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Opinion

Leeds United set to join Newcastle United as ‘North-East’ Big Two

4 weeks ago
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Leeds United have finally done it.

Only now needing the mathematical certainty, but effectively, they are once again a top tier / Premier League club.

Quite amazing that they have been away for 16 years.

On the 22 December 2001 we had that epic Leeds United 3 Newcastle United 4 match.

That win put Newcastle top of the Premier League for Christmas 2001, if Leeds had won then they would have went top.

It was pretty much downhill from there.

At the end of the 2001/02 season, Newcastle United ended up 4th with 71 points, Leeds United 5th with 66 points.

At the end of the 2002/03 season, Newcastle United ended up 3rd with 69 points, Leeds United 15th with 47 points.

At the end of the 2003/04 season, Newcastle United ended up 5th with 56 points, Leeds United 19th with 33 points.

Since that relegation, the two clubs have only spent one season together, as after Mike Ashley’s first relegation in 2009, Leeds United were set to spend their third season in League One.

A bit like emerging from a hefty prison sentence, Leeds United and their fans will find an awful lot has changed…

For younger fans, they would be surprised at just how much ‘healthy’ rivalry and friction there was between the two clubs and sets of fans.

Only 90 miles or so apart and even when Newcastle found themselves in the second tier in the 80s, Leeds were also there for many of those same seasons.

What further drove the rivalry with Leeds United was the fact that Sunderland rarely featured in the top tier, in 29 seasons from 1970/71 to 1998/99, the Mackems were only in the top tier for eight of the seasons.

Geography and the way that things have changed in the Premier League and in the media, means that for me, Leeds United are set to join Newcastle United as the ‘North-East’ (including Yorkshire…) Big Two.

As things stand, this is how the top of the Championship stands:

Leeds United are heading up and almost certainly either West Brom or Brentford taking the other automatic spot, the one that loses out will be favourite for the play-offs.

So if those three come up (and Villa and Bournemouth join Norwich in being relegated) it would leave the geographic breakdown of the 2020/21 Premier League looking like this:

London

Arsenal, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, Tottenham, Watford, West Ham, Brentford

South coast

Brighton, Southampton

North-West

Burnley, Everton, Liverpool, Man City, Man Utd

Midlands

Leicester, Wolves, West Brom

North-East (and Yorkshire…)

Newcastle United, Sheffield United, Leeds United

Newcastle are very much out on a limb geographically with the way the PL has gone.

When it comes to the media, it is shrinking rapidly as paper sales plummet along with profits, we are sadly going to see massive numbers lose their jobs.

Reach (used to be called Trinity Mirror and own the Chronicle plus many other regional titles, as well as the nationals such as the Mirror, Star, Express, Sunday Mirror, Sunday People, Sunday Express etc) have now announced they are cutting 550 jobs, around 12% of their workforce. This will bring it up to around 1,000 jobs lost in recent years across their various titles.

Less sales, fewer journalists and Sunderland and Middlesbrough being non-stories, has meant that we have increasingly seen journalists who predominantly covered NUFC and did a bit on the Mackems and very little bit on Boro. Are now doing far less on Newcastle, next to nothing on the other two of the North-East ‘big three’ and have been regularly seen cropping up covering the likes of Sheffield United, as well as other bits and pieces as part of their jobs now.

Sheffield United have done brilliantly but Leeds United do have the bigger fanbase and will be seen as a lot more newsworthy once they return to the top tier, even after these 16 years of under the radar.

I think that circumstances, as outlined above, will see the two clubs paired up far more, especially by the media.

For older fans, Leeds United are a club we love to hate and if we are honest, far better to have the likes of them back in the PL rather than say Bournemouth, who mean absolutely nothing in terms of rivalry or feeling like a big occasion when you play them.

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