Paul Robinson backing Leeds United to return to the elite

Confident: Former Leeds goalkeeper 'Paul Robinson.
Confident: Former Leeds goalkeeper 'Paul Robinson.
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A decade-and-a-half has elapsed since Leeds United last dined at English football’s top table.

The intervening years have offered up precious few realistic opportunities to return there.

Barring a play-off final defeat two years after their exit from the Premier League, it has mostly been a tale of struggle and one off-field issue after another.

But the wait to return to the promised land may soon be over, according to former Whites’ goalkeeper Paul Robinson.

Robinson made just shy of a century of appearances for Leeds after coming through the academy and also went on to earn honours for his country along the way before departing for Tottenham Hotspur in 2004 for a seven-figure fee.

Robinson was the second-highest appearance maker during the ill-fated 2003-04 campaign which saw United finish second-bottom in their last top-flight campaign.

At the time, Leeds was a club in crisis, plied with debt.

The picture could not be more different today.

Under Marcelo Bielsa, the Whites are right in the thick of the promotion battle in the Championship, sitting in third place – just a point behind second-placed Sheffield United.

Despite a narrow defeat to the Blades last time out, Leeds’ promotion hopes are very much still alive.

With just eight games remaining of the season, Robinson believes the run-in has the potential to be explosive and that this represents the club’s best chance to return to top flight in years.

“You can see the way that Leeds fans have turned up, week in, week out, what it actually means to this club and the possibility of a return to the Premier League,” Robinson told the YEP.

“Sheffield United, Norwich and West Brom are all getting results at the moment so it’s certainly going to be an interesting end to the season.

“But I still believe this is the best chance Leeds have had to get up in ages.”

Robinson, who won 41 England caps during his playing days, still visits Elland Road when time allows and has been suitably impressed by not only the results Bielsa has delivered but also the Argentine’s methods.

“I think Bielsa has been absolutely brilliant,” added the 39-year-old. “He was a very astute appointment by the owners of the club.

“You can see the type of person that he is and when you look at his work ethic, you can see that is rubbing off on the players.

“They’ve brought in a man whose attention to detail, as we’ve seen in recent weeks, is second to nobody.

“He doesn’t rest – he’s obsessed. He wants to give his players every single piece of information and put every piece of advice into his players that he possibly can do.

“It’s been great the way that he’s changed Leeds’ fortunes around.

“Had we been having this conversation at the beginning of the season then I think most Leeds fans would have taken the play-offs at the beginning of the season.

“To see where they are now, in with a chance of automatic promotion, is a great achievement. I think they can go up. For the first time in years, this is the best chance that they’ve had to do that.”

After leaving Spurs, Robinson went on to represent Blackburn Rovers and Burnley before hanging up his gloves in July 2017.

His post-playing career has seen him signed up as a pundit on beIN sports’ coverage of the Premier League.

He regularly travels to Qatar and conducts his role alongside the likes of punditry stalwarts Richard Keys and Andy Gray although he admits he still has one eye on entering the precarious world of management.

“I thoroughly enjoy it,” he added. “I was out in Qatar for the World Cup and I get out there as and when.

“But I’m also doing my coaching badges as well and that’s something I’ve not ruled out further down the line.

“Coaching-wise, at the moment it doesn’t appeal to me.

“Management has always been at the back of my mind. Goalkeepers, historically speaking, don’t make great managers maybe bar one or two such as Nuno Espirito Santo at Wolves.

“You maybe find some club chairmen that are reluctant to hire goalkeepers as managers.

“But it is something I’ve harboured for quite a while and, if I have my badges and something materialises further down the line, then I may explore it.

“The badges also help me with my punditry so, rather than just sitting there as an ex-player, you’re actually sitting there as a coach and you’re qualified as a coach.

“People who watch football are very, very knowledgeable.

“They don’t need me or anyone else to sit there and tell them what they already know.

“People want a bit more from pundits now.”

n Paul Robinson is an official ambassador for Fansbet who pass 50 per cent of their profits generated by users to recognised supporters’ groups. See www.fansbet.com