Burton Albion v Leeds United: Whites look to follow example of Howard Wilkinson’s glory boys

Champions: Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson holds aloft the championship trophy in front of thousands of adoring fans in May, 1992. Picture: YPN
Champions: Leeds United manager Howard Wilkinson holds aloft the championship trophy in front of thousands of adoring fans in May, 1992. Picture: YPN
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‘DO you want to win?’ is a new documentary film about Leeds United’s re-birth under Howard Wilkinson that receives its premiere in the city on Monday.

The title relates to the challenge laid down to not just the players and supporters by Wilkinson on taking charge at Elland Road in October, 1988, but Leeds itself.

At the time, United were fourth-bottom in the old Second Division and in grave danger of slipping into the third tier for the first time in history. Leeds, Wilkinson felt at the time, resembled a “beaten up old picture of the glory days under Don Revie”. Three-and-a-half years later, Leeds were back at the summit of English football.

Fast-forward a quarter of a century and the 17th manager to try and fill the huge footballing shoes of Wilkinson must be tempted to issue a similar challenge of his own.

After nigh on five months occupying a play-off place, Garry Monk’s Leeds are suddenly on the outside looking in ahead of today’s first competitive visit to Burton Albion.

All is far from lost, however, with a quirk of the fixture list that sends Fulham, the team who deposed Leeds in the top six last Monday, to Sheffield Wednesday on the final day of the regular season, meaning United’s fate is still in their own hands.

LEVEL-HEADED: Leeds UniteD boss Garry Monk. Picture: Simon Hulme

LEVEL-HEADED: Leeds UniteD boss Garry Monk. Picture: Simon Hulme

Take a maximum nine points from their three remaining games and the West Yorkshire club’s dreams of a Premier League return via the play-offs will very much be alive.

For Monk, this is a challenge to embrace and one the 38-year-old believes his players will rise to.

“This season’s Championship has been hugely competitive,” said the United head coach. “The quality that we have faced and that we have had to produce ourselves to put ourselves in this position has been huge.

“I think the players should be very proud of what they have done, I think everyone should be proud of it. But now the objective is to get into the play-offs, to make this final push.

Our mindset is to take care of our own business. We are not going to be sat there looking, watching and hoping for anything else.

Leeds United manager, Garry Monk.

“We are determined and I am sure that everyone connected, including our fans, are ready for it.

“I know that this club, when it has a challenge put in front of it, comes together. I also know they (the supporters) will be ready to support the boys and give everything, just as the players will be.

“The key is to leave everything out on the pitch. Give our maximum, as we know that, more often than not, when we do that it is good enough. And if it isn’t, then it won’t be for a lack of effort.”

Leeds’s stumbles during the run-in – Monk’s side have won just twice in eight games – are similar to those suffered by the club when it last truly tasted glory via that title win of 1992.

Four-goal thrashings at QPR and Manchester City for Wilkinson’s men during that Spring seemed to have handed the initiative to Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. Then, though, Wilkinson went back to basics and the team that had got Leeds into such a promising position in the first place.

His reward was a 13-point haul from those final five games and a title triumph that, 25 years on, will next week be immortalised in film.

Monk’s task is to get the current crop sporting the famous white jersey similarly refocused ahead of away trips to struggling duo Burton and Wigan Athletic that sandwich next week’s home encounter with Norwich City.

“Our mindset is to take care of our own business,” said the United head coach. “We are not going to be sat there looking, watching and hoping for anything else.

“We have to take care of our own business. Our mindset is to win our three games. It has to be that way and we have proven that we can win three games in a row already this season, we just have to go and do it again.

“Is it easy? No. But it is it achievable? For sure, 100 per cent.”

In nine of the past 10 seasons, 74 points has been enough to clinch a place in the play-offs – albeit in a couple of those years on goal difference.

If Leeds can win at the Pirelli Stadium today, Monk’s men would move on to 76 points and yet still be far from certain that their season can be extended beyond May 7.

Monk added: “The cynical part of you just thinks that 73 points, which we have already achieved, has been the average for the last 20 years.

“The fact that we might finish on 82 points and only just get in there just shows you how competitive it is.

“But, inside, we are thinking about the three games and that we need to win all three. That won’t change, no matter what the situation is.”