Bielsa’s men ahead of sched­ule in bid to em­u­late Wilkin­son’s 1990 cham­pi­ons

Yorkshire Post - Sports Monday - - SPORT - LEE SOBOT SPORTS RE­PORTER ■ Email: [email protected]­me­ ■ Twit­ter: @york­shire­post

LEEDS UNITED looked likely to be fac­ing the prospect of mak­ing history this New Year’s Day.

Marcelo Bielsa’s Whites ap­proached Satur­day’s Cham­pi­onship host­ing of Hull City fol­low­ing seven straight league wins.

The club record stands at nine, achieved un­der Dick Ray in the 1931-32 sea­son.

Alas for Leeds, Satur­day’s 2-0 de­feat to Hull means there will be no equalling of the record come to­mor­row’s game at the City Ground against Not­ting­ham For­est.

Yet Bielsa’s team re­main firmly on course to re­peat more re­cent history of win­ning English foot­ball’s sec­ond di­vi­sion, a feat achieved by Howard Wilkin­son’s Whites in 1989-90 – two sea­sons be­fore United were crowned cham­pi­ons of Eng­land.

Bielsa’s men are al­ready ahead of sched­ule com­pared to the team of 1989-90 with the 2018-19 Whites hav­ing clocked up three more points than Wilkin­son’s men had at the turn of the year and hav­ing played one game fewer.

All eyes will be on how Bielsa’s men re­spond to their week­end loss to Hull and back in 1989-90 de­feat at Barns­ley was fol­lowed only by a 1-1 draw at home to Old­ham Ath­letic.

Win­ing ways were re­sumed with a 2-1 tri­umph at Black­burn Rovers on Jan­uary 13 – the first of 10 more vic­to­ries and six draws from the club’s re­main­ing 21 games.

Ten more wins and six draws for Bielsa’s men would leave them on 87 points – just short of what is nor­mally re­quired – but Wilkin­son’s side won the di­vi­sion with just 85 points in 1990.

The num­ber of points re­quired by Leeds ei­ther to win the Cham­pi­onship or achieve au­to­matic pro­mo­tion will clearly de­pend on how their ri­vals fare with Nor­wich City and West Bromwich look­ing the chief threats.

Back in 1989-90 Leeds edged out Sh­effield United, un­der Dave Bas­sett, for the Sec­ond Di­vi­sion ti­tle on goal dif­fer­ence.

What mat­tered most was the five-point cush­ion back to their open­ing-day con­querors New­cas­tle, who fin­ished third with 80 points, six clear of fourth-placed Swin­don.

Leeds, Sh­effield United and New­cas­tle were that sea­son’s Leeds, Nor­wich and West Brom of to­day.

At the turn of De­cem­ber, 1989, the Blades were sat on 47 points and one point be­hind Leeds af­ter 13 wins and eight draws.

The Mag­pies were way off the pace with just 10 wins and seven draws at this stage of the sea­son – on 37 points and 11 be­hind Leeds.

Six wins in suc­ces­sion in March and April helped close the gap, but not suf­fi­ciently.

The di­vi­sion’s top two then, Leeds and Sh­effield United, had a post-Christ­mas cush­ion over the side that would end up as their clos­est pur­suers and main dan­gers for au­to­matic pro­mo­tion.

To­day Leeds and Nor­wich have cush­ions over the third-placed Bag­gies; five points in Leeds’s case and just two for the Canaries.

Bar a sec­ond half of the sea­son slip-up Leeds are on course to re­peat the hero­ics of 1990. HEAD­ING FOR THE TI­TLE:

Gor­don Strachan and Lee Chap­man cel­e­brate against Sh­effield United be­fore Leeds United play­ers en­joy their open-top bus ride af­ter clinch­ing the Sec­ond Di­vi­sion ti­tle in 1990.

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