After a final rollercoaster season in League one that saw them promoted on the last day of the season with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Bristol Rovers, Leeds United find themselves back in the Championship three years after being relegated.
With just a week to go to the start of the new season, manager Simon Grayson has made seven summer signings and has promised more. Link this with a very impressive pre season campaign including a 5-0 win against League One Hartlepool, wins in Slovakia and Norway and a recent 3-1 home win against Mick McCarthy’s Wolves, Leeds fans are understandably in high spirits.
So is it unreasonable to expect the Yorkshire outfit to be challenging for a playoff spot?
We saw with Leicester last season, a team that had just been promoted to the Championship fall at the final hurdle against Cardiff in the Playoffs, so why cant that happen again?
It is bound to be a very interesting Championship season this year that could possibly see upto 11 teams realistically fight for those top six places come next May. Teams like Burnley, Middlesbrough, Leicester, Nottingham Forest etc will be the teams to beat for Leeds and it is more than possible.
With Beckford gone questions had been asked about who Grayson would sign to replace him. The signing of Billy Paynter from Swindon was thought to be a step down by some fans but for me the answer is a player already in the squad.
Luciano Becchio scored 17 goals last year and has had a successful pre season playing up front on his own and working in a 4-5-1 formation with either Lloyd Sam, Max Gradel, Bradley Johnson or Robert Snodgrass pushing up on the wings either side of him and supplying the crosses, i believe he can better last season goal tally.
I just mentioned four of Leeds’ midfield there, add them to Johnny Howson, Neil Kilkenny, possibly Aiden White and Andrew Hughes it is clear that another experienced central midfielder is required. But that five in midfield formation that i have already mentioned has worked wonders in pre-season so far and with speedy and skilled wingers, they are sure to cause some problems for Championship defenders.
Speaking of defence, this is the area that needed vast improvement from last season for the Whites. With Richard Naylor seeing his better days and losing his pace slightly and questions being asked about Leigh Bromby and big Slovak Lubomir Michalik heading for the Elland Road exit, Grayson has hit back by bringing in Neil Collins from Preston who spent the last nine games of last season on loan with United and also 25 year old Alex Bruce, son of Steve.
Federico Bessone and Paul Connolly have also been added for cover in the Full Back position but despite the change in defence, they came undone at League two side Bury a few weeks ago where a dreadful display ended in a 4-0 defeat. This may be the weak spot for Leeds in the Championship but with Kasper Schmeichel completing the summer additions, this could save the defenders blushes having already shown his athleticisim and ability against Wolves on Saturday.
Consolodating a mid-table finish would be good enough for many Leeds fans but that pressure for success and high ambition can clearly be seen in West Yorkshire, but it is important that if the team does get off to a good start, it doesn’t go to their head. Complacency could lead to yet another relegation.
One thing is for sure though and that is the support for the team will be in no doubt throughout the season with away allocations bound to be sold out for every game by the Leeds faithful and finally 30000+ crowds could be back at Elland Road. An interesting year awaits Simon Grayson and his men, and they shouldn’t be taken lightly in their bid to get back to back promotions.