Exciting times as Leeds United end long wait for Premier League return – Sue Smith

I was very lucky that when I played for Leeds United Women, I saw the club pretty much at its peak, a Champions League side competing at home and abroad.

I could never have imagined it would be out of the Premier League for 16 years.

Now they are back the thought of Leeds pitting their wits against the best again is really exciting.

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The first game at Elland Road under lights with fans allowed back in is going to be special.

THE MAN WHO CAN: Leeds United manager Marcelo Bielsa. Picture: Mike Egerton/PA

The way they play football is how I like to play, working hard to win the ball back quickly when they lose it and attacking with real purpose.

It will also be great to see a coach like Marcelo Bielsa who is very charismatic and different in his approach in the top division.

It is an easy line for pundits to trot out that Leeds are a big club but they are.

They have a big fanbase and Elland Road has a great atmosphere.

Leeds United fans celebrate outside Elland Road after Huddersfield Town beat West Bromwich Albion to seal their promotion to the Premier League. Picture: Nick Potts/PA

I would regularly watch the first team there in my time at the club so I know it can be quite intense and daunting at times but it is the sort of ground you look forward to experiencing as an away fan or player.

Sometimes that passion can make it a nervy place but I have been at games where it has been 0-0 and tense and suddenly a Leeds player puts in a big tackle or nice bit of skill and there is a massive roar.

You can see the players getting a big lift from it.

Any professional footballer would absolutely love playing in front of a crowd like that.

Leeds United fans celebrate their promotion to the Premier League at Elland Road following Huddersfield Town's win against West Brom. Picture Bruce Rollinson

The city has been waiting for this for so long and suffered a lot of hardship along the way. My Leeds-supporting friends refused to say they were going to get promoted even when it had become obvious to the rest of us.

Certainly Leeds have the squad to compete.

They showed that at Arsenal in the FA Cup, where they were massively in the game.

Two midfielders in particular have stood out for me this season.

Leeds United's players celebrate a goal by Mateusz Klich on their way to a 4-0 win over v Middlesborough at Elland Road last November. Picture: Simon Hulme

Pablo Hernandez is just different class and can change a game with the quality of his passes. Some of them just make you go, ‘Wow!’

He is certainly capable of performing in the Premier League but he is 35 and you worry how long he can go on for. Hernandez is the player Leeds always look to, and they could do with bringing in someone else who is a bit younger too.

I have seen games where Bielsa substituted Kalvin Phillips early because it just was not working that day, but he has not sulked, he has just got on with it.

He is so effective protecting the back four and starting attacks and as a Leeds lad, you can see how much it means to him.

My biggest concern for next season is they must be sharper in front of goal.

The Cardiff City game was a case in point.

They were the better team and created a lot of opportunities, but lost 2-0.

A lot of criticism is pointed towards Patrick Bamford but you can see how much his team-mates appreciate his work and it fits in with the way Bielsa wants to play but he gets into some fantastic positions to score and does not get enough goals.

To have scored 16 this season is not a bad return but when you consider the amount of chances his team-mates create for him and he creates for himself he could be nearer 30.

But it is going to be an exciting season for Leeds.

I cannot wait to see how it pans out.