(Reuters) - Former England goalkeeper Paul Robinson said Leeds United’s return to the Premier League was long overdue and manager Marcelo Bielsa should not be swayed by offers from other clubs as he looks to guide them back to the top of English soccer.
Leeds returned to the Premier League after a 16-year absence on Friday, as West Bromwich Albion’s loss at Huddersfield Town guaranteed Leeds a top-two finish in the Championship.
Robinson, who began his professional career with Leeds in 1998, hailed Bielsa for turning the club’s fortunes around since taking charge at Elland Road in 2018.
“It’s been long-awaited. When I played that last game in 2004, 16 years ago, you never envisaged that Leeds would be out of the top flight for so long, and even dropping to the third tier of England,” Robinson told Sky Sports.
“From what he inherited two and a half years ago - a team that finished 14th in the Championship to now automatic promotion to the Premiership, it’s fantastic. The biggest thing Leeds did at the end of last season was keep the manager.”
“I think this was probably his last shot, he realised how close they got last year... I don’t like to think that he could turn away and think ‘job done now, I’m going to be remembered here forever’, and leave.”
Three-time English champions Leeds were relegated from the Premier League in 2004 after hitting financial trouble but can now look forward to renewing old rivalries with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool.
“As a United fan, I’m happy to see Leeds back in the Premier League. Congrats,” Man United striker Marcus Rashford said on Twitter in a post that was later deleted.
Lucas Radebe, who captained Leeds during their previous spell in England’s top-flight league, hailed the fans for sticking by the team through tough times.
“It’s been a long time. Leeds fans are very special fans, they’ll never leave the club. When we dropped to the Championship, we still had a great following. They’ve played a massive part,” Radebe told the BBC.
Liverpool midfielder James Milner and Manchester City defender Benjamin Mendy also paid tribute to the Yorkshire club.
“Congratulations LUFC. Back where you belong,” Milner, who began his career at Leeds in 2002, wrote on Twitter. Mendy said, “Congratulations Marcelo & the boys. See you next year.”
Reporting by Arvind Sriram in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard