Leeds United begin the 2020s top of the league. The league in this case is the Championship, the second tier of English football. Here, for the sixth month in a row on this Blog, is a screenshot taken from the BBC website confirming the current state of things. As you can see, Leeds are ahead of West Bromwich Albion on goal difference and both teams are 9 points clear of Fulham in third place.
As noted rather often on these pages (most recently in yesterday’s musings about the start of this new decade) I have followed Leeds since childhood. As yesterday’s piece noted, this is the fourth decade in a row that begins with the team at the top of their league. I learnt this fact last weekend while watching “EFL on Quest”, the highlights show that covers the second, third and fourth tiers of English football (the Championship, League One and League Two respectively).
10 years ago Leeds were top of League One, on their way to promotion in May 2010 after three seasons at that level. Here’s another screenshot from the BBC website showing how things were 10 years ago.
At the start of the 21st century Leeds were top of the Premier League, a point ahead of Manchester United, who would go on to win the title comfortably. Arsenal were runners-up and Leeds were third, their only Premier League finish to earn a place in the Champions League. In the seasons either side of that 1999/2000 campaign Leeds finished fourth, but in those days only the top three from England qualified for Europe’s top competition. Here’s a screenshot from premierleague.com showing the table as it was on 1 January 2000, with Sunderland in fourth place.
Ten years before that, at the start of 1990, Leeds were top of the old Division Two, on their way back to the first tier of English football after 8 seasons away. It was 19 months before the first web page was created, so there are no online articles from the time detailing how Leeds and Sheffield United were promoted from the second tier, and Liverpool won the old Division One title that season. (Incidentally, if you want to take a look at the first page ever posted on the web, click here.)
I have written before about sporting precedents on this Blog. This lengthy piece from last May looks at those relating to Leeds and Liverpool. Last season both teams were top of their respective divisions on Christmas Day. Most seasons the leaders at Christmas go on to win the Premier League and get promoted from the Championship, but that did not happen last year. This season the omens look a whole lot better. Liverpool are 13 points clear of second-placed Leicester, with a game in hand. Leeds are top of the Championship, and on the last two occasions that the team has started a decade in a lower division they have won promotion. I shall take comfort from that fact whatever the result of today’s big game, West Brom v Leeds, kick-off 5.15pm.