July 20 – It’s taken them 16 years but one of England’s most iconic clubs, Leeds United, are back in the big time after winning promotion from the second-tier Championship, sparking huge celebrations among their legions of fans across the city.
Coached by the hugely knowledgeable Argentine Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds’ promotion finally put to bed years of frustration and financial hardship as the club clinched their return to the top flight with a game to spare.
Leeds won the last of their three English league titles in 1992 – the final season before inception of the Premier League – and were a Champions League semi-finalist in 2001. But in 2004 they were relegated and three years later were plunged into administration, falling further into the mire by being demoted to the third tier of the English pyramid.
Manager after manager came and went under controversial Italian owner Massimo Cellino and only when current owner Andrea Radrizzani bought a 50% stake in January 2017 did a new dawn finally emerge, coupled with the appointment of Bielsa in the summer of 2018 after seven years in charge of Argentina and spells at Marseille, Lazio and Lille.
Success will taste doubly sweet after Leeds missed out on promotion last season despite looking favourites for automatic promotion for much of the campaign. It also comes less than a week after the death of one of the club’s greatest icons – England World Cup-winning centre-half Jack Charlton.
“I’ve worked in football for 30 years and what makes me happy is the fact I did this project with this group of players across two years,” said Bielsa.
“I am recognised in Leeds for this job, but honestly I think more than the capacity or the skill of my leadership what makes the difference in the promotion was the capacity of our players.”
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