paced and defensive style play).

But Leeds will have a hard road to climb to get to that top stage. And, again, if you are a Leeds fan, don’t hold your breath on early promotion. Elland Road isn’t going to be rebuilt in a day, but today is the day it starts rebuilding.

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4 Responses

  1. Harry Kewell is one of my all time favorite players. I remember the “Kewell is cool” call after he scored in the 2006 World Cup. Don’t forget Leeds’ American, Mike Grella who played a limited role usually as a late substitute but still managed to score 5 goals for Leeds.

  2. If you were as old as me you would probably remember when Leeds United came to Bloomfield Road to play Blackpool and were soundly beaten by four goals to nil! Yes 4-0!

    And in the Leeds United team that day were:

    Gary Sprake, Norman ( bite your legs!) Hunter, a dirty little scottish git called Billy Bremner! Paul Madeley, Eddie Gray( who played on the left wing) and Eddie Gray’s younger brother who played at left back, Jack Charlton ( brother of Bobby Charlton on Man U and England fame who survived the 1958 Munich Air Crash) Peter Lorimer ( had a shot like a bullet from 35 yards!) Alan Clarke ( the inspiration behind the Monty Python “I;ve fallen off my chair Brian” sketch! coz he spoke English like a punch drunk boxer!!!) Johnny Giles ( The leads version of David Beckham) I have forgotten the name of the Centre Forward now but he too was a current England international. The manager, of course, was the famous Don Revie!

    • In “The Damned United,” wasn’t Billy Bremner portrayed as one of the most hostile Leeds’ players when Brian Clough took over from Don Revie? It was an interesting movie….I wondered how accurate it was.

  3. As a Liverpool fan, I’d love to see Leeds back in the Premiership where they belong, along with clubs like Nottingham Forest and Newcastle (glad they made it back).

    I also sympathize with their financial plights, I’m hoping to heaven that Liverpool don’t eventually end up with the same fate as Leeds. It’s a very realistic possibility if no action is taken.

    On Kewell, it was very disappointing that he never could stay healthy at Liverpool. WHEN he was healthy, he was one of the top wingers in all of Europe. Very talented player.

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