Leeds United: the Premier League’s Favourite Crackheads

Leeds United.

No team in the Premier League is splitting headlines quite like them. After their heavy 6-2 loss to Manchester United, there are large sections of fans praising or defending the club–both for equally valid reasons. But I’m not here to talk about their in-game performances. I’m here to talk about the historic effect Leeds has had on the Premier League and its relation to the present-day. To do that, I need to go back about 60 years in time to visit Don Revie and his Leeds side.

Dirty Leeds

Phot by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The year is 1961, and the man in the picture is named Don Revie. He just became the manager of Leeds United, a soccer club with financial difficulties struggling to stay in League Two. Revie’s first season wasn’t particularly spectacular–a draw on the last day saved him from relegation to League Three. It didn’t stop Revie, though, as he secured promotion to the First Division in 1964, after instilling a familial environment at the club and a physical and combative style-of-play that would eventually lead to the side being known as Dirty Leeds.

They came second on goal difference in their first two seasons in the division while keeping up with their rough playing style, which continued to attract attention and divided opinions as time passed. Some mocked Leeds for their playing style and its inability to win trophies, while others fancied the idea of underdogs becoming title contenders, in spite of their style. Yet, they remained trophyless.

Until 1968

In that year, they won the League Cup after a 1-0 win over Arsenal. From then on until his resignation in 1974, they went on to win two First Division titles, two Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, the FA Cup, and the Charity Shield. Not bad for a side once worried about relegation from Division Two.

Revie left the club in 1974, and they would experience some more ups and downs like many other clubs during that timeframe.

Hence, in a history marked with an extreme playing style implemented by a–perhaps–controversial manager, it was no surprise that Leeds sought after Marcelo Bielsa in a bid to regain ground after years of inconsistency.

The Mad Genius

Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

Marcelo Bielsa, the man in this picture, fondly called the Mad Genius by the Leeds’ faithful.

Before he joined the crew, Leeds were a mid-table Championship side, having been relegated from the Premier League in 2004. His job wasn’t easy, but no one could have predicted that after the way Leeds performed in their first game of that season, beating Stoke City 3-1 with a very stylish and distinctive brand of football. They would follow this up with four more wins and a draw, which would place them on top of the league by August, a position they would maintain for a majority of the season.

Sadly, this didn’t last forever, and they missed out on automatic promotion in their penultimate league game against Aston Villa. Even worse, they missed out on the position because Bielsa ordered his team to allow the opposition to score after Leeds continued to play and eventually scored while Villa’s Jonathan Kodjia was on the floor, injured. This event, coupled with the Spygate incident of a few months earlier, brought Leeds back into the limelight, and again they had their plaudits and critics. Leeds eventually lost their playoff game, and suddenly Leeds had become laughingstock once more, their all-too-hopeful fans wondering if there was any manager who could get them out of their predicament.

We know what happened next. A year later and Bielsa’s Leeds side were the Championship champions, preparing to play in the Premier League.

Now, I can finally talk about the present.

The Present

Photo by George Wood/Getty Images

Now, we have present-day Leeds. 

Nevertheless, it seems that from Revie to Bielsa–a 60-year gap–Leeds can not stop being Leeds. Whether it’s physical, combative football, or sleek and stylistic passing combinations, no one can agree on Leeds. And the best part is, they don’t care! 

Whether we think Dirty Leeds exploited the rulebook to its limit or that Bielsa’s Leeds are way too defensively open, both teams have demonstrated an unworldly belief in themselves and the people around them. A belief that allows them to shrug off criticism from others and play their game the way they see fit. Bielsa himself has repeatedly stated that he doesn’t plan to change the way Leeds play, and the Leeds’ players have spoken on the almost brotherly relationship between the players and staff.

This was clear in the United game, where even four goals down, they played with the same intensity as when the match first began. They play with a mentality that many teams should strive to emulate. Not ‘bad’ for a newly promoted team

Leeds this season have had their fair share of critics, and for the right reasons as well. But in the current Premier League climate where even the big six have to place a notable emphasis on defense, it is refreshing to see Leeds, a recently promoted side with the second-lowest wage budget in the league, practically leave it to the wind. They don’t have the expectations of Liverpool and Manchester City, and because of that, they have taken up the mantle of being the Premier League’s great entertainers. Whether or not you agree with their methods, you can’t deny that we now have a more exciting league because of it.

What do you think about Leeds this season? Will they get relegated? Leave your answers in the comment section below, or on our Twitter page here, as well as any ideas you have on articles you want to see. Until then, I’ll see you in my next post.

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