Who’ll Be the Next League One Club to Overtake Leeds United?   –   by Rob Atkinson

Time's running out for Leeds United

Time’s running out for Leeds United

Leeds United are now in danger of becoming a perennial Championship club: just a bit too well-resourced and well-supported to repeat the disaster of relegation to League One – or so we all hope and trust – but nowhere near good or competently-run enough to make the life-saving jump into the Premier League. And believe me, the clock is ticking on that jump. It’s an elevation that will become more and more of a formidable mountain to climb over the next few seasons.

The problem is, among many other Leeds United problems, that the reward for Premier League failure is about to go through the roof. Soon, clubs relegated from the élite top flight will be able to bank ‘parachute payments’ of around £100m pounds, allowing them a clear head start on their unsubsidised second tier competitors.

The clear implication of this is that we may shortly have what amounts to a closed shop, consisting of the usual permanent Premier League members, plus a small pool of hinterland dwellers, bobbing up and down between the top two divisions. The so-call Financial Fair Play rules will make it difficult for even wealthily-owned Championship clubs of long standing to break into this yo-yo fringe group, never mind the band of true aristocrats.

For the likes of Leeds United, and even Nottingham Forest, Sheffield Wednesday and a few other genuinely sizable members of the new underclass, this could represent the start of a living death of perpetual mediocrity.

So it follows that Leeds really must get its act together, and get up there in time to be the beneficiaries of parachute payments, as opposed to being marginalised by their galvanising effect on others. Sadly, there is no real sign that our heroes are remotely well-equipped enough to move on up anytime soon. It seems more likely at this stage that we will be overtaken by lesser clubs, who will happily make hay while the sun shines everywhere except, it seems, over LS11. This is not an unnecessarily gloomy or unrealistic prediction. It’s already happened too many times. 

Look at the Premier League membership right now. It makes for worrying study. You will find five of our former League One opponents there, mostly well-established top flight members now, while we remain as strugglers one step above our historical low point. Behold the success stories of clubs Leeds United should leave gasping in their wake. Swansea City, promoted from League One in our first season at that level, have added a League Cup to their mantelpiece and have generally done well. Southampton, European qualifiers now after emerging from the third tier a year after we did, and looking to consolidate and hammer on that Champions League door. Even new arrivals Bournemouth are looking reasonably well able to hold their own among the giants, as are Norwich City. And look at Leicester City, promoted from League One in our second season at that level. As I write, they are sitting proudly at the summit of English football, Premier League leaders, for the moment at least, and looking thoroughly at home in such exalted company. 

Leeds could and should have done better than any of these clubs, each of them recent denizens of League One. All of them are far smaller than the Whites, but have benefited from positive commercial and football strategies, not shying away from the speculative investment it takes to accumulate league points. They are well run for the most part and demonstrably scornful of any perceived glass ceiling. What they have accomplished should have been far easier for a club the size of Leeds. But our five years in the Championship have been a story of abject failure and serial incompetence, all underpinned by a total lack of vision and ambition. It’s no wonder we’ve been left trailing by the likes of Southampton and Leicester, and it would sadly be no surprise to see other clubs of similar size, currently below us in the pecking order, overhauling and leaving us behind in the near future.

So, which clubs currently languishing in the murk of League One might yet beat us to the sunny lower slopes of the Premier League? Two obvious candidates are Coventry City and Sheffield United, both doing reasonably well in the league below us, both tolerably well-run now after hard times – and both the kind of club that would, you suspect, see promotion to the Championship as a signal to kick on, invest, and make the most of their upward momentum. Which is just exactly what Leeds United threatened briefly to do in that momentous first season back at second tier level, before the fire sales started and the club began to lose its heart if not quite yet its soul.

For too long, Leeds United has appeared more complacent than hungrily ambitious; more disposed to “manage” its supporters’ expectations, rather than seek to fulfill them. With clubs all around us – smaller but more beadily focused clubs – avid for success, recognition and, yes, those Premier League millions too, Leeds simply can’t afford to tread water for much longer. The Premier League is a top table positively groaning under the weight of good things, even for those forced to leave the party early. With the increasing likelihood that victims of relegation will be fortified by that generous parachute for resurrection almost immediately, it’s only going to get harder and harder for the less-privileged to gatecrash the feast.  The likes of Sheffield United and Coventry will be well aware of this, as will more immediate dangers like Forest and Wednesday at our own current level. Leeds United just seems to be drifting along, more concerned with internal crises than the need to better themselves, waiting perhaps for some divine right to assert itself and convey the club back to the Promised Land.

Well, it ain’t gonna happen, guys – as any long-suffering and knowledgeable supporter would be well able to confirm. They say the spectator sees most of the game, and it’s the Leeds United fans, as opposed to those entrusted with the running of the club, who appear most acutely worried about exactly how and when we are going to find ourselves back where we assuredly belong – and able to capitalise on the undoubted potential of the club in a much more financially conducive environment. For a true giant like Leeds – by far and away the biggest club below the Premier League (and bigger than most inside it) – the opportunity is there for the taking to re-establish itself as one of the big, swaggering kids on the block.

It will take bravery, audacity, sufficient investment, nerve and some cool heads to achieve this – all currently noticeable by their absence around Elland Road. But if we don’t sort ourselves out soon – and start making some serious steps forward – we may yet get trampled in the rush by our smaller, meaner rivals – each of whom provides in effect a blueprint for the approach we should have been taking all along.

Tick tock, Leeds United. Get your act together. Time is running short.

12 responses to “Who’ll Be the Next League One Club to Overtake Leeds United?   –   by Rob Atkinson

  1. We all see it Rob. Unfortunately for some unknown reason the people who should or could be doing something about it fail to act. To compound the problem these same people then sabotage any slight hint of progress being made. Yes Cellino I mean you, GFH, and Bates!


  2. Of all the problems we have at Leeds, sacking managers left, right and centre will solve nothing. Those fans now crying out for Evans head are so blind and stupid to realise that whilst we have this cancer festering inside the club called Cellino we will self destruct. There is no money coming forward to even attract decent players, even if there was, who would want to come to this place. How can any manager or coach succeed here when there is no strategy, no cohesion and absolutely no confidence in the structure of this god forsaken establishment. We are a shambles. Huddersfield played us off the park and we came away flattered, we played Rotherham off the park and came away looking like a set of mugs. Ironically, if we had put our five clear cut chances away all these sites would be inundated with superlatives and over the top dissolutions of grandeur. Success on the pitch is a fluke at the moment and I defy anybody to suggest it’s down to quality football. That will only come when we can invest in decent players but also create an atmosphere of professionalism within the club. Cellino cannot and must not be allowed to destroy this club. All the powers available in the football establishment should be utilised to get this man out and we should stop this stupid, crazy policy of sacking every manager and treating them like dirt when they came here in good faith to do some good for the fans and the club.
    If Evans ends up being shown the door before he is given a fair chance to prove his worth I will not set foot in this club again. I will not put what little money I have into sinking ship.


    • Couldn’t agree more – one of the blogs in development is called “Leeds United Is Not A Fair Test of Coaching Ability”. The more we sack managers, the more we refuse to acknowledge the real problem.


      • And the real problem is the fact that you cant get promoted in two ways:
        1. By waiting for miracle (Bournemouth, one time in history).
        2. Invest a money on the best players in this league, its simple and in the same time hard to do when you have no money like Cellino (well he have them but is unwilling to invest). Those who claim that he put any money in the club are blind, only McCormack money on his court cases, some debts and shit players from serie B. Thats all what he did.

        First way is impossible to us, because there is the biggest expectation in this league, every season no matter how bad situation is, how poor the squad is, there is always dream of “pushing for play off places”. Yes live the dream Leeds fans you…

        And another thing about managers. Well you Englishmen are very fond of “giving manager a chance” You are treating football like monarchy and managers are like monarchs even when they are poor they must stay (Wenger who is out of his debt for 10 years is best example). Well it does not matter wether you stick with manager for half a yer, one year or five. Only thing which matters is the squad of players whom you have, if they are not among the best in this league than there is no chance of promotion (of course we can wait for miracle like Bournemouth…). So don’t believe that sticking with one manager for longer period can improve this squad, apart form Cook, Mowatt, Taylor, Byram, maybe Dallas (he’s gone) I don’t see anyone there who can progress and ask yourself: are there any clubs in the top of this division who would want to bring any of our players apart from this mentioned above?


  3. I’m fully aware that no football club has a “divine right” to be in the Premier League but it really does sadden me to see where we are. I’m going to stop now because I’ll start banging on about potential, support hinterland blah blah blah but it’s true!! Fetch an Oligarch now!!!!


  4. Few Leeds fans would disagree. Yet I don’t believe Evans’ team selection and tactics should go unquestioned – if indeed they were his!


  5. wetherby white

    As we limp along in another season of failure you’ve only got to look back at the ownership of the club for the last few years. The criminals Bates and Harvey who sabotaged any managers chance of promotion by asset stripping the club for their own financial gain. Then the incompetent and clueless GFH followed by the rambling and clearly insane Cellino. He did have an option for promotion this season with the possibility of signing Joey Barton. An “evil” Gordon Strachan he may be but the boy can play and I believe his experience and aggression could have changed the clubs fortunes just as the mighty Strachan did in the 80s.Naturally we passed on this opportunity, short sighted financial reasons I’m sure and no attempt to look at what a successful LUFC would achieve in a massive increase in gates and merchandising etc… And what are we are left with, as usual..absoloutly nothing.


  6. The clubs you mention above have been well run under their mainly unknown owners using sound, but by no means over the top, investment and I think that now shows the name of the game in the 21st century. Even one of the games top managers (& Moyes!) would struggle to run a once mighty Leeds with that muppet, or the one before him, in charge. Another bleak midwinter ahead




    Our time will not come unless some take their heads out of the sands and realise we need proper investment and not some ex-con Italian and his broke Arab friends…it could only happen to us having people like that at our once great club. We have absolutely nothing accept the greatest and most loyal fans in the land but even they are now disappearing and who can blame them..we have been ripped off so many times by so many….iI hope Risdale never sleeps..the nightmare continues with no end in sight.


  8. David Dean

    Cellino slaps £10million price tag on Cook either to invite offers or frighten interested parties off. He wants his money back if he sells the club – maybe it would be in everyone’s interest if he sold as many players as he can to raise the money he has invested. He sells Cook, Byram, Mowatt and Taylor and raises £20 million plus whoever else he can shift for another £4 or £5 million. We obviously will get relegated but the club is bought by the fans for £10 million and we start again in league 1 with the kids that are left and eventually get back into the championship with Steve Evans and we have our club back.

    Is this outrageous theory a feasible option?


    • Absolutely nothing is outrageous or impossible in the LUFC of 2015. Literally anything could happen and usually it does. All I know is the nightmare continues with one ogre followed by another.
      However given the present reality, can anyone be surprised if our decent young players want to actually move. If it was my kid, despite my love of LU, my head would be saying make the most of your short career kid by going to a club managed by sane people.


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