The term ‘surprise package’ is a common term often used in the Championship. It applies to a team who at the beginning of season no-one expected to challenge at the higher end of the table, and yet, somehow, the club gains promotion to the Premier League.
So far this season, Leeds United are the team riding high, the team tagged as the potential ‘surprise package’ of 2017.
But in football and in life, you make our own luck. To make it, you have to start with a winning mindset. And throughout the club, from the top to the bottom, the mindset has changed.
#LeedsUnited league wins:— Goodbrand Stats (@StatsChristian) January 13, 2017
2016-17: 15 (26 games)
2015-16: 14 (46 games)
2014-15: 15 (46 games)#Leeds #lufc #mot pic.twitter.com/6RDcc0g6Ls
There are various elements which must be aligned perfectly for this to be a possibility: a decent management team, players who gel correctly and a little luck along the way.
Within Leeds United, those elements have finally aligned and formed a formidable structure.
However, I have another theory for why teams like the whites suddenly become actual contenders after years of trying.
As football fans, we are always full of hope that our retrospective side will achieve great things, but this can sometimes be misinterpreted as expectation - the two merge into one and the lines become very blurred. And it’s when a club separates the two that real progression is made.
As fans of a club like Leeds United, we have all expected our club to reach the heights of the Premier League since the relegation all those years ago. Even when we dropped into the third tier of English football, we still felt the team should rise through the division quickly and reach the heights of the Premier League.
When we achieved promotion from League One to the Championship, the momentum from the promotion nearly was enough push us to promotions in successive seasons. But that wasn’t accomplished, and since then, we have lingered in the Championship, slowly seeing the momentum draining from the team and fans.
However, we all still hoped/expected for Leeds to challenge every season. If truth be told, for various factors on and off the pitch, Leeds haven’t been good enough over the last few years.
And now, they are.
Leeds are not the only team to see themselves improve after gaining an acceptance of who they are and what they need to see sustained progression in the league. Huddersfield, Sheffield Wednesday and Reading are all flying high alongside Leeds in the playoff positions and these teams have taken stock, started back at square one and moved forward after building sides based on realistic expectation and not blinded by false hope.
Whilst teams like Aston Villa and Norwich are finding it hard to endure a promotion chase after receiving and spending vast amounts of money after relegation, the expectation is something they are struggling to deal with and in the end, it will likely be their downfall.
At the beginning of the season, many thought Leeds could struggle to improve on the previous seasons finish. We had all accepted the remit of which Leeds are most likely to play within throughout the season. I even think Massimo Cellino himself had gained clarity on the situation and was more patient with Garry Monk in August, something which is different to the norm.
Leeds at home in the Championship this season:— thepunterspage.com (@ThePuntersPage) January 13, 2017
Over 2.5: 4
Failed To Score: 2
Clean sheets: 6
Scored 2+: 6 pic.twitter.com/PWJXWyT1ff
This acceptance allowed Garry Monk and his team to build a formidable squad without any outside distraction causing a problem, gradually creating sustained success for our wonderful club. The momentum has built up gradually and has seen us rise to almost unbelievable heights: we are showing with the right mindset and a little positivity we can even challenge for the title by May.
The managing of expectation at the beginning of the season has meant everything we have so far achieved has been amplified.
We all know the size of the club and the wonderful fan base we possess, and now with quality management and a team all playing towards the same goal, maybe hope can finally become reality. There’s still a long way to go in the League and we are going to lose a few on the way (Barnsley, yes) but whatever happens Leeds are finally on the up, and maybe, maybe, on their way to the Premier League after all. MOT.