Do Leeds Warrant Favourtism in the Championship Title Odds?

Do Leeds Warrant Favourtism in the Championship Title Odds?

There is a series of films which have been made about Leeds United entitled: The Wilderness Years.

It tells you much about the trials and tribulations of the club that there are no less than 19 episodes in all. And that just covers 1975 until 1988.

A lot has happened – good and bad – since then, including a Football League Division One Championship triumph in 1992 and an assault on Champions League glory which reached all the way to the semi-finals in 2001.

But the events of last Spring alone when Leeds were agonisingly denied a return to the top flight – where they really belong – after a 15-year absence are surely worth another movie chapter all of their own.

The biggest club outside of the Premier League is preparing for the new season with Leeds the bookmakers’ favourites in the Championship title odds, with Fulham, Cardiff City, West Bromwich Albion, Middlesbrough and Stoke City in the running behind them respectively.

Championship Title Odds

ClubTitle OddsBookies
Leeds5/1Bet635
Fulham8/1Ladbrokes
Cardiff10/1William Hill
West Brom12/1RedZone
Middlesbrough14/1Betfair
Stoke14/1Paddy Power
Derby18/1Unibet

But it’s always worth remembering that pain and disappointment often come with a particularly acute edge at Elland Road, no matter how much things looked stacked in their favour.

After all, there is a good reason that Wilderness Years series of films begins in 1975.

That was the year Leeds reached the high-point of the European Cup final but lost on a night tarnished by crowd violence against Bayern Munich in Paris.

In fact, of the five European finals they reached between 1967 and 1975, they lost three.

Between 1966 and 1974, they won two league titles but were runners-up four times. There was plenty of glory under Don Revie, but even more near misses.

There were huge achievements but a nagging, wistful sense that there could have been even more.

New Dawn?

Fast forward to Argentine super-coach Marcelo Bielsa’s first season in charge last year.

For one sizeable chunk of it between late November and mid-February, they were never out of the top two even though most pundits agreed they had a squad which was only mid-table quality at best.

Bielsa, 63, surprised the game when he took charge in Yorkshire after an illustrious career which had included a long spell in charge of his homeland’s national side as well as another with Chile – and who sprung another surprise when Leeds immediately began last season with an eight-game unbeaten run.

With four games to go, they were second again after a timely run of three wins in four.

Somehow, they ended up third after three defeats and a draw in the final run-in.

But even worse was to come after they were catapulted into the playoffs, with a 1-0 first leg win in the semi-final against sixth-placed Derby County chucked away in a tumultuous 4-2 defeat in the return match at home.

It was a stunning set-back. The kind which made the clubs supporters feel like they would always be haunted by past glories such but never recapture them. And which might yet have a psychological knock-on effect in the coming campaign.

Bielsa was so distraught he considered activating a break clause in his two-year contract and heading for pastures new.

Cause For Optimism

Optimism is resurgent already, though. And it is the decision of Bielsa to remain in charge for a second season which has been the key factor in determining the odds.

There is a chance that he may not be able to work his magic twice. It’s a tough and draining division. But still, Leeds are 5/1 leaders in the Championship betting market with Ladbrokes, William Hill and Bet365.

They have been busy early in the transfer window, too with winger Jack Harrison arriving on loan from Manchester City and defender Ben White coming in a similar agreement with Brighton.

Leeds’ own promising winger, Jack Clarke, was sold to Spurs in a £10 million deal but immediately returned to Elland Road, also on loan for the season.

The exciting forward Helder Costa will be on way from Wolves on loan soon, too.

None of it represents big spending. But it does get the new players embedded into working with Bielsa and his unique methods early in pre-season training, which could be significant.

Newly-relegated Fulham – with Scott Parker freshly-installed as permanent boss – are the second favourites at 8/1 with the top bookmakers, with the prognosis being that these two clubs will occupy the two automatic promotion places come next May.

Cardiff City, under the command of the veteran promotion specialist Neil Warnock, are third in the running at 10/1.

Meanwhile, the arrival of the charismatic Slaven Bilic at West Bromwich Albion has ensured that some football betting traders fancy them more than Cardiff – they are the fourth most fancied side in the division.

Ladbrokes price them at 9/1, while others such as William Hill have them out at 12/1.

It is the Bielsa Factor which is seen as the most important issue of all, however.

Can it work twice? A long gruelling winter in the Championship’s trenches may be a challenge too far, even for a former coach of Lazio, Marseilles and Athletic Bilbao.

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