Another Season, Another Leeds United Promotion Bid: But Is This Year Finally Different?

The Whites have been in the English Football League since 2004.
08:55, 28 Aug 2019

Towards the end of the compelling documentary series Take Us Home: Leeds United, chief executive Angus Kinnear reflects on the club's 2018/19 season and narrow miss on automatic promotion.

Marcelo Bielsa's side resided in the top two of the Championship for the majority of the campaign before a disastrous Easter condemned them to the lottery of the play-offs.

From there, the Whites flopped after losing to Derby in the play-off semi-finals, leaving them locked out of the Premier League shop for another season.

"The goal for next season is automatic," says Kinnear, an eloquent, articulate and surprisingly charismatic figure who features prominently in the series. 

"We are not d*cking around with the play-offs anymore."

The former Arsenal and West Ham supremo's words may come back to haunt him, of course, but on the evidence so far this season, Leeds do indeed look capable of reaching the promised land automatically.

It is now sixteen seasons and counting since the fallen Yorkshire giants tumbled out of the top flight amid a financial meltdown which saw them fall even further into the third tier for three seasons.

But even after the failure of last season, there is stability at long last at Elland Road.

Italian entrepreneur Andrea Radrizzani has proved a worthy if prudent owner and in Kinnear Leeds have an impressive administrator who runs the club efficiently.

On the pitch, Bielsa showed why he is so highly regarded last season as he transformed a side who had finished 13th the previous year into a serious force.

Bielsa's men should have gone up last season, but could this finally be their year?

Eyebrows were raised earlier this summer when Leeds sold last season's top scorer Kemar Roofe and key defender Pontus Jansson.

They also cashed in on the likes of Northern Ireland international Bailey Peacock-Farrell and England Under-20s left-back Tom Pearce.

And yet after five games of the Championship season, Leeds stand at the summit with four wins and a draw.

They have conceded just twice during that impressive sequence and key to their excellent start has been the form of Ben White.

Signed from Brighton on a season-long loan to effectively replace Jansson, White has taken the Championship by storm with his imperious early-season form.

An excellent defender with fine ball-playing skills, the 21-year-old has slotted into Bielsa's seamlessly backline alongside captain Liam Cooper. Homegrown midfielder Kalvin Phillips, the subject of serious interest from Premier League new-boys Aston Villa, has also begun the campaign in fine form. He looks set to sign a new deal that would make him one of the highest earners at Elland Road, giving Leeds a huge boost as they bid to finally return to the top flight.

Roofe has gone, but on-loan Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah scored on his Leeds debut in the Carabao Cup at Salford and then repeated the trick on his league bow a week, scoring the winner against Brentford at Elland Road. He is proving a useful back-up for Patrick Bamford, who has four Championship goals already this season.

Pablo Hernandez remains the creative fulcrum, creating chances for himself and others and revelling in Bielsa's fluent, attacking approach.

Helder Costa, signed from Wolves, cannot get in the team at the moment and fellow wide-man Jack Clarke did not even make it on to the bench for last weekend's victory at Stoke.

Teenagers like Jamie Shackleton and Robbie Gotts are also in the mix, giving Bielsa plenty of options across the park.

If Leeds can maintain their excellent early-season form, Kinnear's words may well prove prophetic.