Category Archives: Leeds United

five youngsters to watch in the Premier League

As the Premier League season kicks back into full gear with everyone in action this weekend, what better time than to look at five youngsters who could be set for breakthrough campaigns in 2020/21.

Rhian Brewster – Liverpool

Liverpool player for now, but a lot perhaps depends on where the 20-year-old does end up. Should he remain with the Premier League champions? It is unlikely the former Under-17 World Cup Golden Boot winner will get the game time required to have an impact, however, should his much talked about departure come to fruition – this could well the year Brewster makes it on the biggest stage.

Jamie Shackleton – Leeds United

Leeds born and raised. Jamie Shackleton made 22 Championship appearances during the Whites title-winning campaign and could be set to have a big impact on the highest level. An England Under-20 international with a forward-thinking nature from midfield, the 20-year-old who possesses bags of energy could well be one to impress from the eye-catching Marcelo Bielsa side.

Tyrick MitchellCrystal Palace

The left-back from the Palace academy. After joining at a young age from Brentford, Mitchell looks set for a big season in Roy Hodgson’s squad. The 21-year-old looks set to put serious pressure on Patrick van Aanholt for the number one choice and started in the absence of the Dutchman in the opening day win against Southampton at Selhurst Park.

Khanya LeshabelaLeicester City

South African born 20-year-old who has been around the first-team squad during pre-season. To date Leshabela’s appearances have been restricted to Under-23 outings, however, do not be at all surprised to see his name make its way onto at least Brendan Rodgers’ bench during the season. A powerful runner who is tricky on the ball and blessed with pace and can play both centrally and out wide.

Regan Slater – Sheffield United

A product of the Blades youth system who has captained numerous academy sides at Bramall Lane. There are extremely high hopes Slater. The 21-year-old made his first-team debut way back in 2016 against Grimbsy Town, becoming the youngest Sheffield United debutante in the process. Slater has since spent successful loan spells at Carlisle United and Scunthorpe United, expected to stay with Chris Wilder’s squad this time and could have a major impact on the season.

When you are forced to put these lads in your FPL team later in the season, don’t say we didn’t warn you!

Liverpool vs Leeds Match Preview: Can Bielsa’s New-boys Upset Klopp’s Champions?

Liverpool begin their title defence tomorrow evening as they host newly promoted Leeds in their first Premier League game of the season.

Jurgen Klopp’s men, who ended the club’s 30 year wait for a Premier League crown take on Marcelo Bielsa’s Championship winners at Anfield in the tea time kick off, which is live on Sky Sports.

It is set to be an intriguing encounter, with Leeds gracing a Premier League pitch for the first time in 16 years after finally achieving promotion last term.

They couldn’t have asked for a tougher start on their return to the top flight. Liverpool have gone unbeaten at home in the past two campaigns and finished a mammoth 18 points clear of nearest challengers Man City after a truly spectacular season.

Klopp has established a juggernaut on Merseyside, with the Reds amassing a combined 197 points in the past two seasons, a truly staggering total. It certainly shows no signs of slowing down, and Liverpool will be desperate to become only the third team since 2009 to retain the Premier League trophy.

With Dejan Lovren the only major departure this summer, its been a quiet transfer window so far for the Reds, with left back Kostas Tsimikas arriving from Olympiakos as Liverpool try to come to terms with the financial impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Given Liverpool’s settled starting eleven however, major additions like those at Chelsea and neighbours Everton were never going to be needed, with Klopp preferring to work with a smaller squad and promote from the talented academy set up than bring in numerous signings and have an over inflated squad.

Leeds on the other hand, have had a very busy window, bringing in a number of plays to enable them to compete on their return to the Premier League.

They secured the services of winger Jack Harrison for another loan spell after his successful season at Elland Road last year. The Englishman was an integral member of Bielsa’s team, scoring six and assisting eight in 46 games as Leeds finished 10 points ahead of West Brom to clinch the Championship title.

They tied number one goalkeeper Illan Meslier down to a permanent deal along with winger Helder Costa.

The Yorkshire club sent out a huge statement of intent with the capture of Rodrigo from Valencia for a club record fee, rumoured to be in the region of £29 million.

The 29 year old, scored four and provided seven assists for a struggling Valencia side last year, missing a large chunk of the campaign through injury. He has 23 caps for Spain and on paper seems like an astute acquisition.

They also swooped to add German Robin Kolch to their ranks for an undisclosed fee from Bundesliga outfit Frieburg. After failing to lure Ben White back to Elland Road, Leeds acted swiftly to bring in a replacement in Kolch, a centre back who has impressed in the German league and has won 2 caps for his country to date.

Bielsa will be hoping all three hit the ground running in the Premier League and all are set to start at Anfield. Their only injury concern heading into the game is Adam Foreshaw who is still struggling with a hip injury. Foreshaw aside, they have a clean bill of health, which will be a huge relief to Bielsa given the task at hand.

It remains to be seen whether the Argentine deploys a back four and plays Leeds’ usual 4-1-4-1 formation, or switches to a back three and uses a 3-3-1-3 system to nullify Liverpool’s front three.

Taking the former as Leeds’ preferred system then Illan Meslier will start in goal with Luke Ayling and Stuart Dallas occupying the full back positions and captain Cooper featuring at centre back alongside either Douglas or Kolch.

Kalvin Phillips, who recently won his first cap for England, will sit in front of them, tasked with stopping Liverpool from playing neat interchanges through the middle when the supply line to their full backs in unavailable.

Further forward, Harrison and Costa will play out wide with a midfield partnership of Kilch and Hernandez, and Rodrigo, or Bamford the lone striker upfront.

If Bielsa opts for a three at the back, Kolch and Douglas are likely to both feature with Kilch or Hernandez dropping out.

Liverpool have a few injury and fitness concerns ahead of the opener. Jordan Henderson has resumed training after a knee injury forced him to miss the end of last season, but this game like the Community Shield, has come too soon and the skipper is set to miss out.

Alex Oxlade Chamberlain is out with a similar problem suffered in pre season, whilst Shaqiri has a muscle issue and new signing Tsimikas continues his recovery from coronavirus.

Trent Alexander-Arnold featured in both games for England during the international break after his own injury lay off, so Klopp may decide he is fit enough to start here.

Klopp will set his men up in their usual 4-1-2-3 system and will be relieved that his South American and African internationals remained at the club during the international break. As undisputed number one, Alisson will start in goal.

A back four of Trent Alexander-Arnold (or welsh hero Neco Williams if Alexander-Arnold isn’t deemed fit enough) Joe Gomez, Virgil Van Dijk and Andy Robertson will be in place.

Brazilian enforcer Fabinho will play in front of them, accompanied by rumoured Barcelona target Wijnaldum and possibly Naby Keita, given his eye catching displays in pre season, and Liverpool’s need for a creative midfielder to break down a well drilled Leeds side.

The third midfield place is up for debate, with James Milner, a self confessed Leeds fan who made his debut for the club as a 16 year, itching to start. The likes of Curtis Jones and Takumi Minamino have also impressed in pre season and are likely to feature off the bench if they don’t start.

Minamino’s best position is yet to be found, although he has looked promising playing in behind Firmino and Klopp may choose to bring him on in that position if Liverpool are struggling to break down a stubborn Leeds defence.

There will be no surprises with the front three, who pick themselves at this stage with Salah on the right, Mané on the left and Firmino through the middle.

Salah will be hoping to become only the second player to score in a fourth successive opening day fixture in the Premier League.

Liverpool are clearly the favourites going into the game, (it would be naive to say otherwise) however, if the Community Shield is anything to go by, they struggle against teams who cut off their full backs are willing to let them have possession in the middle of the park before counter attacking and hitting them on the break.

Bielsa will have studied all the intricate details surrounding Klopp’s team, and has added some quality to his squad, which is largely the team which won the Championship.

We have seen at Sheffield United how minor additions to an already talented squad can be the blueprint to making the successful step up to the Premier League, but an opening day defeat to Liverpool (which let’s face it is a likely possibility) will never define their season.

Liverpool steamrolled Championship winners Norwich 4-0 on the opening day last year to set the marker for a remarkable campaign, but with no fans at Anfield, and such a condensed pre season it is unlikely that they will dismantle similar opposition this time round.

They should get the job done however, and I’m predicting a 3-1 victory for the Redmen as they begin their title defence in strange circumstances.

Is the Sky Bet Championship the Best League in the World?

The latest Podcast episode for 24/7 Football features sports journalist Peter Moore discussing his articles, which include the dramatic conclusion to the 2019/20 Sky Bet Championship season, how Leeds United might fair in the Premier League and how VAR can be improved upon for the new season…..

How do you reckon Leeds United will fair in the Premier League this season?

What more do you reckon can be done to improve VAR?

You can listen to the podcast by clicking on the link below: https://soundcloud.com/adam-stephens-425096853/24-7-football-episode-5

You can also watch the Webcast here:

New Premier league fixtures announced

Today fans can start looking forward, planning and getting excited about the new Premier League season as their teams fixtures have been released. The wait is over to find out when your team play their big local derby, crucial relegation and european qualification battles.

Newly promoted Leeds face the toughest challenge possible on opening weekend against Champions Liverpool. Championship play-off winners Fulham will host Arsenal, while West Bromwich Albion, the third promoted side, are at home to Leicester City. A tough start for all the newcomers.

The opening round of fixtures will take place on the weekend of 12 September. However, Manchester City v Aston Villa and Burnley v Manchester United will be rearranged.Those two games will not be played on the opening weekend to give City and United 30 days since their defeats in the quarter-finals of the Champions League and the semi-finals of the Europa League respectively. Chelsea and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ opening matches are both scheduled for Monday, 14 September after their slightly earlier European exits. The Blues are at Brighton, while Wolves go to Sheffield United.

The other opening weekend fixtures are Crystal Palace v Southampton, Tottenham Hotspur v Everton and West Ham United v Newcastle United.

Exact dates and kick-off times will be confirmed when the television selections are made.

When are the key fixtures?

Manchester City, who finished second last season, face title rivals Liverpool at Etihad Stadium on 7 November, with their other game on 6 February.

Selected matches…

  • 19th September – Chelsea v Liverpool
  • 5th December and 13th March – Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal
  • 12th December and 6th March – Manchester United v Manchester City

With the season starting a month later than usual because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the games will come thick and fast.The upcoming campaign will be five weeks shorter than a standard season because of the late end to 2019-20.

Arsenal and Liverpool meet in the Community Shield on 29 August, with players then going on an international break for the Nations League before the Premier League starts.

Spurs start Europa League qualifying on 17 September and could end up with two first-team matches in the same midweek as those are the dates Premier League clubs not in Europe enter the Carabao Cup at the second round.

Leeds United: the return of one of greats – Part 1

Leeds United have finally returned to the Premier League after a 16 year absence. The club were a force in the Premier League and in Europe in 60’s and early 70’s, as well as the late 90’s and at the beginning of the new century.

However a financial implosion caused them to lose their success and were relegated in the 03/04 Premier League season. They even spent time in the 3rd tier of English football.

They have spent 16 years fighting to get back into the big time and have come close over the past few season, missing out on play-off or automatic promotion.

With the club now well-backed by their owners, led by an influential coach and owners of a talented and youthful squad – we could see a real rise to glory for this famous club.

Whilst getting ahead of themselves is never good (look and Fulham and Aston Villa over recent seasons) if the recruitment is any good this summer we could see another promoted side compete for a top-half finish.

In this two-part article I’ll take a brief look at the history of the club, and review the newly finished campaign. I’ll also take a look at the hopes the club has for their fight in the Premier League.

Leeds United – The History

We’re always told to focus on the present – the ‘now’. In the case of Leeds United , however, it’s important for those who don’t know to look at their history within English football.

Their first taste of footballing success was from the Don Revie era. Having created a side that was voted in the top 50 greatest footballing teams by Total Sport Magazine, he is still one of if not Leeds’ most successful manager.

Revie took over the club in 1961 when they were fighting relegation in the 2nd division of the English football League. A win on the final game of the season kept them up.

Revie then implemented a new youth policy and a change of kit colour to an all-white strip – similarly to Real Madrid, and Leeds soon won promotion to the First Division in 1963-64.

In their first campaign in the top flight they finished second to Manchester United due to only goal difference. They also achieved a place in the FA Cup final, however they lost 2-1 to Liverpool after extra time.

The following season, the club again finished second but reached the semi-finals of the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (the original Europa League). They lost over two legs to Real Zaragoza, despite Revie asking the fire brigade to flood the pitch at Elland Road for the replay (sneaky tactics).

They struggled domestically again the next season finishing 4th, but they did reach the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final – however they lost to Dinamo Zagreb.

They won their first major domestic trophy under Revie in the 1967-68 season, beating Arsenal 1-0 in the League Cup final. They also reached a second successive Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final against Hungarian team Ferencvarosi.

Leeds won the first leg 1–0, and a month later defended their lead with a 0–0 draw in Budapest. They were finally getting silverware and the club pushed on from there.

Revie left the club in 1974. In his 13 years in charge, Revie guided Leeds to two First Division titles, one FA Cup, one League Cup, two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups, one Football League Second Division title and one Charity Shield.

He also took them to three more FA Cup Finals, two more FA Cup Semi-finals, one more Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Final and one Inter-Cities Fairs Cup Semi-final.

Alongside this he also reached one European Cup Winners’ Cup Final and one European Cup Semi-final. The team also finished second in the First Division five times, third once and fourth twice.

Post-Don Revie struggles and the Wilkinson revival

The subsequent era was a complete farce as they had huge recruitment issues and sacked several coaches (Brian Clough, Jimmy Armfield, Jimmy Anderson, Allan Clarke) as they slipped down the league and were eventually relegated in the 1981-82 season.

The closest they got to promotion back to the top flight was in the 1986-87 season where they lost the play-off final to Charlton under the guidance of former Revie teammate Billy Bremner.

Howard Wilkinson took over the reigns from Bremner in October 1988. They avoided relegation to the 3rd tier, and with the signing of Gordon Strachan they were promoted back into the top flight in the 1989-90 season.

Under Wilkinson Leeds finished fourth in the following first division campaign, and in the 1991-92 season they won the title of the last ever Division one as the top tier, as the next season it was rebranded into what we know now as the ‘Premier League’.

After that though it was more failure as they finished no higher than 13th in the League, underperformed in Europe and the domestic cups. Wilkinson had his contract terminated in the 96-97 season.

The real change from his time at the club was the him and Paul Hart’s work on the youth system and academy – which still produces fantastic young players.

The Highs before the impending lows

George Graham was appointed as his replacement at the start of the 1997-98 season. Using young players from their youth cup winning team and some good signings, he guided them into the UEFA Cup places (again – the Europa League of old). Despite the success Graham left to manage Tottenham Hotspur in October 1988.

Graham was replaced by his assistant David O’Leary and under him Leeds saw some great success. Under O’Leary Leeds never finished outside the top five in the new Premier League. They also achieved qualification for both the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Champions League -enjoying cup runs to the semi-finals in both tournaments. 

However their success was marred by off the field antics, with Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer involved with an attack on an Asian student. The court case took nearly 2 years to resolve. Bowyer escaped a charge but Woodgate was sentenced to community service.

The performances on the field soon plummeted as Leeds went into Financial Implosion. Under Peter Ridsdale they had taken out multiple loans to pay for signings. These were made under the assumption they would stay in the Champions League.

Once they failed to qualify two seasons in a row they couldn’t repay the loans and had to sell players to ease the financial tension. What followed was a fall out between O’leary and Ridsdale, Terry Venables coming in and being sacked after a terrible run of form, and Peter Reid saving them – only to be relegated the next season (2003/04).

In the Championship, Leeds sold their entire squad and had to rebuild using loans and free agents due to the lack of money. They sold the club to Ken Bates as Ridsdale had stepped down, and appointed Peter Reid’s assistant Kevin Blackwell as head coach.

The club didn’t get close to promotion until the 2005/06 season, where they lost the Championship Play-off final to Watford 3-0. After Blackwell had started fairly well with a mid-table and then Play-off reaching season – the loss in the final took its toll and results dropped massively the following season.

With a poor pre-season and difficult start to the 2006/07 campaign – Blackwell was sacked. With Leeds firmly in a relegation battle John Carver was put in place, but his tenure was also unsuccessful and he was later sacked – replaced by Dennis Wise.

The performances didn’t improve under the ex-Chelsea player, and with them seemingly going down they were then placed into administration. The 10 point deduction that followed doomed the club to the third tier of English football. This was the first time the club had dropped below the second tier.

The League One rebuild

During July 2007, Leeds almost faced the possibility of not being allowed to begin their next campaign as HMRC (HM Revenue and Customs) placed a legal challenge against them due to unpaid taxes. If they had still been in administration their season wouldn’t have been cleared.

Ken Bates bought the club back off administrators KPMG and HRMC weren’t in agreement with the deal. Despite the takeover being sanctioned the Football League imposed a 15 point sanction due to issues with administration CV.

Despite this deduction, Wise and his assistant Gus Poyet lead Leeds towards a play-off before they left for Newcastle and Tottenham respectively.

Gary McAllister was appointed in January 2008 and he lead them to the Play-off final, however they lost narrowly to Doncaster Rovers.

Simon Grayson came in to replace him, and the club achieved a Play-off spot once again – but were beaten in the semi-finals by Millwall.

The 2009/10 season saw them have their best ever start to a campaign and also knock bitter rivals Manchester United out of the FA Cup. Despite an awful second half of the season (7 points from 24) they went up as runners-up.

Championship return and severe ownership issues

Leeds returned to the Championship in 2010 with renewed vigour, and spent a good part of the season in the play-off race. However, they faltered towards the end of the campaign and finished 7th – a place outside the play-offs. This was to become a theme for the club.

What followed was a succession of botched ownerships and average campaigns. In May 2011, Ken Bates announced he’d taken 100% control of the club.

Protests against this were dismissed, however Bates sold the 100% stake of the club to a Middle-East private equity group (GFH Capital) in December 2012.

In February 2012 Grayson was sacked and replaced by Neil Warnock, with his contract due to last until the end of the 2012/13 season. The following campaign saw them perform well in the domestic cups but also very poorly in the league.

Warnock left the club in April 2013 and Brian McDermott guided them to safety. Ken Bates then stepped down as chairman.

Ownership issues then ensued: In January 2014, Sport Capital (a consortium involving the managing director of Leeds United’s main sponsors, Enterprise Insurance, Andrew Flowers) attempted to purchase a 75% stake in the club.

On the 30th January, Sport Capital’s takeover failed due to a lack of “financial backing”, it was also shown that GFH had invited a rivalling bid from Massimo Cellino, who owned Cagliari at the time, whilst agreements were being finalised.

In the backdrop of all the commotion, Brian McDermott was sacked by Cellino’s lawyer – despite the Italian not even owning the club. The decision was overruled due to this fact.

After agreeing a purchase in February that year, the Football League stopped the deal in March due to Celino having issues with the Italian court.

Leed’s season took a hug dip as they went from fighting for the play-offs to fighting relegation. They stayed up comfortably after a strong end to the campaign but Brian McDermott resigned.

The Cellino Circus

Despite the deal being blocked in March, Cellino formed a successful appeal and gained ownership in April 2014. The circus that followed was disturbingly laughable.

The confusing appointment of the unknown Dave Hockaday lasted only 70 days before he was replaced by Darko Milanic in September 2014. He only lasted until October and was replaced by Neil Redfearn on the 1st November.

As if things couldn’t get much worse than 3 head coaches in around 5 months – Cellino was then disqualified in December that year after the Football League discovered documents detailing his issues with tax evasion. This ban was to continue until April 2015, however Cellino stated he would not return to the club once the ban had ended.

Redfearn was replaced by Uwe Rosler after the 2014/15 season ended, however Rosler, like others, left early and Steve Evans took over the reigns.

In October 2015 Cellion agreed a deal with Leeds Fans United to sell his majority stake, however he went back on his promise.

After Steve Evans had failed to inspire the team to push up the table, he was replaced by Garry Monk in June 2016.

The 2016/17 campaign played out in similar fashion to pervious seasons – the phrase “Leeds are falling apart again” rang out as they missed out on the play-offs with a poor run of form. They were in the play-off places for the majority of the season.

The Radrizzani Era

The change then began at the club when Andrea Radrizzani purchased a 50% stake of in January 2017. In May 2017 he announced a full purchase of the club.

Radrizzani made several positive changes to the club, repurchasing Elland Road for the first time since 2004 and forming the women’s team.

Monk resigned two days after the takeover, and Tomas Christiansen replaced him. With the club sitting in 10thin February, he was sacked and replaced by Paul Heckingbottom – just days after the coach had signed a new contract at rivals Barnsley.

On 24 May 2018, Leeds announced that 49ers Enterprises had bought shares in the club to become a minority investor.

In June 2018 Heckingbottom was sacked after just 4 months. This proved to be the best decision Radrizzani made as he then appointed the highly coveted Marcelo Bielsa.

With Bielsa appointed and renewed vigour the club made a magnificent start to the season and were pushing for automatic promotion. Yet again a poor end to the season mean they dropped out of the automatic promotion places.

Having dropped into the play-offs, they lost over two legs to Derby with another season condemned to the Championship.

The frustration led into the next campaign – one which will be covered in the next part of this story…