Rob DawsonCorrespondent4 Minute Reading
LEEDS, England — “Leeds are down again” Tottenham fans chanted in their corner of Elland Road. Leeds United supporters at the other end of the stadium thought briefly about staging their own meltdown but joined in instead. Their team was down and they couldn’t deny it.
In a game Leeds need to win to stay up, they lost 4-1 with barely a flicker of a fight.
The next time Leeds are here, they’ll be playing in the Championship, swapping fixtures with Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal for games against Plymouth Argyle and Rotherham United, and they’ll have only themselves to blame.
After going down the drain a year ago and only surviving with a win over Brentford on the final day, this season has been riddled with mistakes on and off the pitch.
How was Jesse Marsch allowed to continue as manager until February? How was a club record fee for Georginio Rutter wasted in the January transfer window so the striker barely played? How do you manage to concede almost 80 goals in a Premier League season? And how do you go from Marcelo Bielsa to Sam Allardyce — via Marsch and Javi Gracia — in just over a year?
Most of those questions will be answered by owner Andrea Radrizzani, who has returned the club to the division he found them in six years ago.
Supporters want him gone, and 49ers Enterprises, which owns 44% of the club, wants a full takeover, but the issue of who will rule the boardroom next season is still up in the air. Allardyce said afterwards that “it’s the first thing that needs fixing” this summer. Only then can he decide who will be the manager and what the squad will look like. Allardyce has not ruled out staying, although a record of four games, three defeats and 11 goals conceded has done him no favours.
In his postmatch news conference, he apologized to the fans but also pointed the finger of blame at his players, insisting the biggest difference between Leeds and Tottenham was “unforced errors”. It’s 90 minutes of self-harm. Even before the game, Allardyce wrote in his program notes that Leeds were “punished for the mistakes we made” and it was no different against Spurs.
Within the first 30 seconds, Weston McKennie fluffed a simple pass, giving the ball to Son Heung-Min. Leeds never saw it again until they were 1-0 down, and after watching Pedro Porro sneak past Pascal Struijk to set up the chance for Harry Kane, Allardyce could only stand on the touchline and shook his head.
As VAR reviewed the goal, the home fans began chanting in support of Bielsa, the famous former manager who was sacked in 2022, and Jack Harrison and Rodrigo got into an argument.
And as if conceding enough within the first two minutes of the first half, Leeds did it again in the second. Kane preferring the ball to Liam Cooper, Struijk had a chance to clear the pass but Porro made a mistake and finished it, ending any glimmering hopes of a dramatic Leeds breakaway.
Disappointment with the status quo has long since turned to anger. Chants of “you’re not fit to wear the shirt” were directed at the players as Italian broadcasting boss Radrizzani was told to “sell the club and f— at home”.
News of an Everton goal at Goodison Park then filtered in, and the first Leeds fans began to leave the stadium, just over half an hour before full-time. They didn’t get Harrison a goal back for Leeds, who then, following a disastrous performance, conceded another goal to Kane.
Allardyce reflected ruefully afterwards that “you’d think they’d learned from the first two, but they didn’t.”
When a pitch invader ran out and dodged a pair of burly security staff before being wrestled to the floor, he was serenaded by home fans who sang “sign him up” and “he’s shown more fight than you.” It’s hard to argue Leeds did so little to help themselves.
The fourth goal from Lucas Moura was a great moment for the Brazilian in his last appearance for Spurs, but it only happened because of more woeful Leeds defending. Leeds have conceded 157 top-flight goals since the start of last season, more than any other side in Europe’s top five leagues. It’s a stat that reeks of relegation.
It’s tempting on days like these to suggest that a club the size of Leeds will return to the Premier League any time soon, but their fans know better than most that it’s not that simple. The last time they were relegated from the top flight in 2004, it took them 16 years to come back, and their spell away also included three seasons in the third division of English football.
Leeds have fallen, but the question now is how quickly can they bounce back?