There was a carnival atmosphere inside Elland Road, and the party is set to continue next season. Marcelo Bielsa has revolutionised Leeds United in the three years since he took charge of a sleeping giant that had lost their way as a club, and the 65-year-old will continue for a fourth successive season after agreeing to terms on a new contract.
Leeds are expected to confirm that Bielsa has signed another 12-month rolling contract in the coming days, which will only further enhance the mood that surrounds the club since their return to the Premier League. This victory, a comfortable dispatch of already-relegated West Brom, ensured a ninth-placed finish for Leeds, their highest since the 2001-02 season.
That season, the Whites finished fifth and were littered with household names. It has been a lean period for such a famous club since then, but with Bielsa here to stay, and Leeds’ high-octane style of football earning admirers every time they take to the field, it hard to put a ceiling on just how far this club can go in their second season back among the game’s elite.
Few clubs could match the intensity and atmosphere the 8,000 Leeds supporters generated inside Elland Road as they returned through the turnstiles for the first time since last March. Even yesterday, on a day which was more about celebrating how far this club has come and bidding farewell to two of their heroes, Leeds did not relent.
They pressed, they hassled and they attacked with swashbuckling thrill and excitement. There was an audible gasp every time Bielsa’s side surged forward on the counterattack here, as the home side emphatically underlined the difference in journeys the top two in last season’s Championship have taken in the past year.
“I’m very satisfied with what the team has achieved, but on the other hand, we could have added more points,” an ever-demanding Bielsa said afterwards, before again remaining coy on his future. “Everything Leeds offers to a coach exceeds the expectations of those who have the job,” he added.
A run of four successive victories to finish should also finally lay rest to the claim that Bielsa’s sides burn out as the season reaches its climax. If anything, Leeds have produced some of their best stuff in the final throes of a campaign. To suggest it bodes well for the future is something of an understatement.
It is, however, emphatically clear what awaits West Brom this summer: another managerial change to contend with, the fall-out of a record-equalling fifth Premier League relegation and another stint in the Championship.
This defeat was, in many ways, their season in a nutshell. They threatened on occasions, and certainly had opportunities to trouble Leeds.
But by the time Hal Robson-Kanu capitalised on a Kalvin Phillips error in the final minute, the result was long since decided.