x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Leeds keen to roll back the years tonight

Five years is a very long time in football. No one needs to remind Leeds United followers of that fact; their plight during that time has been painful to bear.

Five years is a very long time in football. No one needs to remind Leeds United followers of that fact; their plight during that time has been painful to bear. The last time they met Liverpool at Elland Road was in 2004 for a Premier League meeting that ended 2-2. Leeds held their own that day, but it proved a season to forget, a defining moment in their 90-year history. Few will forget the sight of a tearful Alan Smith after defeat at Bolton consigned them to relegation, precipitating four years in the wilderness in the lower divisions. A glorious run in 2001 saw them reach the semi-finals of the Champions League. That now seems a dream as only nightmares followed.

The former captain, Lucas Radebe, said: "Everyone would come into training and you would wonder if you would see them the next day. Every player was for sale and how can a club survive when that happens? It was a really depressing time." Dominic Matteo was also captain during that bleak period and he said: "It hasn't been an easy time since they went out of the Premier League, but things seemed to have turned again," he said. "They have got some good players and a very good young manager."

When Leeds renew past rivalries with Liverpool tonight for an intriguing Carling Cup third-round tie, it will provide a yearning for a return to those good old days. Top of League One, on a run of 17 unbeaten home games, there is hope that Leeds will rejoin the elite. When Don Revie took charge in 1961, the club was struggling in the old Second Division and also beset by financial problems. But he turned them into one of Europe's leading teams.

It would seem impossible to emulate that, but Simon Grayson has the opportunity to write his chapter in the club's history. akhan@thenational.ae