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Monday 1 May 2017

Leeds tease fans with run at promotion

Leeds United manager Garry Monk
Leeds United manager Garry Monk

It is never anything less than a great surprise to see Leeds United rise to a place in the table where giddy possibilities arise.

The Leeds team of Giles, Bremner, Clark, Lorimer and Hunter influenced a generation of Irish kids who were not to know that the future would be grim and bleak place but for a brief revival under Howard Wilkinson which produced the 1991/92 title.

Imploded

Dave O'Leary's "babies" took the club to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2001 and shortly afterwards, Leeds imploded financially and were put into voluntary administration.

The current version is breathing in thin oxygen among the play-off places and after a disappointing defeat by Brentford last weekend, needs to beat Preston tomorrow to maintain the promise of an involvement in the sharp end of the season.

The fact that Preston, festooned with Irishmen and managed by Simon Grayson who was sacked by Leeds in early 2012, are on a relentless march up the table and closing in on Sheffield Wednesday, three points behind Garry Monk's team in the final play-off spot, makes this a huge game.

Back-to back defeats by rivals Reading, just above them in the play-off battle and Brentford haven't helped.

"This doesn't change our situation," Monk said yesterday.

"We had eight games and now we've got six games. We'll be ready for those last six games.

"You can never doubt our group, they have put Leeds back on the map this season and given everyone a team to be proud of."

Nobody can argue with that and Leeds core support remains strong, just below 27,000 this season, the kind of big crowds that convinced Eunan O'Kane to leave the Premier League.

Tomorrow, Ireland squad mates Aiden McGeady, Daryl Horgan and Andy Boyle won't find Elland Road any less intimidating than it has been at any time in the last 40 years when they turn up with Preston.

Leeds has the fan base to be a big Premier League player but, of course, the shadow of Massimo Cellino looms over all of this.

Regular visits to the High Court in Rome and England have given us an insight into the kind of man he is. A string of irrational sackings and appointments offered further examples of instability.

In January, he sold 50% of the club to Andrea Radrizzani, who brings a lot more to the table than lurid headlines.

Radrizzani is a key player in MP and Silva, a company specialising in digital broadcast rights and valued at close to a €1billion which is backed by Chinese investment and software companies and has clout.

For ordinary Leeds fans who have soldiered through some very bad days, a single wealthy owner, however disconnected from the club's Yorkshire heartland, would be welcome; particularly one who might release some money to buy players.

Despite Monk's success, there is no real sense of confidence that Leeds can make it to the Premier League this time out and given recent history, a fatalism about where all this might end.

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