IF ever a year epitomised what life can be like in the often weird and sometimes wonderful world of the Championship then it is Leeds United in 2017.
The Elland Road club head to bottom club Birmingham City today looking to bring the curtain down on a topsy-turvy 12 months by claiming all three points.
If Thomas Christiansen’s men can pile further misery on the Blues by winning, United will have collected 19 points from the final seven games of the year.
Such a return would be made all the more bizarre by Leeds having lost seven of the nine games that immediately preceded this strong end to the year.
By any standards, such a turnaround is remarkable. Throw in the fact that head coach Christiansen’s first seven league outings in English football also saw the Dane remain unbeaten and Leeds going from looking nailed on for the play-offs in March to missing out a month or so later, and it is clear just how quickly things can turn in the second tier.
Luke Ayling, who has spent four of the past five seasons in the Championship, appreciates this last point more than most and it is why the full-back refuses to get carried away when things are either going well or badly at Leeds.
I try (to score). Whenever there is a chance, I try. I would love to score. My team-mates are also waiting for me to get this goal.Gaetano Berardi
“It is all so tight and this league has always been like that,” he said, “Certainly for the last few years when I have been in it. It is always so tight and you never get a chance to relax. Every single team fancy themselves.”
Such is the nature of the Championship that even today’s clash at St Andrews between a team horribly out of form and another that has recently stormed back into the play-off places cannot be predicted with any real confidence.
It should, of course, go the way of Leeds with Steve Cotterill’s home side having won just once in a dozen games. But that is not how the Championship works.
What does seem certain today is that Gaetano Berardi will make his 100th appearance for Leeds.
The fans’ favourite joined United in the summer of 2014 and has since gone on to become one of more popular members of the squad – even if Berardi is yet to break his goalscoring duck as a professional.
“I try (to score),” said the Swiss international. “Whenever there is a chance, I try. I would love to score. My team-mates are also waiting for me to get this goal.
“Hopefully, it will happen soon. But I must say I do not have a celebration planned if it does happen.”