‘Marching on Together’ is coming to a Premier League ground near you. Leeds United are BACK.
The Whites secured promotion back to the top-flight without kicking a ball on Friday night after West Brom fell to defeat at Huddersfield.
This has been a long time coming for Leeds. Their 16-year exile from the English top-flight has been rather complex to say the least.
Leeds’ relegation came just three years after reaching the Champions League semi-finals, winning just eight of their 38 league games to go down.
There hasn’t been much to shout about since their 14-year association with the Premier League came to an end in May 2004 following a 4-1 defeat to Bolton.
Bad ownership, administration, relegations, managerial appointments galore, near misses – Leeds fans have seen it all.
But they are finally over the line this season, with Marcelo Bielsa‘s men transforming their fortunes over the last two years.
Make no mistake about it, Leeds are a big football club. To have them in the Premier League will be great, and even their most ardent rivals such as Manchester United will be relishing the prospect of going to toe-to-toe with the Whites once more.
But it has been a mighty long time. To show just how long, here’s what was happening in the world back when Leeds were last in the Premier League…
Friends was still running
Spoiler alert: Ross and Rachel hadn’t even got back together when Leeds were relegated in 2004.
Everyone’s favourite comedy show was yet to reach its conclusion when the Whites’ fate was confirmed with a 4-1 defeat to Bolton on May 2.
The series finale was released four days later and there were so many things we didn’t know. Will Rachel get off the plane? How many babies are Monica and Chandler adopting? And what about Joey’s ducks?
Knowing the answer to these questions doesn’t stop us binging Friends over and over again, and the fact it was still running when Leeds got relegated says a lot about just how long ago that was.
Arsenal were invincible
How things can change in 16 years.
Arsene Wenger‘s 2003/04 Gunners remain the only club in English football to end a 38-game league season without a single defeat – lifting the title with a tally of 90 points.
A number of teams have finished the campaign with more points, with City smashing that total by breaking the 100 barrier two seasons’ ago.
But whether you like it or not, Arsenal will ALWAYS be the Invincibles – at least until someone is able to match their incredible feat!
Leicester and Wolves were relegated, along with Leeds, to the Championship that season.
Meanwhile, Norwich and West Brom secured automatic promotion to the Premier League, with Crystal Palace defeating West Ham to secure the third and final spot via the play-offs.
Eamon and Frankee were very angry with each other
Eamon’s ‘F*** It (I Don’t Want You Back) was top of the charts when Leeds’ relegation was confirmed. Remember that one?
The best way to describe it is probably a cheesy, poppy ‘diss’ track.
Its apparent target, Frankee, then released ‘F.U.R.B (F*** You Right Back), which topped the charts the following week when the Premier League season ended.
The song had the same musical arrangement as Eamon’s – leading many to question whether the whole thing was just staged to sell records.
Either way, a fitting soundtrack for the heartbreak of Leeds fans in May 2004.
Greece were champions of Europe
Ranked 150/1 outsiders before the tournament started, Greece pulled off one of the biggest shocks in football history when they beat Portugal 1-0 to win the European Championship.
Luiz Felipe Scolari was unable to add the European crown to the World Cup he had won with Brazil two years ago earlier, as a direct and robust Greece side produced the unthinkable in Lisbon.
It was the second time they had reigned victorious against the hosts, after beating them 2-1 in the opening game of the tournament.
Otto Rehhagel’s men, who only qualified for the quarter-finals on goals scored, picked up a creditable point against Spain in the group stages before beating both France and the Czech Republic on their way to the final.
Forward Angelos Charisteas scored from their first corner of the game after 57 minutes, heading in an Angelos Basinas cross to send the travelling Greek contingency into raptures. And that was that.
There was still only one Shrek film
Shrek was great. Shrek 2 was also great. Things started to go downhill when Dreamworks embarked on another hundred Shrek-related productions.
But everyone’s favourite Scottish ogre was still hilarious back in May 2004 shortly before the sequel’s release.
Indeed, we wouldn’t meet the likes of Puss In Boots and the Fairy Godmother until July that year.
Elsewhere in the world of film, there were only two Harry Potter films, with the Prisoner of Azkaban coming out later in May.
Rooney was the next big thing
The Manchester United teenage sensation burst on to the international scene in scintillating fashion that summer.
Rooney, who would of course go on to become England’s all-time record goalscorer, was unable to steer his country to European glory – but the 18-year-old did ensured his name was one which football fans would never forget.
Only Milan Baros (5) scored more goals than Rooney, who was named in the official UEFA Euro 2004 team of the tournament.
Rooney’s impressive performance in a 2-1 defeat against France set the tone, before hitting braces against both Switzerland and Croatia in the group stages.
England’s talisman was in the form of his life heading into their quarter-final encounter against tournament hosts Portugal, but was cruelly withdrawn after just 27 minutes owing to a broken metatarsal.
Who knows what England might have achieved had Rooney stayed injury-free for the duration of the tournament?
Twitter didn’t exist
Imagine the peace and quiet! ‘TheFacebook’ was only three months old, too.
Leeds fans have never been able to rant about their team losing a Premier League match on Twitter.
The popular social media website was launched in 2006 – and has since developed into a platform for angry football fans everywhere.
Even if it did exist, you would’ve had to get yourself onto one of those fancy box computers to access the website.
Most people were still using a Nokia 3310, while the first iPhone wasn’t released until 2007.
It’s fair to say Leeds are pretty good at Twitter, as well…
Mourinho was charging down the touchline at Old Trafford
A serial winner, Jose Mourinho has proven himself to be one of the most successful managers in world football. But nobody in England really knew who he was back then.
After collecting 22 trophies, including league titles in four different countries, there is no doubt he is one of the best that has graced the game.
Mourinho has two Champions League crowns to his name – the latest of which came whilst managing Serie A giants Inter in 2010.
But it was his first triumph which came during the early stages of his managerial career which would have tasted all the more sweeter – after winning the competition with Porto in 2004.
Despite claiming the UEFA Cup, as it was known then, a year earlier at Celtic’s expense the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United were expected to be too strong for Mourinho’s men in Europe’s premier competition.
Yet against the odds the Portuguese giants prevailed, beating United and Lyon along the way, before a memorable 3-0 victory against Monaco in the final.
And who could forget that iconic moment when he charged down the touchline at Old Trafford when Porto dumped the Red Devils out in the last-minute of their last-16 clash.
Soon after Mourinho arrived in England – dubbing himself ‘The Special One’ upon his unveiling as Chelsea boss in 2004.
He hasn’t done too badly since, let’s face it…
The X Factor wasn’t a thing
This was very much the Pop Idol era.
Back when Leeds were a Premier League side, we didn’t even know that a talent show was about to take over our lives.
The first season of The X Factor hadn’t even aired yet.
Louis Walsh has completed a 13-year career as a judge on the show while Leeds have been away from the top-flight.
If that doesn’t capture how long its been, nothing will.
Leeds United’s clash with Derby on Sunday, when they could seal promotion to the Premier League, is live on talkSPORT (kick-off 2pm)