As a club with such a distinguished past, Leeds United will have to do something unnatural and forget their history if they are to reach the Premier League this time around. The play-offs has been a constant source of disappointment for the Yorkshire club having failed in all four of their past play-off attempts.
This difficult past begins way back in 1987 when Leeds took part in the first ever edition of the play-offs. The inaugural final, in a slightly different format, saw Second Division side Leeds take on First Division strugglers Charlton having beaten Oldham in the semis.
It was a two-legged affair but the sides could not be separated, both winning their home legs 1-0 at Elland Road and Selhurst Park respectively. A one-off final at St Andrew’s was set up but still the sides could not be separated after ninety minutes. John Sheridan gave Leeds the lead in the 99th minute before defender Peter Shirtliff scored a late brace for Charlton to break Leeds’ hearts.
Attempt number two came in 2005-06 as Kevin Blackwell attempted to lead his side back to the Premier League after just a two year absence. Years of pain would follow but it looked like the top flight was back on the cards after Leeds cruised past Preston 3-1 in the semi’s.
The final, refereed by a fresh-faced Mike Dean incidentally, was a different story. Watford bettered them 3-0 in Cardiff which put an end to their hopes and started a steep decline.
Their only visit to the new Wembley came in the League One play-off final in 2008. Doncaster were the opponents and came out 1-0 winners in a tense encounter that once again saw Leeds leave empty-handed. To their credit, they came again twelve months later having finished in the top six but this time did not reach the final for the first time, losing in the semi-finals to Millwall of all clubs. Current gaffer Neil Harris bagged the opening goal of the tie as the Lions ran out 2-1 winners over the two legs.
So that is four attempts, four defeats for this giant of a club. But, times have changed at Elland Road and Marcelo Bielsa has got his team refocused after missing out on automatic promotion due to a poor end to the season. They showed against Derby in the first leg that they have what it takes to gain promotion and they could set up a mouthwatering final against Aston Villa if they avoid defeat. History is not on their side and they will need a slice of luck, but this really could be the year things change. Viva Bielsa.