Leeds United are one win away from sealing a return to the Premier League at the first attempt.

The Whites will battle Southampton in the Championship play-off final at Wembley on Sunday, May 26.

Daniel Farke’s men were beaten to the two automatic promotion spots by champions Leicester City and second-placed Ipswich Town, the latter authors of the 2023-24 Championship campaign’s remarkable Cinderella story.

Kieran McKenna’s side had the fewest (6) league defeats of any side in the division. Leeds United, with 10 losses, had the next best record.

The story of Ipswich Town’s journey from the top-flight wilderness to the Promised Land is one football enthusiasts will tell for years to come. Football needs more of the same.

The final we deserve

Never let it be said that the football gods have no sense of fairness.

The points gap between fourth and fifth suggests Southampton and Leeds United were closer to the top two than to the two teams below fourth in the final Championship table.

Leeds United finished the season 17 points better off than Norwich City, while Southampton had a 12-point buffer between themselves and West Brom.

The ease with which Leeds United and Southampton saw off Norwich City and West Brom – 4-0 and 3-1 respectively – in the return legs,  underlined the gulf in class between the semi-finalists.

No true football fan will begrudge comfortable third and fourth finishers their places in the Championship play-offs final. Any other outcome would have been a tad unfair.

Therefore the Whites and the Saints facing off in the final for a seat at English football’s top table is the Championship play-off final we deserve.

Titanic clash

Leeds United and Southampton reprising their rivalry at Wembley, this time with a Premier League berth at stake, is the blockbuster clash we were robbed off on the final day of the season.

Sometime during the season, as the promotion race see-sawed, I opined that a final-day showdown loomed between the Premier League dropouts at Elland Road to settle the squabble for the second automatic spot.

Records will show that Southampton prevailed 2-1 on the final day, but not to seal automatic promotion. Thanks to Ipswich Town, the result was inconsequential.

The Tractor Boys, newbies in the second tier, contrived to upset the applecart by finishing second behind Leicester City, relegating their more illustrious rivals Leeds United and Southampton to the play-offs.

So, with their automatic promotion prospects gone and their play-off spots sewn up by dint of unassailable third and fourth place finishes going into the season finale, the much-anticipated final-day meeting between Leeds United and Southampton turned out to be a dead rubber.

Or was it a dress rehearsal for the play-off final at The Home of Football?

If the football gods’ spirit of fairness lingers on to permeate the final, then the side that finished third in the regular season will emerge victorious on Saturday, joining first and second-placed finishers in the Promised Land.

Of course I’m biased. I’m a Leeds United fan.

Leeds United, how do I love thee!

Q: When is the 2023-24 Championship play-off final?
A: Sunday, May 26.

Q: Which two teams will contest the  2023-24 Championship play-off final?
A: Leeds United and Southampton

Q: Who were the 2023-24 Championship play-off losing semi-finalists?
A: Norwich City and West Brom

Q: What is the prize for winning the Championship play-off final?
A: Promotion to the Premier League

Q: Who won the 2023-24 Championship final-day tie between Leeds United and Southampton?
A: Southampton

Q: Which UK stadium is widely known as the Home of Football?
A: Wembley Stadium

Q: How many league losses did Ipswich Town suffer during the 2023-24 Championship season?
A: 6


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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