League Insider - Leeds
James Riach looks at Leeds' position in the Championship following their victory over QPR.
Last Updated: 17/01/11 11:48am
From despair to elation - so far it has been a season of contrasts for Leeds United.
Capitulations against Preston, Barnsley and Cardiff have left Whites fans tearing their hair out, but there have also been emphatic victories - most notably against Coventry, Burnley and Scunthorpe.
Saturday's mightily impressive 2-0 success over league leaders Queens Park Rangers made it three wins on the bounce for Simon Grayson's men, and thanks to a brace from Max Gradel Leeds are now unbeaten in nine.
It has been six-and-a-half years since the sleeping giants graced the Premier League, and in the time between that ill-fated implosion it is fair to say their fans have experienced the full spectrum of human emotion.
A play-off final meltdown against Watford was soon followed by relegation to League One - then came a 15-point penalty and more disappointment in the play-offs, losing in the final to Doncaster and then in the semi-finals to Millwall.
No wonder then, that Leeds' dramatic promotion last term was met with scenes of pure and unbridled joy as supporters poured onto the Elland Road pitch to express an all-too-rare feeling.
Following that remarkable win over Bristol Rovers it seemed that the footballing gods had finally decided Leeds had served their sentence - the first obstacle on their road back to the top had been overcome.
Now they find themselves in the automatic promotion spots in the second-tier having played 22 games this term, and the question has to be asked - have they got what it takes to stay there?
The honest answer is nobody knows. Only a fool would try and predict the outcome of this Championship campaign with its usual unpredictable nature and perplexing results.
Saturday's performance against QPR indicates that they certainly have the ability to achieve something though. It was not just the result against Rangers that impressed but the way that Leeds dismantled their opponents and could have won by more than a two-goal margin.
If Luciano Becchio, who penned a new three-and-a-half-year contract at the weekend, can keep firing and if the likes of Robert Snodgrass, Jonny Howson and Gradel continue to improve week-by-week then they will most likely be there or thereabouts.
The defence is a bit more questionable, having conceded 35 goals this season, but the arrival of Andy O'Brien on loan has certainly shored things up at the back.
Grayson will most likely look to bolster his backline in January should he be given the opportunity by Ken Bates, and while there are still major uncertainties regarding the club's ownership, the relationship with the manager and chairman seems to be running smoothly.
However, certain sections of the support have questioned whether it would, in fact, be beneficial to earn back-to-back promotions. A club that has endured some torrid times in recent years could do with some stability they argue, and a period of consolidation to strengthen the squad would aid the side further in the long term.
This is all well and good if promotion is guaranteed next season, but who is to say that even with new blood Leeds would be in a better position than they are now?
With the disappointments that they have endured of late they know that you get no prizes for taking part in this game.
Football clubs must build for the future if they are to survive, but you cannot predict what is going to happen further down the road - if there is a chance to move up the greasy pole then it must be seized with both hands at any opportunity.
If Leeds were to earn promotion back to the top-flight, then the squad would certainly need new faces. But teams coming up from the Championship are now faring better in the Premier League despite the gulf in financial muscle. Just look at what Ian Holloway has done at Blackpool on a threadbare budget.
Even if they came straight back down, a season of sell-out home crowds and parachute payments would ensure they would be in a stronger financial position anyway.
It is no wonder, though, that such concerns have been raised given the farcical mismanagement of the club that lead to its downfall - it is understandable why some fans are cautious about any quick rise back to prominence.
And it would be folly get carried away here. While Leeds are currently in a strong position, the nature of the Championship is such that a few bad results could see them drop right out of contention.
Only 10 points separate second and16th place in the division, and in a league where anybody can beat anybody on their day, there will be many twists and turns to come.
Let us also remember that Leeds have a woeful record in the play-offs, and even if they manage to finish in the top six they know all-too-well that it could be for nothing at the end of the day.
But many were expecting the club to be battling it out at the bottom of the table before the start of the campaign, and avoiding relegation was the priority after moving up by the skin of their teeth from League One.
So whatever happens between now and May - objective one seems to have been achieved.
Whenever they do return to the Premier League in future, because return they will at some point, the fans may look back on this period in the wilderness with remarkable fondness in a time when the modern game is dominated by corporate big-wigs and poultry specialists who are extremely detached from the everyday supporter.
Leeds fans should not worry about the ifs, buts and maybes that a potentially successful year would bring, instead just enjoy the ride (if possible).