Promoted Leeds United will benefit the Premier League in terms of brand and exposure after ending a 16-year exile, says former boss Howard Wilkinson.
West Brom’s defeat by Huddersfield on Friday ensured the Whites automatically secured a place in the top flight.
Leeds’ average home attendances exceed 35,000, while the legacy of previous success attracts worldwide support.
“It means more to the Premier League than maybe it does to Leeds,” Wilkinson told BBC Sport.
“They’ll bring a lot to the party, if they do well. They’ll add to the attraction of that league, which is now a worldwide league in terms of spectators.
“I don’t think any club deserves to be there, but it’s got a lot of ingredients which help it become a big club if it goes about it the right way.”
Full houses and big atmospheres
With television coverage one of the biggest money-spinners for Premier League football, Leeds will prove an attractive draw, even before fans are allowed back into stadiums following the coronavirus pandemic.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side’s New Year’s Day game with promotion rivals West Brom drew a bigger audience than 26 Premier League matches on satellite television this season up to 9 February, and the club has been the most-watched in the division for this season.
Once fans do come back – with the government outlining plans for an October return on Friday – the visual and aural impact of capacity crowds and large away followings will be another boost for clubs, broadcasters and the league itself.
“Every single game will be massive,” former Leeds defender Danny Mills told BBC Sport. “Leeds will sell out every single seat away from home, it doesn’t matter where it is.
“The home games – once fans are allowed back in, hopefully that’s going to be before too long – that’s what it’s all about, the fans. Relate that to Bielsa as well and the way that they play, I think it’s an absolute firecracker.”
Building a team to survive and thrive
Bielsa has already built a team which has swept its way through the Championship with style and substance, as much about fitness and high-pressing defence has it has been the flair and skill of the attack.
Several members of the team Wilkinson built to get Leeds out of the old Second Division in 1989-90 went on to play a key role in the side that won the 1992 First Division title, including Mel Sterland, David Batty, Gordon Strachan, Gary Speed and Lee Chapman.
Others, like midfield enforcers Vinnie Jones and Chris Kamara, were moved on having done the job they were brought in for at second-tier level.
Arguably, the difficulties teams such as Fulham and Aston Villa have faced following promotion in recent seasons show that the gap between the leagues has grown in the past 30 years, but the success enjoyed by Wolves and Sheffield United offers encouragement.
Mills said there will be a balance to be struck between overhauling the squad or allowing the team that has won promotion to take on the Premier League’s best.
“They have to be sensible,” Mills said. “They can’t go and spend ridiculous amounts of money, but I think what we’ve seen from Marcelo Bielsa is that that’s not his way.
“He runs a very, very small squad of players. Of course to stay in the Premier League you’re probably have to add to that, he probably has to bring in a bit of extra quality.
“I think the owner has been very sensible with what they’re doing. Of course there is a little bit of investment from other places that could take the club to the next level if they so wish. But it needs to be done in stages.”
Bielsa – doing a Frank Sinatra
Head coach Bielsa is a household name in world football, and now will get the chance to test his skills in the Premier League.
Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola is one of his great fans, and will now be pitting his wits against the former Marseille and Athletic Bilbao manager in the top flight.
Hardcore training sessions, tagged ‘Murderball’, and intense diet and fitness regimes have made their mark, as has his relentless style of play on the Leeds side.
“He’s certainly unique, he’s got his own way of doing things, so he’s true to himself and authentic,” Wilkinson added.
“He’s different – and he’s brave enough to be different, because he must have a self-confidence about what he does and how he does it.
“That’s enormously valuable when you’re a manager, because that’s your biggest weapon – influence – and that influence grows when you’ve got their respect and they think you’re honest.
“What they get is what they see. Over two seasons he’s shown, like Frank Sinatra isn’t it? He’ll do it ‘My Way’. He certainly does it his way.”