TEAMtalk guest Raphael Kaye believes Leeds should be considered strong contenders for promotion this season due to the strength of their squad.
Wow, hasn't this summer break gone quickly and with just over a week until we see the Mighty Whites take to the pitch in their fight for the top flight, you have to believe that this is our season. A new manager, a new board and a new spirit of life amongst the squad, I personally fancy our chances.
It's time to put last season behind us. Neil Warnock brought us no flair and no harmony between the players which set us up for failure right from the start. The football was boring and us supporters ended up on top of the players. So in reality, promotion was never on the cards.
But I truly believe that this year is different! Let me just remind you of the ghost of Elland Road who held us back from where we truly belong - the pre-historic chairmanship of Ken Bates. We can now rejoice the fact he is no longer with the club, opening up a path for success which we must exploit.
After keeping up with the lads throughout pre-season, they have shown some encouraging signs of what to expect in the up-and-coming campaign. The new signings are looking strong and certain individuals are proving to us that they aren't the garbage I'd turn out to watch week in week out at Elland Road last season.
Poor Luke Varney is one who has had had his fair share of criticism, but struck back at his critics with a quick second-half hat-trick against Stevenage on Tuesday night, proving to the boss that he should be in contention for a start against Brighton.
Rudy 'The Beast' Austin was a breath of fresh air at the start of last season but what people seemed to forget was that he'd already played a fair majority of games for SK Brann before our season had started, meaning that when it came to Christmas last year, the Jamaican international was ready to finish his season! After having a full pre-season we should expect a first class performance from the man whom I believe will become the backbone of our promotion-winning side.
Hunt, Murphy and Smith, the power of three. It seems like the new boys have settled in well and we have seen the banter flowing throughout Twitter with Noel Hunt and Matt Smith bonding particularly well with the likes of Sam Byram and Ross McCormack. Let's hope this harmony prevails on to the pitch.
On a personal level, I believe that Smith has been the standout signing after seeing his physical presence and his goalscoring ability. These are the traits that will make him a real handful for defenders I i can safely say he'll grab a fair few in our promotion challenge.
The signing of Luke Murphy has given us Leeds fans some hope by finally recruiting a player of some value. To my amazement this was the first time we had spent over £1million on a transfer fee since the signing of Richard Creswell in 2005. Not only did we spend big on the midfielder but we were also able to shrug off competition from rival Championship sides to get him on board.
This ambition shown by our owners hopefully displays their intentions for the future of club.
The one problem which all big clubs have when achieving success, is too much competition internally between positions. In all fairness, this is a great situation to have and Leeds seem to be getting this problem when looking at attacking options at their disposal. McCormack, Smith, Hunt, Dominic Poleon, El-Hadji Diouf, Ryan Hall, Chris Dawson and Varney. All these attacking players just rolled off my tongue and all bring different qualities to the team. We have a bit of everything amongst that front line; pace, youth, experience, strength and quality. Our only problem is we can't play them all! Call me mad but I don't think that any other team in the league has the amount of attacking class as our squad shows.
Whilst Warnock was manager we struggled to score goals and therefore points were terribly difficult to pick up, but with fresh ideas, Brian McDermott will get the most out of the men and expect us to be picking up a few of those attractive 4-0 wins rather than that scrappy 1-0 which saw us not too far from relegation.
In past years Leeds' main concern has been our defence, leaking goals left, right and centre. I constantly have nightmares about those high-scoring home defeats by Preston, Watford and Nottingham Forest - but hopefully those days are over! I think with McDermott's philosophy and the ability we now have at the back with the likes of Byram and Tom Lees, we could be in for a solid year. The one ingredient missing is another centre-back to partner Lees, someone who bring experience as Lees is still young. If not we still have the like of Lee Peltier and Jason Pearce, who can do more than a satisfactory job.
I think this year's team has the right balance between youth and experience, which every team needs to in order to accomplish promotion. When looking back at recent promoted sides, we have seen teams show the right balance between these two areas. For example we can compare ourselves to McDermott's Reading which won the Championship as I have a feeling that the boss is trying to accomplish promotion the way he knows best, eg trying to build the team in a similar fashion to what he'd had previous success with.
There may be talk from McDermott about having to 'wheel and deal' and this has been linked with selling off our prized assets which I'm not sure is too true. If this was to be the case, it doesn't mean we have no ambition as a club as the money would most probably be reinvested into new signings. We see all big clubs having to sell off players and it will most probably be in the best interest of the club. Of course I don't want to see any of our players such as Byram and McCormack leave and thankfully both have shown their intentions through Twitter stating they are happy at Leeds but if a deal was to happen, stick behind the lads in the white shirt as we have enough ability throughout the squad in all areas to make great things happen.
Some people feel that our transfer activity has been a little dry this summer but after the three new boys who've been brought in, not much more is needed. Remember, we also have some younger players who have things to prove such as Dawson. Poleon is another youth player who has had his up and downs in the past at Leeds but has got off to a great start this pre-season and seems like a new signing who will bring masses to our team.
I can see him gradually making his name into one who is feared. On a personal level, I am a great admirer of McCormack and with his ability and experience in within the squad, I feel that he is the right man to lead us promotion and therefore deserves the club captaincy.
With depth throughout the squad, we may only need two fresh faces to complete our on-going mission against the Football League. One pacy winger and a centre-back will do for me so let's get behind the team, turn up each week to show our support and lets go marching on together back home where we belong...the Premier League!