Leeds United were a Premier League club the last time Arsenal and Arsene Wenger lifted the Premier League trophy, thirteen years ago.
While Arsenal supporters demand changes at the Emirates this summer in order to be realistic challengers for the title next season, Leeds supporters are hoping they too can look forward to a new challenge next season and take part in the top flight for the first time since 2004 as the Championship season reaches a climax.
Garry Monk has defied all the odds and has made Leeds a realistic candidate for promotion this season in only his first year at Elland Road. It is also, of course, arguably the most difficult job in the Championship where he’s trying to work for and along with Massimo Cellino.
The controversial Italian hired Monk last summer as his seventh manager since taking over the historic club in 2014 with many giving the 38-year-old little chance of establishing a working relationship with the former Cagliari owner where more experienced managers tried and failed.
After many years of disappointment since relegation to the second tier of English football as well as a spell in the third tier, Monk has a very real chance of getting The Peacocks back to the promised land.
Monk’s men had been in the playoff places since November but suffered a surprise home defeat to Paul Lambert’s Wolves on Easter Monday that saw Fulham overtake them in the top six following their impressive win over Aston Villa, putting them in the driving seat for promotion.
While many feel Leeds United are not yet ready to jump up to the Premier League and Monk’s plans are ahead of schedule, it will come as a major blow to United fans should their hopes of a playoff spot fade away at the most critical stage.
Monk has issued a rallying cry to his players to win the next three games, not to repeat the mistakes in the first 45 minutes against Wolves and to give themselves every chance of making next month’s lottery that is the playoffs.
As reported in the Yorkshire Evening Post Monk said:
“We have to try and make it happen ourselves the whole game in every one of these last three games.
“If you do it like that, you can always live with it, if it doesn’t quite happen or you don’t quite win a game.
“Had we played like we did in the second half against Wolves for the whole game and it didn’t quite happen, you can live with that.”
“But what we can’t live with is the first 45 minutes where we were all waiting to see what happened.
“We tried to make it happen in the second half and we needed to start the game like that and play the whole game like that. Now we can’t afford any more periods like that first half.”
Leeds season hinges on the next three games where they will face Nigel Clough’s Burton, who themselves need the three points in their attempt to beat the drop followed by Norwich at home, who cannot now make the playoffs, while ending the season at Wigan who also will be looking for maximum points to stay in the division.
Leeds know if they can get the maximum nine points on offer they will be in the playoffs with Fulham yet to play fellow promotion rivals Huddersfield Town and Sheffield Wednesday.
Wednesday’s final day clash with Fulham could yet prove crucial in the race for promotion. Monk knows first his side must do their own job.
“We are more than capable of winning the three games but we have to go and make sure that we make it happen.
“We will be ready and I am sure you will see in those games – starting at the weekend – they will be a team ready to give everything they have got and make sure that we give our best chance of making it happen.
“One thing I am 100 per cent confident with this group is that if we do that, we are more than capable of fighting for those nine points in those three games.
“It starts with the first three points on Saturday.”
Since relegation in 2004 from the top flight, Leeds have only contested the playoff final once, losing 3-0 to Watford in the 2006 final in Cardiff.
Damien McEvoy, Pundit Arena