In early December, I wrote a piece on my points prediction for the season. It’s worth another read today, but I discussed where exactly I expected our points to come from. I impartially dissected every game and reached a total of 81 points - a total I still assume will be enough for us to achieve a play-off place.
To reach that number, I put us at 60 points at the end of February. Currently Leeds have 61 points... so I’m feeling pretty good about it.
However, as we reach the ‘business end’ of the season, I still commonly hear the question...
‘Can Leeds actually gain promotion?’
The cynic in me knows that at this stage, in theory, any team within the top 15 places could potentially go up. In previous seasons, both Reading and Crystal Palace had late surges and reached the Premier League.
However, I genuinely do believe that Leeds can gain promotion, and the optimism I have gained through watching this Leeds side throughout the last 34 games has given me an honest belief that we can do it automatically.
People will undoubtedly comment on the points difference between us and the top 2 at the end of February. However, at this stage of the season, the true promotion contenders are often just finding their feet, and I would rather be doing the chasing than the ones being chased. The fear of failing to meet the expectations teams have created for themselves is often, ultimately, their downfall.
Before Saturday’s victory against Sheffield Wednesday, we all dreaded that the recent dip in form may cost us our playoff chance. Instead, the importance of Saturday’s victory is highlighted by the fact I am now writing suggesting automatic promotion is a possibility, and that we finished above my three-month-old prediction for this point in the season.
Brighton & Hove Albion were the only other team within the top 6 to pick up points, as they beat Reading with ease 3-0.
We now currently find ourselves 9 points away from Newcastle in 2nd, and people may highlight the fact Newcastle also have a game in hand, but this is against Brighton, and I pray to see Brighton win. (That said, for all I hope to hear the Leeds United fans singing ‘Pontus Jansson’s Magic' all night, I expect we won’t win the Championship outright.)
If Brighton beat Newcastle, that means the Magpies would have only won 1 in 4 Championship games. They also have Huddersfield, Reading and Fulham to come in the next 3 weeks, and with talk about their managers’ departure for Asia, growing uncertainty for the north-east outfit may be a gain for us.
Due to the international break, we only have 4 fixtures in March: Birmingham, Fulham, QPR, and yes, Brighton.
For me, the month of March always separates the men from the boys. It is where teams can flicker between a feeling of hopefulness and trepidation within every fixture. Now, we have the momentum to push forward next month and catch the top 2.
I understand that people may believe we should be focusing on the realism that the automatic places are beyond us, but we should look at what this team have achieved so far this season, not only on the pitch but what they have created through the Leeds United fan base.
Not since the Champions League era has a Leeds team connected with the fans like this. The atmosphere and the positivity around the club is overwhelming to see and we wondered if that feeling would return to our great club... and it has. Nobody thought we would be anywhere near the top 6... and we are.
I have confidence and trust in Garry Monk and these players, and I believe great things will happen with this squad. Bring on March. MOT