The demise of Leeds United, since the turn of the millennium, has been nothing short of spectacular.
In May 2001 Leeds bowed out of the Champions League at the semi-final stage, as their brilliant return to Europe’s elite competition finally came to an end at the hands of an impressive Valencia side.
A mere six years later, Leeds’ financial problems found them relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time in their history.
A return to the Championship in 2010 aside, fans of the Whites have had to grow accustomed to good news coming in a short supply in recent years.
A host of young local talent including James Milner, Aaron Lennon and Danny Rose have left the Elland Road club to play Premier League football. The sale of England internationals Lennon and Milner in particular are examples of transfers to generate millions of pounds for United. A very small portion of this money has been used to bring in replacements.
Therefore it was surprising to see midfielder Luke Murphy arrive in Yorkshire earlier this month for a reported fee of £1 million. Staggeringly, the fee paid to capture Crewe Alexandra’s highly rated captain represented the first time Leeds have spent over £1 million on a single player since Richard Cresswell in 2005.
Along with unpopular figure Ken Bates finally stepping down as club chairman, Luke Murphy’s big money move has given Leeds fans hope that they can finally return to the promised land of the Premier League.
Leeds finished in a mid-table position last year following a disappointing campaign under Neil Warnock. Along with Luke Murphy, forward players Stephen Hunt and Matt Smith have been signed to add to the squad. The squad still looks thin in certain areas, particularly in the centre-back positions.
Leeds struggled to come up with the cash needed to take defender Matt Mills away from the Reebok Stadium. This is worrying news for fans of the Whites. The Championship is a notoriously tough division, and clubs such as QPR and Blackburn Rovers have demonstrated a willingness to utilise their financial strength. Whilst Brian McDermott is clearly an impressive young manager, he will need more than three signings to turn an average mid-table team into genuine promotion contenders.
More than 12,000 season tickets have already been sold, surpassing last season’s numbers with time left till the season opener. Relations between the club and fans have improved, as Leeds look to be taking positive steps for the first time in years. There is still time for McDermott to bring in reinforcements before the Championship begins. Unless that happens it is questionable whether the fans will be watching a promotion winning team this season.
One thing is for certain, the coming weeks are crucial for Leeds United.
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