15 January ~ It is a touchstone of belief for many Leeds Utd fans that we are simply living in temporary exile from the bountiful, glory-rich land of the Premier League where we rightfully belong. As manager Simon Grayson leads his followers ever closer we hear more about Leeds as a sleeping giant, a club that naturally belongs among the country's finest. The fanbase would fit in effortlessly, but the recent footballing pedigree is less convincing.
The club has spent half the last 30 years in the equivalent of the Championship and League One. Even the sensational Don Revie era arrived in stark contrast to 20 post-war seasons of being regarded locally as less of a draw than Hunslet's rugby league team. When Leeds do make it to the highest division, however, they're usually making a noise right at the summit, as three League titles and multiple cup triumphs, or last-gasp tragedies, demonstrate. Typically they're a mainstay for more than a decade, but when the wheels come off they hurtle into the distance as the axles shatter and the engine explodes.
It's only 18 months since today’s visitors, Scunthorpe Utd, themselves escaped from League One by defeating Millwall, who had held off Leeds in their play-off semi-final. Scunthorpe may not have matched the exploits of fellow relegation favourites Blackpool since, but survival in the second tier for the first time since the early 1960s was still cause for celebration. Sadly, the Iron are once again deep in relegation trouble with midfielder Michael O'Connor this week begging fans to stay away rather than take out their frustrations at perceived underinvestment on the players as they try to scramble clear.
Grayson couldn't argue that resources at Elland Road have held him back. Just three of the starters who took the field at Arsenal last weekend were among those who put Manchester Utd to the sword only a year ago. Leeds have been fortunate in attracting quality loanees and experienced veterans to cement their successful League One backbone of Richard Naylor, Andy Hughes, Bradley Johnson, Neil Kilkenny, Robert Snodgrass and goalscoring talisman Luciano Becchio. In driving midfielder Johnny Howson, they even have yet another promising graduate of the Leeds youth academy that still provides a pretty healthy crop of Premier League players.
Until last May, Revie and Howard Wilkinson were the only two "television era" Leeds managers actually to win a major trophy or promotion. Grayson has joined them while at the same time, like David O'Leary, bringing welcome admiration to the club for its unexpected knockout exploits. As he plans the advance towards top-flight status Leeds fans can only hope therea's a clause in his contract preventing him from writing a book. Duncan Young