If Leeds United lose at Bournemouth on Sunday then my beloved club will be pushed perilously close to the relegation trapdoor.

I’m a loyal fan, dyed in the wool, but not blindly loyal. So, I must confront the uncomfortable reality in front of me; our survival chances are receding with each passing week. The situation is getting bleaker and bleaker.

The team’s form is wretched and the run-in is treacherously unkind. We are moving into the dreaded “mathematical chances” territory, and that heightens the angst among the fans.

You already know that it is not good news, and you can tell that the management of Leeds is taking the fight against relegation seriously because they withdrew from the Digital Sport North event because of the instability.

Blossoming Cherries

On Sunday we play opponents who seem to have embraced the challenge and taken the battle for survival by the scruff of the neck.

Many had Bournemouth as nailed-on favourites for the drop. Gary O’Neil, a rookie, was in many observers’ eyes entrusted with shepherding the club back to the second tier with a modicum of dignity on the pitch.

O’Neil’s predecessor, Scott Parker, the first managerial casualty of the campaign after just four games, had given a damning assessment of the quality of the Bournemouth squad after the 9-0 drubbing at Liverpool; it was marginally better than Championship level, but woefully inadequate for the demands of the Premier League. In other words, the group of players at his disposal, honest professionals, were on the whole not fit for top-flight purpose.

It is the squad O’Neil inherited and for a long time there was no discernible improvement to contradict Parker’s assessment as Bournemouth suffered defeat after defeat. The Cherries looked dead certainties for the drop and O’Neil stood out as a perennial favourite for the sack.

It is a credit to O’Neil that with five matches to go the Cherries are very much alive, blossoming even. Of the six sides most at risk, Bournemouth are best placed to survive. That is because the manager has managed to coax some admirable effort from an otherwise unfashionable squad.

Bournemouth are a compelling case study in defiance. It is that defiant spirit Leeds United will be up against on Sunday. Javi Gracia’s men will have to search deep and hard for grit and confidence, the two qualities which have deserted them at the most inopportune time.

Three points on Sunday will take the Cherries closer to the magical 40-point mark. There is no bigger incentive for relegation strugglers than that.

This tie has all the makings of a powder keg, a must-win for Leeds United, less so for the Cherries for whom a point would still be a good return.

Keeping tabs on rivals

The one thing Leeds United have going for them is their relegation rivals’ poor form and rotten luck.

On Saturday Nottingham Forest looked on course to claim precious three points at Brentford, but as their luck would have it, Steve Cooper’s men ended up with nothing after a late, late capitulation.

On Sunday, Southampton have a tough assignment at highflyers Newcastle United, while Leicester (19) and Everton (18) face off at the King Power Stadium on Monday knowing that a share of the spoils will not help their respective causes much. In fact, a draw will benefit rivals as it will keep both the Foxes and the Toffees in the relegation zone with Southampton. And that would be the perfect scenario for Leeds United.  

Run-in from hell

A win for either Leicester or Everton could see Leeds United drop into the bottom three if they come away from the Vitality Stadium with anything less than a maximum haul. That would be a huge psychological blow.

The situation is compounded further by a tough run-in from. The fixture schedule was drawn up by a sadist.

After the visit to Bournemouth we go to a Manchester City side sensing blood in their relentless pursuit of Arsenal. The consensus is that City will boost their title challenge by denting Leeds United’s survival bid.

Then we have a Newcastle United side scoring goals for fun and looking to consolidate their place in the top four. This also doesn’t augur well for Leeds United. Again, the football consensus is that Leeds’ survival hopes will be sacrificed on the altar of the Magpies’ Champions League ambitions.

So, on paper and on form, the clash at Bournemouth is the last in the ‘winnable’ category for Leeds United. Thereafter, it looks like will be on a wing and a prayer.

As a Leeds United fan in good standing, I remain optimistic and will hold out hope for retention of our Premier League status until it is mathematically impossible for my club to avoid relegation.

The odds are heavily stacked against us, but they are also there to be defied.

Leeds United, how do I love thee!

9 April – Leeds United 1-5 Crystal Palace 15:00 SkySports
17 April – Leeds United 1-6 Liverpool 21:00
22 April – Fulham 2-1 Leeds United
25 April – Leeds United 1-1 Leicester City
29 April – Bournemouth v Leeds United 15:00

6 May – Manchester City v Leeds United 15:00
13 May – Leeds United v Newcastle 12:30
21 May – West Ham v Leeds United 13:30
28 May – Leeds United v Tottenham 16:00


I'm Barrie Jarrett, born in Leeds, lived over a decade in South Africa, CEO And Co Founder of Planet Sport Limited and Planet Bet Limited.

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