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Leeds United fans celebrate Premier League return in streets – despite club’s pleas to stay home

Leeds United fans celebrated their promotion to the Premier League this evening after Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield beat West Brom, by meeting up outside Elland Road stadium. 

The fans, who have waited for 16 years to return to the top flight needed one more point to be guaranteed a return to the top division. When second place West Brom lost this evening, Leeds could no longer drop out of the promotion places.  

It has been a long and often tortuous road back for Leeds, who were relegated from the Premier League in 2004 amid a spectacular financial meltdown.

Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani had asked fans to be mindful of Covid-19 while celebrating. 

He said: ‘The last four months have been incredibly difficult for everyone around the world, but I believe the way our communities have pulled together has been amazing – especially here in Yorkshire where huge progress has been made due to our values and collective spirit.

‘Thanks to the tremendous work of healthcare teams and key workers, and the sacrifices we have all made, the situation has improved.’ 

‘However, my message to you all is that the fight against Covid-19 is not yet over and we must continue to be sensible. I know many of you are desperate to show our boys support during this important week – but the health and well-being of our loved ones in our community must be our top priority.

‘I have always felt that football means little without the presence of fans, and now I know that for sure. However, it is vitally important we stay safe and keep those around us safe too by staying at home.’

Leeds United Fans have gathered outside Elland Road stadium tonight minutes after they were promoted to the top flight

Leeds, who have spent 16 years in the lower leagues did not kick a ball tonight, got promoted after second place West Brom lost to Huddersfield Town

Leeds, who have spent 16 years in the lower leagues did not kick a ball tonight, got promoted after second place West Brom lost to Huddersfield Town

One fan, equipped with a can of Stella Artois and a face mask joined fellow Leeds supporters outside the stadium

One fan, equipped with a can of Stella Artois and a face mask joined fellow Leeds supporters outside the stadium 

Leeds went into administration in 2007 under Ken Bates and fared little better under subsequent owners GFH Capital before the arrival of controversial Italian Massimo Cellino.

During Cellino’s chaotic three-year ownership Leeds had seven different managers, but current owner Andrea Radrizzani bought a 50 per cent stake in Leeds in January 2017 to signal the dawning of a new era.

Radrizzani purchased the remaining 50 per cent from Cellino the following May and Leeds made a bold statement of intent by appointing Marcelo Bielsa in the summer of 2018.

It was an expensive gamble, but Bielsa proved an instant hit, transforming the same squad he inherited into genuine promotion challengers in his first season.

That ended in disappointment when Leeds fell short in the play-offs, but Bielsa and his players have bounced back.

Leeds have continued to light up the Championship with Bielsa’s exciting brand of football and few could begrudge them their place back among the elite.

Their promotion was greeted with joy by a host of their former players. 

Hundreds of fans made their way to Elland Road to celebrate The Whites return to the Premier League after 16 years

Hundreds of fans made their way to Elland Road to celebrate The Whites return to the Premier League after 16 years 

Some fans let off smoke bombs  in blue and yellow outside Elland Road while others cradled cans of lager

Some fans let off smoke bombs  in blue and yellow outside Elland Road while others cradled cans of lager 

Fans celebrated together on their team's promotion to the Premier League outside their Elland Road home

Fans celebrated together on their team’s promotion to the Premier League outside their Elland Road home

Fans draped flags and shirts over the statue of club legend Billy Bremner, pictured, who died in 1997

Fans draped flags and shirts over the statue of club legend Billy Bremner, pictured, who died in 1997

Smoke rose into the sky as fans chanted in good humour following their side's promotion to the Premier League

Smoke rose into the sky as fans chanted in good humour following their side’s promotion to the Premier League 

Former goalkeeper Paul Robinson told Sky Sports: ‘It’s been long-awaited and very long overdue. When I played that last game in 2004, 16 years ago, you never envisaged that Leeds United would be out of the top flight for so long, and even dropping to the third tier of English football.

‘From what Marcelo Bielsa inherited two-and-a-half-years ago – a team that finished 14th in the Championship – to now automatic promotion to the Premiership, it’s absolutely fantastic.

‘The biggest thing Leeds did at the end of last season was keep the manager.

‘We’ve heard plaudits from many managers, Pep Guardiola to name one, that name him as a mentor or guru.

‘He’s an oddball, he’s a scientist, he’s a professor of the game.

‘We’ve seen that with spygate and everything else that comes with him, but it just all adds to the Leeds United history. Love them or loathe them, they’re back in the Premiership.’

Former defender Dominic Matteo also hailed Bielsa, saying: ‘Every player who plays for Leeds United, he’s made better. There’s not many managers you can say that about anywhere in the world.’

Liverpool midfielder James Milner, who started his career at Elland Road, tweeted: ‘Congratulations LUFC. £backwhereyoubelong £MOT’

Former Leeds goalkeeper Nigel Martyn posted: ‘Congratulations to everyone at @LUFC on promotion, so pleased for the management, players and most importantly the fans. The football has been amazing to watch and it’s fully deserved. Now go and win it outright!!’

Ex-Leeds winger Aaron Lennon said on Twitter: ‘Finally!!! Back in the Prem. Congrats @LUFC, What a day for everyone associated with the club and the city. Leeds Leeds Leeds.’

Former Leeds midfielder Vinnie Jones tweeted: ‘Congratulation to @LUFC a long 16 years but now back where they belong! Welldone all the players and coaching staff, Leeds will be bouncing tonight! I’m getting up there!’

Leeds United players, pictured, were in a suite inside the stadium to watch the West Brom - Huddersfield game which saw them promoted to the Premier League

Leeds United players, pictured, were in a suite inside the stadium to watch the West Brom – Huddersfield game which saw them promoted to the Premier League 

Players Luke Ayling and Pablo Hernandez were among the team mates celebrating high up in a suite while socially distancing from the fans

Players Luke Ayling and Pablo Hernandez were among the team mates celebrating high up in a suite while socially distancing from the fans 

 

Leeds fans have rarely praised their managers over the past 16 years, though Argentinian Marcelo Bielsa is an exception

Leeds fans have rarely praised their managers over the past 16 years, though Argentinian Marcelo Bielsa is an exception  

Arsenal striker Eddie Nketiah, who spent the first half of the season on loan at Leeds, tweeted: ‘What a club, what a  set of fans. Welcome back to the Premier League! Proud to have been part of this historic journey.’

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk