'The likes of Burnley don't have' - Howard Wilkinson assesses Leeds United's Premier League prospects

HOWARD Wilkinson says Leeds United have a "massive opportunity" heading back to the Premier League and already holding advantages over a club like Burnley.

By Lee Sobot
Sunday, 26th July 2020, 11:54 am

Legendary former Whites boss Wilkinson was responsible for lifting Leeds out of English football's second tier as Division Two winners back in 1990 and two years later United became champions of England.

Relegation from the Premier League was to follow 12 years later in 2004 but 16 years on United are finally back in the big time and once again going up as champions under head coach Marcelo Bielsa.

Automatic promotion comes after last season's agonising near miss with Bielsa's Whites spending the majority of the season in the division's top two only to fall away in the final month of the season and finish third.

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LEGEND: Howard Wilkinson with the 1992 Division One trophy - two years after Leeds United had come up as Division Two champions. Picture by YPN.

Defeat in the play-offs semi finals to Derby County followed and the Rams were then beaten in the Wembley play-off final by Aston Villa who went up along with champions Norwich City and runners-up Sheffield United.

Last season's promoted clubs have experienced differing fortunes in the top flight with Norwich finishing bottom of the table and relegated and with Villa's survival bid going to the final day of the season.

The Blades, meanwhile, approached the final weekend of the campaign sat eighth and already guaranteed a top-half finish along with another recent surprise package in Burnley.

The Clarets came up as Championship champions in 2016 and after ending up 16th in their first season back, the Lancashire outfit then finished seventh in the 2017-18 campaign, qualifying for the Europa League.

Following United's promotion under Wilkinson back in 1990, Leeds finished fourth in their first season back in the top flight in 1991 before topping the tree the following season.

For Leeds, considering the size of the city, the Whites fan-base and the presence of Leeds Bradford Airport, Wilkinson believes United should now have every chance of making good inroads upon their Premier League return

"If you look at the ingredients for becoming a top club in England at the moment then you are talking about city clubs, you are talking about clubs with populations that are big enough to support in the numbers required," said Wilkinson, speaking on Sky Sports News.

"You are talking about ease of access, there's an airport at Leeds.

"If you stay in the Premier League long enough - when I was there we had huge numbers that used to travel over from Scandinavia so they go in there with advantages that the likes of Burnley - who have done brilliantly - didn't have and don't have.

"It's a massive opportunity and you can only hope that the opportunity is taken by good forward planning and plotting a route that will keep them there and then take them on to better things."

Assessing the pressure that Leeds had resisted to ensure that this time they got it right in Bielsa's second season in charge, Wilkinson reasoned: "Football is what you want to do.

"Players want to play, he wants to manage, he wants to lead so the biggest pressure is the pressure you put on yourself to achieve or try and achieve excellence.

"That's the pressure.

"The external pressure is there but that's not what drives you forward - it's doing what you believe in and making it work. That's the pressure."

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Thank you Laura Collins