Leeds United title winner Tony Dorigo reveals his Premier League table prediction, calls for reasonable expectations
Others, of a certain vintage, will experience floods of nostalgia as the Whites take on some of the giants they battled regularly in their glory days.
Tony Dorigo is in the latter category, having taken on and beaten those giants with a Leeds team that won the top-flight title in his first-ever season at Elland Road.
When the fixtures for the 2020/21 season emerged, so too did his memories.
He’s excited too for those who don’t remember and for answers to burning questions surrounding Marcelo Bielsa’s team and their style.
“It’s wonderful, it really is,” said the former flying full-back.
“Seeing all those fixtures brings back so many memories.
“What I like is that the current generation doesn’t remember games against Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester United and it used to be the norm. It’s a long, long time coming. To get back to that level is exciting for everyone and for those younger fans to realise what it’s all about at the sharp end.
“There’s a big question mark of how we’re going to do. Our style, the way we play is such an exciting one. It worked in the Championship, now we’re in the Premier League so there’s lots of unanswered questions but plenty of excitement.”
Leeds have had little time to prepare for the top flight, having only ended their title-winning Championship season on July 22 due to the three-month COVID-19 suspension of fixtures.
That isn’t necessarily a disadvantage, says Dorigo.
“With the short turn around I didn’t expect any difference to the starting line-up anyway, simply because of the way Marcelo operates and how he wants the squad fitness wise and understanding his tactics,” he said.
“I think in a way that will actually help. When we look at what was successful in the previous seasons in the Premier League, the teams that kept their ethos and style and kept their players, like Sheffield United. When you start to sprinkle too many new players in there at once it becomes a little bit more difficult.
“This is their third season under Marcelo, so I’d expect another little leap in their understanding.
“I don’t think we’re in a bad spot but over the course of a whole campaign we’re going to have to have a bit of added quality here and there to try and improve on what we did last season.”
Last summer Dorigo’s wish was for Leeds to get more value out of their loan players. Step forward Ben White and Jack Harrison.
White, a Championship rookie, made himself a player of interest for top Premier League clubs with a stunning season of consistently cool performances. Harrison, in his second season under Bielsa, showed the improvement the Argentine felt certain he would see from the Manchester City winger.
Both played important roles in leading Leeds to the promised land, ending a 16-year exile.
This summer, Dorigo wants new faces, but not many.
“We don’t need big numbers, we need quality, four players of quality for me, in the vital areas,” he said, speaking before Leeds moved into position to buy striker Rodrigo from Valencia and Robin Koch from SC Freiburg.
“Centre-half, losing Ben White is a blow but you trust that whoever comes in under Marcelo will be improved.
“That’s what he can do with players. Patrick Bamford needs some help up front, not only from another striker but from the wide men, everyone needs to step up with important goals. Quality is what it’s about.”
And with quality comes a better chance of pulling off what Dorigo feels would be a wonderful but achievable finish to their Premier League return.
Fans must adjust their expectations, however, after becoming accustomed to being top dogs in the Championship.
“They need to be realistic,” said Dorigo. “For me a successful campaign would be to comfortably survive. We can get into that bottom third looking to mid-table and you can build from there. That would be a wonderful result.
“Leeds fans need to realise how far away the top teams are, we’ve been away a long, long time. They’ve got teams, players, squads, infrastructure that is miles away from what we’ve got at the moment. But it’s what happens out on the pitch that’s important and I think we can compete.
“It’s not going to be like last season, we’re not going to have 75 per cent possession or 15 chances. We’ll have four or five and have to take one or two of those. If we make mistakes we’ll get punished that bit more.
“That’s not to say we haven’t got advantages as well. If you look at the Championship last season teams would set up very differently, pack the midfield, sit a bit deeper. Premier League sides are not going to be scared of Leeds and will go play their own stuff which will allow us that bit more space to play on the counter where we’re very good.”
Put on the spot, he’s confident enough to put a position next to his prediction.
“I do think we’ll be 12th, 13th, something like that,” he said.
“I’d be absolutely delighted with that. I think we can do it.”