They may currently be playing in the Championship but Leeds United are still one of the biggest names in English football.
Elland Road, their 38,000 capacity home, is a clear indicator as to just how large the club is. Despite being out of the Premier League for more than a decade, more than 20,000 fans flock to the stadium every week to cheer on United. They support the club through thick and thin and create an intimidating atmosphere inside the stadium.
This season Garry Monk, the former Swansea City manager, is the latest manager charged with trying to take Leeds back to the big time. Among his squad are the former England goalkeeper Rob Green, and two Swedes – the former Halmstad and Kalmar striker Marcus Antonsson, and international defender Pontus Jansson.
Leeds were, of course, one of Europe’s biggest clubs back in the early 1970s. The side created by manager Don Revie and led on the field by Billy Bremner won two league titles, one FA Cup, two Fairs Cup, and in 1975 were European Cup runners-up.
Elland Road, based in the south of the city, still retains the character of those halcyon days from the seventies. Although the stadium is now all-seater, the stands on three sides have barely changed in the past 40 years. When the club song Marching On Together belts out before home games you are transported back to those successful times.
However, those three stands are now joined by the 15,000 capacity East Stand, and when it was opened in 1992 it was the biggest cantilever stand in the world.
How did a club that won the English league for a third time in 1992, and playing in a UEFA Champions League semi-final as recently as 2001, end up in the Championship? It is a story that provides a stark warning to many other clubs with big ambitions. Put simply, Leeds spent too much. They splashed the cash on the gamble that they would qualify for the Champions League every year and reap the financial rewards. When they fell just short two years running, the money ran out. Not long afterwards Leeds were relegated, and when they failed to get straight back up, went down briefly into League One.
They have been back in the Championship for five years. The finishes in mid-table have been unspectacular, but under the ownership of Massimo Cellino life has never been boring with eight managers in the past four years.
The city of Leeds is the biggest in Yorkshire and is well worth visiting. During Britain’s Industrial Revolution it was a major mill town. The mills have long gone but Leeds has reinvented itself and is now a bustling, modern urban centre. At the very heart is the new Trinity shopping centre, a huge glass-covered development with 120 shops, restaurants and bars.
The attractive city centre still retains many historic buildings too, and there are a large number of traditional pubs that are worth enjoying a pre-match pint in, such as Whitelock’s and The Adelphi. The stadium is a 30-minute walk from the centre, but shuttle buses run to the ground on match days or it is easy to find a taxi.
Leeds has excellent rail connections and is just 50 minutes by train from Manchester, with dozens of services daily. So if you find yourself in the north of England why not take in a day at Leeds?
Watch a match at Leeds United, book it at Nickes.Com!
Football Weekends magazine has a special 10 page feature on Leeds United in their October 2016 issue. Visit www.footballweekends.co.uk
Pictures courtesy of Leeds City Council.