‘Leeds return makes PL better place’ | ‘Bielsa not far off Klopp’
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By Joe Shread
Last Updated: 18/07/20 1:19pm
Members of the last Leeds side to play in the Premier League, as well as the likes of Jermaine Beckford and Josh Warrington, have hailed the club’s achievement in returning to the top flight.
Leeds’ promotion to the Premier League was confirmed on Friday night when second-placed West Brom lost to Huddersfield, bringing to an end their 16-year spell outside the top division.
Leeds were relegated amid financial turmoil in 2004, and even dropped into League One for three seasons, but Marcelo Bielsa has revitalised the club while capturing the imaginations of fans and ex-players.
Paul Robinson, who began his career at Leeds but was sold to Tottenham following their relegation in 2004, told Sky Sports News: “It’s been a long, long time. It was a very special day yesterday for everyone involved with the club.
“16 years, 15 managers, five different owners – it’s been a long time in the making. They’ve been in the doldrums, they’ve seen some very, very dark days, but now it’s a time for everybody in the city to celebrate.
“They fully deserve to go up – on merit, they deserved to go up in the last two seasons, if I’m honest.
“I think the term ‘sleeping giant’ is far too overused when it comes to football clubs, but I think it’s very, very apt when you’re talking about a club of Leeds’ size.
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“The support they have around the world is phenomenal and the Premier League is definitely a better place for having Leeds United in it.”
‘Bielsa’s achievement not far off Klopp’s’
Danny Mills, who spent five years at Leeds before joining Manchester City in 2004, believes Marcelo Bielsa’s achievement in guiding Leeds back to the Premier League is akin to the success enjoyed by Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool in recent seasons.
He told Sky Sports News: “Bringing Bielsa in was a big gamble. It was an expensive gamble and no one quite knew which way it would go.
“Everybody hoped he would do what he’s done. It’s been tremendous, to take a team from 13th in the table – effectively the same group of players, with a few loanees – to third, and now promotion. It’s simply phenomenal.
“Everybody lauds Jurgen Klopp and how great he’s been over the last four or five seasons. Bielsa’s achievement is not far off that.”
Bowyer: Bielsa has worked miracles
Lee Bowyer, who was part of the famous Leeds side that reached the 2001 Champions League semi-finals, says Bielsa has worked “miracles” with Leeds.
Speaking to Sky Sports News, Bowyer – who is now in charge at Leeds’ Championship rivals Charlton – said: “Delighted for the club. It’s a massive club, and the Premier League is going to be a better place with them in it.
“It’s been too long for them not to be in the Premier League, so I’m really happy for the club, the fans and for the owners.
“They chose the right man in bringing in Bielsa. He’s worked miracles there.”
Warrington: Players were full of emotion
Boxer Josh Warrington, who as well as being the IBF featherweight champion is also a huge Leeds fan, says the players were “full of emotion” after promotion was secured on Friday.
Warrington was invited by the club to join the celebrations at Elland Road, and told Sky Sports News: “They were full of emotion. I think it was only just sinking in for them – realising that they’ve done it.
“I spent time speaking to a lot of them and they’re still hungry. They only need a point to clinch the title but that’s what they want to do. They’re all a good bunch and they understand what it is to be Leeds.
“It’s a little bit surreal. I’m a little bit numb – it’s like it’s not really properly sunk in. We never expected West Brom to get beat by Huddersfield. Unreal scenes. As soon as the final whistle went in the game, the fans were flocking down here.
“You’re watching young kids walking round the city with Liverpool shirts, Man United shirts, Man City shirts on, being a bit embarrassed to wear a Leeds shirt. But now I think that will swing back – people will be proud to wear that Leeds shirt again.”
‘Bielsa is a Leeds legend’
Despite spending just two seasons at Elland Road, Bielsa’s achievement in returning Leeds to the Premier League has made him a club legend, says Jermaine Beckford.
Beckford, who scored the goal that took Leeds out of League One in 2010, said of Bielsa: “A phenomenal achievement. He’s brought a group of players who were mid-table to going up automatically with a couple of games to go.
“He’s brought the levels up a couple of notches. He’s obsessed with the finer details. I think he’s a phenomenal person, a phenomenal manager and a legend of this club.”
Leeds owner pays tribute to Hunter, Charlton
Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani has paid special tribute to Norman Hunter and Jack Charlton in the wake of the club’s Premier League return.
Hunter and Charlton died at either end of the recent lockdown, while Trevor Cherry passed away in between. The trio are Leeds greats from the Don Revie era and made a combined 1,985 appearances for the club.
In a letter on Leeds’ website, Radrizzani wrote: “A word about Norman Hunter and Jack Charlton, two club legends we lost recently and who would have certainly celebrated this achievement with us.
“They are part of a great legacy that we will work hard to honour, as we continue to take strides forward in a new cycle for this fantastic club.”
Street named in Bielsa’s honour
A street has been named ‘Marcelo Bielsa Way’, with signage set to go up next week on the route, which links the Trinity Leeds shopping centre to Commercial Street in the city centre.
Trinity Leeds, which is behind the street renaming, has temporarily changed its name to Trinity Leeds United for the rest of the month to celebrate the promotion.
Centre director David Maddison said: “The speed at which the manager has turned around the fortunes of this team and the manner in which he’s done it – the Bielsa way – he deserves all the plaudits and we are absolutely delighted to rename this street Marcelo Bielsa Way.”
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