(Photo: Action Images)
By Adam Clarke
HOWARD WILKINSON this year celebrates the 25th anniversary of Leeds winning the old First Division title.
Now, he hopes current Elland Road boss Garry Monk can make the milestone extra special by guiding the club to promotion to the Premier League in May.
Wilkinson stunned football when his Leeds side won the last top-flight title before the Premier League started.
At 73, he is still the last English boss to finish on top of the football pyramid in this country. And he is thrilled Monk has awoken the slumbering giant since moving to Elland Road last summer.
He said: “Of course, it would be nice symmetry to see Leeds going up this year, 25 years after we won the old First Division.
“Garry has made a very positive impact. He has done terrifically well.
“They are now a force to be reckoned with in the Championship. Only time will tell if they can go all the way as we’re not yet in the meltdown months of March and April when the picture becomes clearer.
“Garry’s certainly made a great impression. They look organised, strong and difficult to beat.
“They also have an advantage by being just who they are and what they are.
“A one-club city is always a big plus because you’re not competing with what’s across the road.
“I don’t know Garry intimately. I can only judge him by what he’s done – and he did a very good job at Swansea.
“It’s been proved that moving him on was not the solution Swansea thought it would be.’’
Swansea’s loss has been Leeds’ gain as the club have charged up the table and into the play-off positions after a slow start when they lost their opening two games to QPR and Birmingham, conceding five goals.
Their current success has been built on a mean defence and 6ft 2in Kiwi striker Chris Wood banging in the goals.
Twenty five years ago, it was Rod Wallace and Lee Chapman leading the line, with Gordon Strachan and Garry McAllister supplying the bullets.
So does it feel like it all happened yesterday for elder statesman Wilkinson? He joked: “When I try to do my daily exercise stint, it feels like 100 years ago!
“When I first went there, they were second bottom of what’s now the Championship.
“The four priorities with the chairman were: 1 buy the ground back; 2 to get promoted as soon as possible; 3 to win the title within five years; and 4 establish a first-rate academy.
“I felt, really, that we hit the tape too early in the marathon and then had to run another one.
“Some of the things we wanted in place weren’t in place as we got to the top too soon. It was like having to move into a new house with no roof.”
Though Leeds struggled the season after being crowned champions, finishing 17th, Wilkinson’s record over his six full seasons in charge remains impressive: two titles (Division One 1991-92, Division Two 1989-90), finishing fourth once and fifth twice, plus winning a Charity Shield, and runners-up in the League Cup.
Wilkinson, who lives in Sheffield, also had two spells as England caretaker manager and managed Sunderland, Sheffield Wednesday and Notts County. But he will always be remembered for taking Leeds to that title triumph, beating Manchester United by four points after an epic battle.