Jermaine Pennant has given talkSPORT an insight into Leeds United’s ‘nightmare’ season that saw them relegated from the Premier League in 2004, ahead of a huge night in the Championship.
The Elland Road outfit can take another big step towards a long-awaited return to the top-flight when they host Barnsley on Thursday evening – with LIVE and EXCLUSIVE commentary on talkSPORT 2!
Marcelo Bielsa’s men currently top the table and need just four points from their remaining three games to seal promotion.
It would end the club’s 16-year exile from the first division, following a series of oh-so-nears since they were relegated over a decade ago.
Pennant was a part of that team, moving to Elland Road on a season-long loan from parent club Arsenal when he was just 20.
And he explained on the talkSPORT Breakfast how shattered confidence and a divided dressing room was behind their fall from the top tier, which happened just three seasons after they were semi-finalists in the Champions League.
“It was a bit of a nightmare for Leeds,” said the former winger, who scored two goals in 36 appearances for the Whites that season.
“It was different for me because I was only on loan and I was going back to Arsenal regardless, whether they stayed up or went down.
“But it did hurt because I was on loan for the whole season, and I played almost every single game that season.
“If the deal was right I would have stayed, 100 per cent. I loved it there. I thoroughly loved it. it was a great squad and a great bunch of lads.
“We had Dominic Matteo, Lucas Radebe, Ian Harte, Gary Kelly, Jody Morris, Mark Viduka, Alan Smith, me on the left, a young James Milner, it was a very good team.
“We went through a few bad runs and when the confidence goes you just seem to struggle and you can’t get that three points.
“Viduka was world-class; he wasn’t quick with the ball but his touch, his cleverness, the way he could manipulate the ball was brilliant. But he fell out with Peter Reid, and the squad then stated to get a bit divided.
“I remember in training he [Viduka] just walked off and said: ‘If you want to stay with him, you’re going to get relegated’.
“Stuff like that wasn’t great.”
Now, however, it appears Leeds’ wait will soon be over as they sit on the cusp of sealing their long-awaited return to the Premier League.
Former striker Jermaine Beckford was probably every cautious Leeds fan when he told talkSPORT this week that he won’t celebrate until the season is over and promotion is officially guaranteed.
But Pennant is confident Bielsa’s men have it wrapped up, saying it’s a long time coming and a club the size of Leeds NEEDS to be back in the top-flight.
“I feel they’re definitely going to do it this time,” the former on-loan ace added.
“The last two or three seasons they’ve started on fire but then come Christmas they’ve bottled it; they go from sitting at the top to, next thing you know, they’re fighting for a play-off spot and they never seem to make it.
“But now they’ve learned their mistakes, the team have got together, they’ve matured, they’ve done the job and I feel they’re definitely going to get in the Premier League now.
“All the players seem calm, the manager has got everything under control and the fans are now rooting for them.
“It would be a great achievement and Leeds are such a big club, they need to be in the Premier League.
“When they start singing ‘Marching On Together’ and ‘Leeds Leeds Leeds’, you get goose pimples.
“They deserve to be back in the Premier League, it’s going to be fantastic for the city.”
Watch a clip of Jermaine Pennant on the talkSPORT Breakfast above