Our YEP Jury look ahead to Leeds United’s final game of the season at Preston North End.
United’s final league game of the season, as it was exactly a decade ago, is a trip to Deepdale.
The 2006 fixture was a dead rubber with both teams already guaranteed a play-off semi-final place and scheduled to play each other again, home and away, the following week.
Preston won quite comfortably on that day but Leeds were the victors over two legs before an infamous and somewhat predictable capitulation against Watford in the final.
That season remains the pinnacle of our decade, the last time we came anywhere near to promotion back to the Premier League. A win in the final would have represented a relatively quick return to the top flight after a humiliating couple of seasons spent touring lower-league stadia under the nickname ‘recent Champions League semi-finalists’.
Ten years on and Leeds and Preston find themselves side by side in the table again, Preston just ahead as before and both preparing for another dead rubber.
Unfortunately, on this occasion, there is no play-off campaign to look forward to. In the years since 2006 neither club has troubled the Premier League while both have paid extended visits to the third tier.
At Leeds, it can only be mismanagement of gargantuan proportions that has led to a club with a history, support and catchment that other clubs can only dream of, having had such a wasted decade. We’ve now been outside of the Premier League longer than we were in it and, as 2005/2006 disappears into the previous decade, it’s our seventh-place finish in 2010/2011 that becomes the high point of the most recent 10 years in Leeds United’s history.
That season, freshly promoted from League One, we missed out on the play-offs by only three points and goal difference under Simon Grayson, now manager at Saturday’s opponents.
Other League One rivals – Swansea, Southampton, Leicester, Norwich – fast tracked their way through the Championship by investing in already-talented squads and using their momentum to reach the top division.
Leicester took that to a whole other level this week by winning the title with two games to play. They did it with the goalkeeper that we sold to them after that very season. At Leeds we got some new cream cladding on the East Stand.
As after 2006, our near miss in 2011 prompted the unwinding of everything that was good at the club. Managers have come and gone and there are players that left five years ago for whom we are still awaiting replacements.
In a season blighted by managerial changes, off-field disruption and a lack of quality, there are no signs of lessons being learned at Elland Road.
I, for one, will be happy to leave the ground tomorrow and spend the next few months trying to forget that the last 10 years ever happened.
Prediction: Preston North End 0 Leeds United 0.
It’s here, the last game of the 2015/16 season. It has been another season that will be largely forgettable, but here are a few of my highlights.
Best players: Gaetano Berardi, Charlie Taylor and Lewis Cook.
Best win: Wolverhampton Wanderers away, gave them a goal start but still beat them.
Best home performance: Hull City, showed we can ‘mix’ it with the top six and win.
Worst home performances: Brighton, Ipswich, Nottingham Forest and a few more, home form has to be improved next season.
Best signing: Stuart Dallas.
Best loanee: Liam Bridcutt.
One for the future: Lewie Coyle.
Worst signing: Will Buckley.
Worst PR: Massimo Cellino.
The last stop of the season for Leeds is Preston with their multitude of ex-players, manager, assistant coach and chairman. Simon Grayson is still the manager who would have taken us up to the Premiership if he had been backed, and Jermaine Beckford still holds the club in high esteem. As for Steve Evans, his future may well have been decided before the game and, if he is leaving, it should not be forgotten that he’s taken the club from a precarious position to safety and needs to be thanked for it.
And he proved me wrong; I didn’t rate him but he’s brought the best out of a limited squad. If he stays, and I hope he does, he must be given the whole of next season at least, and given financial support.
Prediction: Preston North End 2 Leeds United 3.
It’s the final game of the season and it seems to me there is still one thing to play for; a top-half finish. Any sort of win for Leeds will guarantee 12th place while a 5–0 win for the Whites (I know, I’m dreaming!) would mean we overhaul Preston and snatch 11th.
It would also be nice to record another double having beaten Simon Grayson’s side at Elland Road in December albeit with that freakish own goal. Preston have not ended the season on the best of form, having won only one of their last six games and they haven’t won at Deepdale in their last five attempts – that was a 2–1 win over Charlton who we stumbled against last week.
As always it will be a close but it is winnable with a few ‘Ifs’; if we don’t make defensive errors, if we can put away some chances and if we get a bit of luck!
Prediction: Preston 1 Leeds United 2.
The last game of the season has arrived and hopefully we pack out the away end and make it an enjoyable one. It’s a season to forget, but Evans will have the players rallied up for what could possibly be his last game in charge of our great club.
Prediction: Preston North End 1 Leeds United 2.
The season closes with another meaningless fixture. Preston have surpassed all expectations on their return to the Championship, and congratulations must go to Simon Grayson and his staff.
It’s a long time since Leeds looked like going places under Grayson. The promotion from League 1 could have been a platform to ‘do a Leicester’. Instead, a succession of disasters has seen Leeds become mired in lower-mid-table mediocrity. Let’s hope Steve Evans and his side can put this season to bed with a win. Maybe sanity will return in the summer and Leeds will become a football club worth shouting about again. That’s as likely as Leicester retaining the Premier League title.
Prediction: Preston North End 2 Leeds United 0.
After 45 games of blood, sweat and tears and curtain comes down on United’s Championship campaign with an away fixture at Deepdale against Preston North End. Former Whites manager (when we used to have managers) Simon Grayson has enjoyed a very creditable season since promotion and barring an unlikely home defeat of four goals or more are set to finish above United. The Whites need a victory to guarantee a top-half finish in what is likely to be Steve Evans’ last game in charge. I’m expecting a few goals but ultimately a share of the spoils.