By Editor Wayne Veysey
The dream is not just alive for Leeds fans, but almost tangible. Not just of a place in the play-offs, either, but of something far greater. Automatic promotion.
Such an ambition might still be far-fetched, given that Garry Monk’s side are 10 points behind second-placed Brighton despite their second win of the week against Brentford on Saturday.
But on the back of seven wins in nine matches that has catapulted the side to fifth in the table, and within two points of third, a play-off finish appears realistic, if not yet feasible.
On a budget dwarfed by those of the Championship big spenders, Monk has recruited wisely since being thrust into the Elland Road dugout.
Luke Ayling and Eunan O’Kane were excellent signings, Liam Bridcutt, should prove to be the same, and the manager made shrewd use of the loan market by recruiting Pontus Jansson, Pablo Hernandez, Hadi Sacko and Kyle Bartley.
Leeds have a battle-hardened group of fighters who are tough to play against and even tougher to beat. They are also growing increasingly accustomed to the playing style put in place by Monk and his staff.
But the team lacks a midfield guiding presence who is as comfortable on the ball as he is without it. Bridcutt is a streetwise player but he does not have the vision or distribution skills of Leeds academy product Fabian Delph.
The 27-year-old has been frozen out at Manchester City this season by Pep Guardiola, starting just one game and making three appearances in total.
Delph has struggled with a groin injury and Guardiola has said he will speak with the midfielder over whether he needs a fresh start away from Etihad Stadium.
“When he arrived here, he never had injuries and every time it is muscular problems,” Guardiola said, as quoted by the Sun. “He has done well and now is the end part of his rehabilitation.
““It is for him to be fit, to see his level, then at the end of the season we are going to decide what is the best for the club, for him, for everybody.”
The sense is that the ruthless City manager is willing for the nine-time England international to move on.
With Delph now approaching full fitness, Leeds could make a shock bid to sign him on loan in the January window for the rest of the season.
City would be reluctant for Delph to join a Premier League rival, certainly a title chasing one, and, although his wages would be beyond Leeds’ affordability, they could negotiate a split with City and offer the player the chance to lead his boyhood club back to the promised land.
Delph would get regular football and the chance to reignite a career that has faltered badly in the last 12 months.
Leeds would get a player who would be brilliant in the second tier, could rival Jonjo Shelvey for the mantle of the best in the Championship and guide them to automatic promotion.
In other Leeds news, the club are closing in on a £3.6million January signing.