By Matt Farr
Former Leeds United striker Andy Ritchie believes a strong start to the season will be key to the club’s promotion challenge next term.
The Yorkshire club finished seventh in the Championship during the 2016-17 campaign under Garry Monk, after a poor run of form at the end of the season saw them fall short of the play-off race.
However, Leeds are set to turn a new leaf under their new manager Thomas Christiansen for the new season, although the objective will remain the same.
Leeds have not competed amongst the elite in the Premier League since their relegation from the top-flight in 2003-04, and a long line of managers have since tried and failed to fire them back into the division.
But Ritchie, who spent four years as a player at Elland Road, believes they will give themselves a strong chance of winning promotion if they get off to a fine start.
He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I think it makes a big difference next season in how you start. They were obviously very disappointed at the end of last season.
“I think a good start would be a good testing point for them. That’s what they would want to get off too. You would say that the first two [fixtures] are manageable.”
Leeds are scheduled to face newly-promoted Bolton Wanderers on the opening day of the season, before back-to-back home fixtures against Preston North End and promotion rivals Fulham.
They will also go up against Sunderland before the end of August, a run of fixtures that proves that it will be no easy feat to get off to a flying start.
Then-manager Monk failed to win any of their first three league matches last term, suffering a 3-0 defeat to Queens Park Rangers to open their account.