'I am frustrated that I couldn't have been Bielsa' - Kevin Blackwell on how he could have taken Leeds United up

KEVIN Blackwell admits Marcelo Bielsa is naturally lauded as a Whites God but believes he too could have got Leeds Unted promoted with the right backing.

Monday, 7th September 2020, 5:16 pm
Updated Monday, 7th September 2020, 5:20 pm

Former Whites assistant Blackwell was appointed Whites manager in the summer of 2004 following the club's relegation from the Premier League just three years after the Whites had made the Champions League semi-final.

After being forced to offload a whole host of stars amidst huge financial troubles, Leeds then survived their first season back in the second tier with a 14th-placed finish and Blackwell then took the Whites to the play-offs at the end of the following campaign.

After defeating Preston North End in the play-offs semi-finals, Blackwell's Whites found themselves one game away from sealing a top-flight return yet Leeds fell to a 3-0 defeat in the play-off final to Watford and relegation to League One followed a further 12 months down the line.

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ONE GAME AWAY: Former Leeds United boss Kevin Blackwell consoles his players after the 3-0 defeat to Watford in the Championship play-off final of May 2006. Picture by Nick Potts/PA Wire.

United then endured three years in English football's third tier before finally being promoted as 2009-10 runners-up and a decade later United are finally heading back to the country's top tier having stormed to the Championship title in head coach Bielsa's second season in charge.

Blackwell admits whoever took Leeds back up was always going to be lauded as a Whites God but the 61-year-old says will always be left with a sense of what might have been under his tenture.

"To get them within 90 minutes of the Premier League from a rebuild, a complete rebuild, I am proud of the job that I did," said Blackwell, speaking on Sky Sports.

"I am frustrated that I couldn't have been Bielsa because the man that takes Leeds United back to the Premier League was always going to be a God.

"I'm not saying I want to be a God, but you earn that respect.

"My regret is not being supported when I wanted the support and I think if I would have got it we could have maybe done it."

United were relegated with Gerarld Krasner at the helm as chairman following Peter Ridsdale's resignation back in March 2003.

The club then changed hands again in January 2005 as Ken Bates became chairman.

"I had my run ins with Ken Bates but Ken Bates came in at a time when we actually needed someone like Ken Bates," said Blackwell.

"He was excellent at dealing with the financial side because when he came at that time it was catastrophic and the club could really have gone. It was that bad."

Reflecting on the picture at Leeds upon his appointment, Blackwell recalled: "No players, no money, no nothing.

"It was a very, very difficult time obviously.

"Dropping out of the Premier League was a real shock to everybody.

"The amount of staff that lost their jobs, I think it was about 170 people that lost their jobs at Leeds so it was a real traumatic time.

"We were red hot favourites to go straight through the Championship into League One and we set out with the challenge to try and stabilise.

"On the first day of pre-season training I had a group of players who were just about to leave or were waiting for the phone call in the car park - your Mark Vidukas, (Alan) Smithy, you can name them all, all the team.

"They were in their little Bentleys and Porsches and then I had a group coming up....there was a Ford Focus, it was unbelievable to look at where we were, where we had been and where we were going and just the car park said it all."

Asked if there was a sense of relief when finally leaving the club, Blackwell said: "You can't have relief to leave Leeds United, goodness gracious me.

"It was utter frustration.

"I knew how close I had got, I knew what was required and I just didn't get the backing."

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Thank you Laura Collins