Liverpool offers Leeds United the perfect baptism of Premier League fire - David Prutton
The YEP columnist is back to pen his latest thoughts on the goings on at Elland Road.
LEEDS UNITED’S first game back in the Premier League will be at Liverpool and that’s perfect if they want a taste of being back at the big table.
That’s exactly the draw you would want.
The game will give Leeds a very honest and open reflection of what Liverpool are like, having had such an amazing season last year.
And I think United’s opening weekend clash at Anfield will really put into reality how colossal the task is.
If you look at it from a purely punditry point of view, Liverpool away is perhaps not where they are going to bank on taking points.
But I think it will be a great test and Leeds can’t go there with any trepidation.
They have got to be wary of them but a clash at Liverpool goes hand in hand with what Leeds wanted – to be discussed with the biggest teams in the land and that is the biggest team and the best team right now. I will be intrigued to see how they approach it.
Whites winger Jack Harrison has said that Premier League football might suit Leeds even better and I understand what he is saying.
I think the leap in quality is enormous, especially when you talk about Liverpool and Manchester City and teams like that.
Yes, they are the elite of a very elite league and there’s probably a couple of mini tables inside of the Premier League.
But we will soon see if the Premier League suits Leeds.
Norwich City approached it in that sense of expressing themselves and got thumped.
They also beat Manchester City but they ended up getting relegated.
You can look at it from the thought process of ‘this is how to approach a football match’ but the first port of call is concentrating on not losing and that’s not me being negative.
That is especially so against a team like Liverpool that can be expansive and that can batter teams.
Leeds have got to balance the containment remit with being able to express themselves and that’s going to be very, very tough.
United’s first home game will then be against Fulham which is not a bad game for Leeds at all.
It renews rivalries and we saw how the game between the two sides panned out in June when Leeds were 3-0 winners at Elland Road.
It was a game very much of two halves whereby Fulham dominated but couldn’t put Leeds to bed.
And after the Fulham clash Leeds go to Sheffield United and I am sure Chris Wilder is licking his lips to show those Leeds players just what a year’s worth of Premier League football can do for their own people in the side.
Sheffield United have been tremendous and they will be a very tough team to play against.
And as much as Chris has probably loved rubbing shoulders with the cosmopolitan glitterati of the Premier League, he will be looking at the Leeds fixture especially.
He’ll have been very happy and overjoyed with his side’s journey in the Premier League but he won’t be immune or deaf to the plaudits being thrown Leeds United’s way and he will absolutely be looking to take them down a peg or two.
April then sees Leeds take on Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United in a row and you have to take into account what the teams who have come up recently have done.
By that time in April, Norwich had been cut adrift, even though we had the break, Aston Villa had given themselves a fighting chance and Sheffield United were home and hosed and potentially looking at the Champions League.
The first platform you have got to look for is hopefully somewhere in between all that and that’s not aiming for mediocrity. In that first season back after such a long time away you want to then be in discussions for what then happens the following season.
Anything after that would be a tremendous bonus and it would show steady building on solid foundations which is what Leeds, in recent times, should be very proud of putting into place.
You can’t underestimate the monumental challenge of what the Premier League is.
We have seen teams that have been in there a long time come out and struggle to get back and Leeds have struggled and been away from the top tier for longer than most.
I don’t think there’s an arrogance with this Leeds side but there’s a nice self belief which should come after how they have managed to perform over the last couple of seasons.
But as demanding as the Championship is, the Premier League is that with bells on.
There might be slightly fewer games, but given the concertina way that this season is going to be, it’s going to be thick and fast and relentless every single week, every few days.
With Leeds, we are not talking about a plucky little club that has got in the Premier League for the first time.
We are talking about an established part of the old traditional order but the traditional order that they were part of was such a long time ago that they have got to re-establish themselves.
I think the first port of call has got to be consolidation.
You always say that about promoted clubs and I only say that from the outside looking in.
I know that the people involved have got to show ambition and desire and hunger and I think the team and the manager and the hierarchy at this moment in time are showing all of that.
But we have seen the reality of what Premier League teams can do to sides that have been promoted.
We laud Wolves and we have quite rightly lauded Sheffield United and in the last half a decade Bournemouth showed their way of going about consolidation.
Confidence is very much the essence of what Leeds United is about, but they can’t allow themselves to get carried away with what they did in the Championship.
The Premier League is quite obviously the same sport and the same game but the focus on it, the attention on it and the scrutiny on it, is something players who haven’t played at that level will have to take on board and deal with.