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Leeds United in the 21st Century - September 2021

Dave Tomlinson is the webmaster for the website, and Leeds United in the 21st Century is his sixth book about the club.

Check out a video of Dave's discussion on the book with Sanchez Payne of BBC Radio Leeds.

The story of Leeds United’s roller coaster ride through the 21st century from Champions League semi-finals to financial mismanagement, boardroom wrangles and relegation – and their eventual return to football's top tier.

The last twenty years have been tortuous for supporters of Leeds United Football Club.

In 2001 they were in the final four of the Champions' League; within six years they were condemned to the third tier of English football for the first time. A financial implosion brought a record £50 million loss in 2003, United ‘enduring the nightmare’ rather than ‘living the dream’.

After a dismal period of ownership by a local consortium brought the sale of the Elland Road stadium, Leeds were twice ‘rescued’ from financial collapse by the controversial Ken Bates. Amidst this turmoil, Leeds beat Manchester United in a legendary FA Cup clash at Old Trafford in 2010 and won an emotion-soaked promotion from League One.

The summer of 2012 was dominated by rumours as a bank from the Middle East courted Bates, but the empty promises ran into the sand and GFH sold out to Massimo Cellino, an egocentric and eccentric Italian corn magnate. His near-the-knuckle business dealings pitched Leeds into more disputes with the Football League as Cellino went through managers like a hot knife through butter.

When the Italian sold to Andrea Radrizzani in 2017, Leeds finally had stable leadership and the recruitment of the feted Marcelo Bielsa a year later brought Leeds to new playing heights. Engulfed by the ‘Spygate’ dispute with Frank Lampard’s Derby County, United missed out on promotion by a whisker in 2019 but finally achieved the promotion they so dearly coveted the following season despite nearly being derailed by the pandemic.

Bielsa’s men took the Premier League by storm with their effervescent football and now look forward to a bright future. Beginning in 2000 as football’s finances started to boom, this book tells the tale of how Leeds United tried to capitalise on the financial gravy train and almost perished in the process but retained the loyal and passionate support through thick and thin of one of the most committed fan bases in Europe.

A performance at Southampton that was sound rather than spectacular brought the tenth away victory of the season, with Leeds becoming only the second promoted team to do so in the Premier League and the first since Nottingham Forest in 1994/95. The result guaranteed that Leeds would finish in the top half of the table.

In the days that followed, fans' favourites Pablo Hernandez and Gaetano Berardi announced that they would be leaving Elland Road at the end of the season. Hernandez had three times won the supporters' vote as Player of the Year in five productive seasons at the club - Berardi was the club's longest serving professional, joining in the madcap early weeks of Massimo Cellino's ill-starred first campaign. Berardi made his Premier League debut as a second half substitute for Diego Llorente at Southampton and Marcelo Bielsa let his heart rule his head, giving both men a start in the final game at home to West Brom.

The 8,000 supporters allowed into Elland Road gave both men a wonderful reception, willing Hernandez to top things off with a goal. He couldn't quite manage it, but he was everywhere and reminded the crowd why they adored him so much. Goals from Rodrigo, Phillips and Bamford ensured Leeds took the three points. A mistake by Kalvin Phillips in the closing minutes allowed the visitors a consolation goal and took the shine off things, but the crowd gave their heroes a rousing send off.

The end of season run put to the lie for ever the myth of Bielsa Burnout and perfectly topped off United's astonishing return to the Premier League. Critics had long claimed the Argentine's intense football led to players fading in the closing weeks, but they had to eat their words - Leeds were the form team with one defeat in eleven games and ended the season with a run of four victories to climb to ninth.

The news began to break after the game that Bielsa had committed himself to Leeds for a further twelve months, much to the relief of supporters. The coach, by now almost a deity in West Yorkshire, had never revealed a shred of doubt or wavered in his commitment to attacking principles and the United fans revelled in their new environment. Despondent at being unable to witness the football in person until that final glorious afternoon, they were nevertheless warmed by United's refusal to bow to reputation. You could feel them glowing with pride at how far the team had come. Cellino, Bates and GFH had long since been consigned to history, ghouls of Christmas Past, as the leadership of Radrizzani and Bielsa offered the promise of a glorious future.

All Leeds, aren't we?

Get a copy at Amberley Publishing or Amazon. Author signed copies are available by e-mailing

Published by Amberley Publishing (15 September 2021)
ISBN 9781398108400 (Paperback)


Paperback: 160 pages

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