Former Leeds United midfielder Jacob Burns believes the club’s long-awaited return to the Premier League after 16 years of struggle is thoroughly deserved and expects the Whites to make a real impact in the top flight.
The Yorkshire outfit secured its place back in the Premier League for the first time since 2004 on Friday when rivals West Bromich Albion went down 2-1 to Huddersfield Town.
Burns spent three years at Leeds, joining from NSL club Parramatta Power in 2000, and was part of their rise as a European force. The club then financially imploded and dropped down to League One, now winning its way back to the elite division.
Last year the 42-year-old, who is now football director at Perth Glory, saw the Whites up close when they travelled to Australia in pre-season and were beaten 4-0 by Manchester United at Optus Stadium.
He was impressed by the methods and work-rate of iconic Argentine coach Marcelo Bielsa and his team, and felt then that Leeds were on their way to big things.
“It was great to see them and how far they’ve come,” Burns told The World Game.
“You really got that sense in pre-season when they were out here with Bielsa and Victor (Orta, director of football) and (Angus) Kinnear (Director of Football) and Paul Bell (Executive Director) they were really on their way to do something special.
“The way they talk and the way they got about their business, the way they recruit and the level of detail – it’s just reward. You know the hours that they’re putting in, I live and breath that kind of role now, and you’re trying to leave no stone unturned in your drive for success.
“You get that feeling and you can see why it’s thoroughly deserved. They’ve done wonderful things.
“Without a doubt [they can make an impact in the Premier League]. Everyone realizes how big a club it is and I think that with Bielsa there and the set-up that they have with the people in the management and in the side is they will definitely do very well and be successful up there.
“The mighty Leeds are back, it’s fantastic. It’s brilliant.”
Burns was at Elland Road at a time, along with Mark Viduka and Harry Kewell, when Leeds made the semi-finals of the Champions League and won many admirers in Australia.
The clubs still holds a special place in the former Socceroo’s heart.
“It was a very fortunate and lucky time to be there,” he said.
“We were young boys, I was 20, 21 years old going over there from Australia, my first club in Europe.
“And then to have the run that we had – a young hungry team – and to almost go all the way in the Champions League and be knocked out by Valencia was what we were all about.
“In the history of the club, for Leeds fans, it was probably one of the best periods from 1999 to 2002/2003, it was a young, hungry team that were doing great things in Europe and the Premier League. We feared no one and we showed that in both leagues.
“It was incredible and surreal to be part of that, and to be playing against some of the best players and best clubs in the world and to get results. And we still talk about it now.
“I spent last summer with big ‘Dukes’ and our families and we still talk about the memories like they were yesterday. Being there at such a great point in their history and then to see them get relegated and go on the spin and wait 16 years for them to get back up was a special moment.
“I was in Yorkshire for seven years, after I left Leeds I went to Barnsley, so I remained in Yorkshire and in Leeds.
“So I’ve got a lot of friends and people over there that we still keep in touch with that hold the club close to our hearts and it’s just fantastic.
“They’re arguably the best supporters in the UK and a huge club, and they’re back where I believe they should have always been. You can see the huge crowds that they get in the Championship and League 1 when they were on the spin, and Elland Road is a real fortress.
“They’re such a vocal crowd and it’s a special place and a special club that a lot of Aussie players were fortunate enough to be a part of it.”