Leeds United promoted back to Premier League for first time in 16 years

17 July 2020, 19:34 | Updated: 18 July 2020, 01:22

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Leeds United have been promoted back to the Premier League for the first time in 16 years after West Brom failed to win at Huddersfield.

The West Yorkshire club are returning to top-flight football for the first time since 2004 after relegation-threatened Huddersfield Town nicked a last-minute 2-1 victory against promotion-contenders West Bromwich Albion.

It means Leeds are now guaranteed a top-two finish with just two Sky Bet Championship games remaining.

They are on 87 points at the top of the table following a 1-0 win against bottom-placed Barnsley on Thursday.

West Brom, who remain on 82 points, have one game left to play and will move down to third - and more importantly out of the automatic promotion spots - if Brentford avoid a loss away to Stoke on Saturday.

Huddersfield's win on Friday more or less guarantees safety this season, moving them six points clear of the drop-zone with just one game to play.

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Leeds manager Marcelo Bielsa will try to establish them as a Premier League club when he returns next season, with the side lasting 12 years in the top-flight at the last time of asking.

They were the last team to win the domestic title prior to the advent of the Premier League in 1992, staying put for over a decade before being relegated in 2004 as the Premier League put in place a three-year £1.2billion deal for domestic television broadcast rights.

During their absence, they spent three seasons in the third tier of English football - the first time doing so in the club's history.

Leeds' debts had spiralled to over £100million in 2003 under former chairman Peter Ridsdale and there were fears the club could go out of business.

They were forced to sell all their players and other assets, including Elland Road Stadium and their Thorp Arch academy, and have since stumbled from crisis to crisis under a succession of different owners.

Leeds United Football Club have been promoted back to the Premier League
Leeds United Football Club have been promoted back to the Premier League. Picture: PA
Leeds return to top-flight football for the first time since 2004
Leeds return to top-flight football for the first time since 2004. Picture: PA

Leeds went into administration in 2007 under Ken Bates and fared little better under subsequent owners GFH Capital before the arrival of controversial Italian Massimo Cellino.

During Cellino's chaotic three-year ownership Leeds had seven different managers, but current owner Andrea Radrizzani bought a 50 per cent stake in Leeds in January 2017 to signal the dawning of a new era.

Radrizzani purchased the remaining 50 per cent from Cellino the following May and Leeds made a bold statement of intent by appointing Marcelo Bielsa in the summer of 2018.

It was an expensive gamble, but Bielsa proved an instant hit, transforming the same squad he inherited into genuine promotion challengers in his first season.

Liverpool midfielder James Milner, who started his career at Leeds, tweeted: "Congratulations LUFC. #backwhereyoubelong #MOT"

Leeds winger Gjanni Alioski wrote on Instagram: "The Whites are going up!"

Former Leeds defender Dominic Matteo, who made over 100 appearances for the club when they were last in the Premier League, hailed manager Marcelo Bielsa.

"Every player who plays for Leeds United, he's made better," Matteo told Sky Sports. "There's not many managers you can say that about anywhere in the world.

"All credit needs to go to Marcelo Bielsa and his staff and all the people who have backed him because he knew his stuff inside out and he's so thorough.

"There's nobody happier than me tonight. He's been an incredible character. I love him. Every time he speaks we want to listen.

"The Klopps and the Guardiolas - he's at that kind of level. People love to hear what he has to say, even though we can't understand him sometimes."

Former Leeds goalkeeper Nigel Martyn tweeted: "Congratulations to everyone at @LUFC on promotion, so pleased for the management, players and most importantly the fans. The football has been amazing to watch and it's fully deserved. Now go and win it outright!!"

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