Too early to be confident of promotion despite record-breaking efforts of Leeds United and West Brom - David Prutton
LEEDS UNITED and West Brom have created the biggest gap between the automatic promotion places and third place in the history of the Championship at this stage of the season.
That’s only going from 2004-05 when the second tier turned to the Championship but the 11-point gap established by both sides already has people talking about the two sides definitely going up.
To a degree, we have been here twice before recently, firstly under Garry Monk when Leeds slipped up late in the season to miss the play-offs and then last season’s slip from second to third under Marcelo Bielsa. Both times the advantage evaporated very quickly when a few dodgy results came in.
But Leeds have never been this far clear at this stage of the season and this has given everyone a real sense of thinking ‘bloody hell, this actually could be it you know.’
Leeds’ fans have been waiting for it for absolutely ages having seen their team play in all kinds of different places across the divisions.
Now it’s almost within touching distance but it’s so far away yet so close because it’s not even the turn of the year yet and there’s still a boat load more games to play.
Leeds have not been blowing away teams game after game after game like they did last season but they have been so impressive in the way they have grounded out wins but also getting better with it.
You can look at the Middlesbrough game in which they were really good value for the 4-0 victory or the Hull City game in which they really had to battle for it.
But Gjanni Alioski’s goal was a thing of a beauty in clearing it off your own line and steaming down the other end and turning it in after Patrick Bamford’s shot had hit the post.
That just summed up what Leeds were - full of belief, energy and effort and an immensely likeable group of players that are quite clearly working their backsides off to do as much as they possibly can for the manager.
You have to caveat the fact that we are nowhere near the end of the season but at this moment in time things are running extremely smoothly indeed.
But we all know that the minute you get too comfortable it comes and kicks you in the knackers so you can’t get carried away.
You can enjoy it and embrace it but it’s ultimately meaningless if the end of the season comes around and they are not still there.
If you are looking for the team who could be the biggest dangers to Leeds and West Brom it’s a tough one.
The debate about the top three is that you have got two very experienced managers in Marcelo Bielsa at Leeds and Slaven Bilic at West Brom and then one very inexperienced manager in Scott Parker at Fulham.
But Parker has got a good squad there so you would think they are capable of turning things around.
They had won four wins on the bounce before they lost their last two so that shows what they can do and how they can do it.
Preston had a very strong result against Fulham, albeit with a little bit of luck with regards to the discipline side of the game.
Forest and Bristol City are both capable of beating any team on their day but both are capable of losing to any team too with those kind of results that you get in the Championship.
And Brentford are maybe one you keep an eye on because they are expansive, very free scoring and they have got a player in Ollie Watkins who is having a fantastic season.
You could go all the way down to Sheffield Wednesday but there is potential for off the field stuff to hinder them but they are a tough side managed by a manager in Garry Monk that Leeds’ fans know well.
I think to straight-forwardly box off the top two and say no-one is going to catch them would be foolish because the climate can change so quickly in this division.
But we are looking at the two best teams in the division being in the top two at this moment in time which is great if you are a Leeds or West Brom fan.
If not then you are just hoping that your team can chase them down.
Today’s Elland Road clash against a Cardiff City side now managed by Neil Harris is next for Leeds and it will be tough for Leeds, no doubt about that.
After his Millwall exploits, Neil will be particularly motivated to do well in this game and the team that stops Leeds United on this current run will take great satisfaction in that whether that’s Cardiff this weekend or teams in the Christmas period that try and do it then.
Yes Cardiff lost in midweek at Brentford but Neil has toughened them up. They were a team that needed to be picked up slightly.
They have got the personnel to challenge in the top six but it’s just been a slow start for them and Leeds have got to be extremely wary of the threat that they pose.
Physically they will give them a tough game and knowing what Neil is like and what the motivation to beat Leeds will be like, that will be absolutely top of his list.
He will play the professional card because that is what he is like but he will want to make sure he makes his mark on his side.
And for Leeds it’s about finding ways to win games where you can’t play absolute hell for leather every single week.
You can absolutely try and you can put as much into it as you can but physically levels dip and flow.
This will be a stern test but come through it and the confidence that will emanate from that will be absolutely sky high.
It would be fantastic if that is maintained from a Leeds United point of view.