Leeds United: History, Mismanagement and what the future holds

By  - Aug 13, 2017

Having endured a roller coaster ride since their inception in the early 1900s, Leeds United is rightly one of England’s most prestigious and distinguished clubs in the country’s rich footballing heritage.  The West Yorkshire outfit were mostly in talks back in the 90s when they emerged as 1991-92 Football League First Division Champions, the conclusive campaign before the top tier was rechristened as the English Premier League.

But their successful years have been overshadowed following a financial struggle due to the notorious management of Peter Ridsdale, who ridiculously overspent to make the Whites a European force that eventually ended up in large debts and ‘financial meltdown’. Despite managing to stay up in the league and progressing through to the semi-finals of 2000-01 Champions League competition, Leeds’ debt level peaked around £119m and their failure to qualify for the next season’s Champions League saw them releasing their high-profile stars to make financial savings.

Mark Viduka

Although they escaped a relegation scare in 2002-03 Premier League campaign following a late strike by iconic Mark Viduka at Highbury against Arsenal in the penultimate game of the season, the Peacocks lost their top flight status next year.

The change in management resulted in further damage as they were forced to sell their emerging prodigies, training ground and the stadium as well. The club went into a steep descent as they were relegated to League One, i.e. third tier of English football. ‘Doing a Leeds’ became a common term to highlight the clubs those have been victims of financial mismanagement in recent years.

The Peacocks, however, witnessed a resurgence back in 2012 and were promoted to the Championship under new owner Ken Bates who was also club’s chairman during that period. Following Middle East-based private equity group GFH Capital’s protective takeover, The Cellino era and the current full ownership of Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani,  United finally have some stability to challenge for a Premier League promotion. Radrizzani recently bought the remaining 50% share of the club earlier this year besides also completing the purchase of Elland Road making it club’s property once more for the first time since it’s trading back in 2004.

An upsurge was witnessed last year under Garry Monk who, against all odds, transformed them into a promotion favorites from a mere mid-table outfit. Although the Whites missed out on a playoff spot following a series of unfavourable outcomes towards the end of previous campaign and Monk stepped down as Leeds boss to take charge of Middlesbrough, the players are upbeat under new boss Thomas Christiansen who despite being a surprise pick, started the new campaign brightly with lots of optimism and vow to re-register Leeds as a top-flight outfit once more.

Christiansen, having analyzed the market cautiously before making any transfer move this summer has made the loan moves of Pontus Jansson and Hadi Sacko permanent apart from making some shrewd moves.  Highly rated Everton youngster Matthew Pennington has been brought in to replace Kyle Bartley while Manchester United prodigy Cameron Brothwick-Jackson has also joined the club to slot in place of left-back Charlie Taylor, who joined Premier League outfit Burnley on a Bosman transfer. Versatile Dutchman Vurnon Anita joined the Peacocks on a free transfer after being released by Newcastle United whereas, custodian Felix Wiedwald has been recruited as a long term successor of veteran Robert Green.

Ezgjan Alioski and Mateusz Klich have been the surprise inclusions along with the forward duo namely Caleb Ekuban and Samuel Saiz who scored on their debuts in League Cup round one fixture against Port Vale. Most importantly, the club has managed to keep hold of their hitman Chris Wood who was Championship’s top scorer last season.

The Whites have strengthened their squad massively and started the Championship campaign with an away victory against Bolton Wanderers. Despite failing to secure a win against ten-men Preston North End at Elland Road, Leeds United seemed to be a rejuvenated force who might be considered as one of the promotion favourites under Christiansen. Only time will tell when they will return to the highest echelons of English Football.