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Can Leeds Finally Return To The Promised Land?

It is not uncommon for big clubs from large cities to spend time out of the Premier League and often in the lower reaches of the English game.

The two big Sheffield sides are forever yo-yoing between divisions, and have sometimes slipped into tier three.

The same goes for Newcastle and Sunderland in the north-east, as well as Midlands giants Aston Villa, who recently returned to the top flight following three seasons in the Championship.

In pre-Premier League days, London rivals Tottenham and Chelsea played in the old Division Two, with the team from Stamford Bridge suffering relegation three times in 15 years between the mid-1970s and early 1990s.

Current English champions Manchester City were relegated five times between 1984 and 2002, including once into level three. Even Manchester United spent a solitary season out of the top flight in the mid-1970s, which happened just six years after winning the European Cup.

Yet the plight of Yorkshire’s most famous club, Leeds United, seems more perplexing than most.

For 10 years from the mid-1960s, they were probably the most feared team in England.

Under Don Revie, they won the League Championship twice, and finished second five times.

There were five European club finals, two of which they won, and on more than one occasion were the victims of poor refereeing – with one official being banned for life following an investigation by UEFA.

In domestic cup competitions, there were another five finals between 1965 and 1973, yielding two successes and three defeats.

But despite their envious history, tradition and size, The Whites have been absent from the Premier League since 2004.

When they kick-off their 2019/20 Championship campaign at Bristol City on Sunday, August 4th, they will be embarking on a 16th successive season out of the top tier – they even spent three years in League One.

Since heading out of the Premier League they have lost one Championship play-off final, and were denied promotion from League One in 2008 because of a 15-point deduction for failing to comply with rules on insolvency.

Yet the pain of missing out last season must have hurt more than most. After beating Blackburn Rovers on Boxing Day, they held a six-point margin over the third-placed team and were 10 clear of Sheffield United who eventually secured automatic promotion.

And they were still three points clear of the third-placed Blades with just four matches remaining. But three defeats and a draw finally extinguished their hopes, before a play-off defeat to Derby added insult to injury.

Despite this hurt, they will start the new season as the clear favourites with the bookies and may well attract some of the most favourable football tips from the Betfair punters.

As things stand in mid-July, they have brought in Liam McCarron from Carlisle United and Ben White from Brighton.

Six players have departed including loanee Jack Clarke who returns to his parent club Tottenham Hotspur. But there are rumours that Leeds could soon be swooping for Liverpool’s Oldham-born midfielder Ryan Kent, who spent last season on loan with Glasgow Rangers.

Probably the most important news is that the club are keeping faith with 63-year-old manager Marcelo Bielsa, who has extensive experience in France and Spain.

By maintaining continuity at management level, they are giving themselves every chance of finally securing a dream ticket back to the land of financial riches and football heaven.

This article was brought to you by The Football League Paper. On-sale every Sunday, the newspaper provides extensive coverage for all 72 Football League clubs with news, features and gossip plus comprehensive match reports.
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