Leeds United emerge from darkest period in history in fighting form

In what is a rough first month of the new season, there have been clear signs of life for one of English football’s largest clubs: Leeds United.

After coming within two points of promotion to the English Premier League last season, the team have gone undefeated in the league so far in 2018-19. Their near miss turned the group from particularly renowned victims of rights. Last August, Leeds had fans around the world on tenterhooks after a fan racially abused French winger Florian Thauvin in an away match against Rennes. Then, in October, during a week-long player strike protesting against the use of tax havens in British football, Leeds fan Chuka Umunna was arrested and fined for taking part in a pitch invasion at the stadium after a match against QPR.

The club’s owner, Andrea Radrizzani, says that while his team won’t be able to guarantee success just yet, they have certainly been walking on the solid ground.

“I think it is a positive way to start the season,” he said. “There’s no question about that. The atmosphere is better, the confidence is better. We are not here to take a million points, but…we want to have a good season and that’s good.”

The club has seemingly managed to distance itself from the not-so-recent scandals. Radrizzani confirmed that he had, not long after completing his purchase, asked the supporters to be respectful of the club’s new members.

“I’m here only to be an owner and hopefully that would translate onto the pitch and the fans,” he said. “Of course there’s been some naivety at the beginning but I see the fans now. Even though we are a small club, they support us, they believe in us and they were with us even after some tough times.”

Leeds United are enjoying a new era on the field. They have played Champions League football before at Elland Road — no other team has achieved that feat at this scale — but did not start playing in the EPL until 2016-17. After the team qualified for the Europa League last season, Radrizzani embarked on a much-needed overhaul of the squad. The changes began with the transfer of Terence Kongolo from Monaco, although it took Radrizzani until February to finally accept the loan of former Olympique de Marseille midfielder, Souleymane Doukara. Doukara is the first French player to have arrived at Elland Road since 1997.

This week, on their way to Thailand for a friendly match against Thailand’s U21 side, Chris Wood and Pablo Hernandez both showed signs of pace and physical strength that prompted some to forget that Leeds are a much less imposing opponent than one would expect.

While the squad may yet struggle in the Premier League, they at least have staked a claim for the second spot in League One.

Read the full story at The Independent.


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