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What does 'Doing a Leeds' mean? Yorkshire club's relegation woes explained

9:03 PM MYT 18/03/2022
Alan Smith Leeds 2004
The Whites may be back in the Premier League at present, but they fell a long way from Champions League football before climbing up the ladder again

Leeds United may be rubbing shoulders with the Premier League elite again in 2021-22, but the Whites had to walk a long road back to the big time after suffering a humbling fall from grace shortly after the turn of the millennium.

Some serious dice were rolled at Elland Road around that time, with big ambition shown by those behind the scenes, but costly mistakes were made and the West Yorkshire outfit found themselves stuck in reverse for the best part of 20 years.

So dramatic was their tumble from the loftiest of perches that the phrase ‘Doing a Leeds’ became part of modern football vocabulary. What, though, does that mean? GOAL takes a look…

What does ‘Doing a Leeds’ mean?

The term can mean different things to different people, and is probably more commonly referred to as “chasing the dream”, but there is a general definition that just about everybody can agree on.

- ‘Doing a Leeds’ is a phrase which is synonymous with the potentially dire consequences for domestic football clubs that come about as a result of financial mismanagement.

That was certainly how things played out at Elland Road, with the Whites ultimately paying the price for living beyond their means as they found out the hard way that overspending can be a costly business on and off the field.

What happened to Leeds United?

After claiming the last First Division title before the English top flight was rebranded as the Premier League in 1992, Leeds were steady but unspectacular – reaching a League Cup final and recording a best finish of fourth - until investment really started to pay off at the end of the 20th century.

Having secured third spot in 1999-2000, the Whites made their Champions League bow in the following campaign.

They spent big ahead of taking in a European adventure, with the likes of Olivier Dacourt, Mark Viduka and Dominic Matteo drafted in.

England international centre-half Rio Ferdinand was also snapped up from West Ham for £18 million ($24m), making him the most expensive player in British football at the time and the most costly defender on the planet.

The gamble initially paid off, as Leeds enjoyed a memorable run through to the Champions League semi-finals – facing AC Milan, Barcelona and Real Madrid along the way – but success could not be sustained.

After failing to qualify for the Champions League in 2002-03, and with more outlandish contracts having been handed out, the Whites were forced into fire sales as Peter Ridsdale’s empire started to crumble.

They were relegated out of the Premier League in 2004 and tumbled into League One three years later, with three seasons spent in the third tier before eventually starting a climb back up the ladder.

It took the arrival of Marcelo Bielsa as manager in 2018 to get Leeds going again, as he secured the Championship title in his second season at the helm, but painful memories remain of when Leeds allowed debts to rise as high as £119m ($156m) and left themselves on the brink of financial and sporting meltdown.

Which other teams have ‘done a Leeds’?

Newcastle United have taken in two stints outside of the Premier League in recent times and now have new owners at the helm that are ready to start throwing vast sums of cash at high-profile signings.

Portsmouth were FA Cup winners in 2008, but became the first Premier League side to enter administration in 2009-10 and now find themselves stuck in League One.

Bolton Wanderers, like Leeds, enjoyed European adventures at one stage, as they flourished under the guidance of Sam Allardyce and attracted big names to Lancashire, but they have also endured administration troubles and tumbled as far as League Two in 2020.

Swindon Town, Portsmouth, Bradford City, Blackpool, Coventry City and Oldham Athletic are other former Premier League sides to have plummeted into the fourth tier, while Nottingham Forest became the first European Cup winners to step down onto the third rung of the domestic ladder in 2005.

Manchester City, prior to benefiting from the arrival of billionaire owners, also plumbed those depths in the late 1990s and Sunderland are still scratching around in League One at present after paying the price for questionable calls made on and off the pitch.