As the final whistle blew at Elland Road on Thursday night, the Leeds United players, management and fans were in raptures. They’d done it. They were back in the Premier League for the first time since the 2003/04 season having beaten Barnsley 1-0.
It concludes a long wait to return to the top tier. After a seventh-placed finish (followed by a season spent in 13th) they were taken over by Marcelo Bielsa.
Four Players Who Helped Leeds United Win Promotion
Bielsa Ball Inspires Leeds United to Promotion
The manager has been the best thing to happen to the club. He took them to third last season, only for the club to miss out on promotion via the Play-Offs. This season they have done even better though. With one game left to play, United have claimed the Championship title. They sit in first place on 90 points, eight points clear of second-placed West Brom.
Now, they’ll play their football in the Premier League.
Of course, it isn’t just a one-man effort at the club. It isn’t entirely down to Bielsa’s tactics and ideology. The players themselves have continually performed to a high quality throughout the season, winning 27 games this season so far and only losing nine.
So, who have been the standouts during the campaign?
Ayling has not only been one of the club’s most important players this season but he has become somewhat of a cult hero at Elland Road too.
He’s featured in a total of 37 games so far this campaign, scoring four goals and nabbing five assists too – and that’s as a right-back.
The defender, who can also play in the heart of defence as a centre-back, has become one of the mainstays of the team since his move in 2016. Before playing for Leeds, he plied his trade for Bristol City and Yeovil.
Developed in the Arsenal Academy
It’s been quite the rise for the former Arsenal academy graduate who, at 28, is currently in the prime of his playing career. Having played over 150 times for the club now, he has become such an important dressing-room voice now that he has captained the side on eight occasions this season.
He will be a talent that Leeds United will be eager to hold onto this summer, not only because of his esteem at the club but because of the love from the Leeds fans for him. He has become a firm favourite with them and especially because of his extravagant and eccentric celebrations – sometimes even involving the club’s fans.
It’s his solidity in defence that has helped the side concede just 35 goals so far this season, the smallest amount in the league. Here he is filming the squad’s reaction to Bielsa on the first training session since winning the league title.
Phillips has been the talk of not just the Leeds faithful, but of most of the people who tune into the Championship on a weekly basis too. In fact, his name has broken into conversations for an England call-up and many believe him to be not just the best midfielder in the league but the best player in the league.
Is it any wonder? Making 40 appearances in all competitions for the Elland Road side this season, he may only have two goals and two assists but it’s his work-rate and vision that makes him stand out.
Solid in Defence
His passing is on another level, helping control the midfield for his side from his position as a defensive midfielder. He can cut open opposition defences with one pass and help turn defence into attack with one move.
That’s not to say he isn’t capable of a massive defensive effort either. His focus and ability to get a foot in and make key tackles is almost second to none in the league. In fact, he is that solid that he’s even been played as a centre-back when not in his usual role in the centre of the pitch.
Eyed by Bigger Teams
If he was to be picked up by a team higher up in the league, then he would be a huge miss for Leeds. But, with the club securing promotion to the top tier, it looks likely now that his foreseeable future will be at Leeds and he’ll be eager to prove that he can cut it at a higher level.
Fans of the 23-year old will be pleased to learn that, after a tremendous season for Leeds United, where he produced six goals and eight assists in a total of 48 games for the club, he is now set to remain at Elland Road for another loan spell next season.
The winger has had two stints on loan with the newly-promoted side and has impressed so much that they have tied him up for a third spell with the club as they return to the Premier League.
70 Appearances for Leeds United
Harrison – who has yet to make a single appearance for parent club Manchester City since joining them from New York City in 2018 – has found a true home at Leeds. He’s played more for the club than any other side in his career, featuring over 70 times for them.
This season, he has contributed to nearly 20 per cent if all of the club’s goals and his dribbling ability (especially as more of an attacking left winger) has been hard for most opposition sides to deal with. To tie him down for another year is a great piece of business for Leeds.
The Brighton and Hove Albion man has proved to be arguably the club’s signing of the season. On loan from the Premier League side, he has filled the shoes of Pontus Jansson with ease, helping his side be the most solid in the Championship.
The club has conceded the fewest amount of goals out of any of the 24 teams so far and it can be put down to a superb defensive effort from White and the rest of the backline. He’s been a mainstay of the side, featuring in more games for the club than any other player this season.
Made the Leap From League One
He’s made the leap up a league with ease. His previous loan spell was with Peterborough in League One and before that, he spent some time on loan at Newport.
He’s adapted to the Championship though like a duck to water and he is certainly another player that Leeds will want to tie down to another loan or permanent deal for next season after his performances for the Elland Road side.
However, his impressive reading of the game and ability to play out from the back has caught the eye of much bigger clubs than Leeds, meaning they may struggle to secure another deal for the 22-year old. If they can get him to put pen-to-paper though, then it will be a masterstroke by Bielsa and the Leeds hierarchy, especially if he can repeat his superb displays for them in the Premier League.
Even More Played Their Part
It is worth noting that these four players alone aren’t the only stars in a Leeds United side bursting with talent. Patrick Bamford may have been hit and miss – missing a fair few sitters during his time at the club – but he has bagged 16 goals in all competitions so far to finish as the teams top goalscorer.
Pablo Hernandez has featured less but continues to pop up with extremely important goals – in fact, it’s only the previously mentioned Bamford who has scored more goals than him this season.
In summary, it’s a team that is rife with ability and skill and anyone who has played a part in the success of this Leeds team can be proud of the work they have done to finally bring the club back to the big time.