Can Leeds United become the Championship surprise package?

Leeds United

Leeds United have finally appointed a suitable manager, and there is enough time to become a force in the Championship.

The Whites confirmed the appointment of former Sturm Graz boss Darko Milanic, and it could prove to be a masterstroke by President Massimo Cellino.

Despite having no experience of English football, the 46-year-old arrives at Elland Road with his inherited team in a good run of form. Three wins in four games under caretaker coach Neil Redfearn have left the club safely mid table, and with Redfearn remaining involved with the first-team, the new head coach has arrived at a very stable set-up.

Dave Hockaday showed little in the way of encouragement during his short spell in charge at Elland Road, but he was hardly helped with the heavy influx of players over the summer. A number of Cellino’s arrivals failed to even make one appearance under Hockaday, due to registration and fitness issues, or an inability to settle in either the area of the squad.

However, with the departure of Hockaday, and the close of the transfer window, Leeds have started to find form, and their season could start to build - mirroring that of 2012/13 Championship rivals Watford.

Under the ownership of the Pozzo family, Watford brought in 17 players over the summer of 2012 - with six arriving on August 31. A change of manager was the first action committed by the Italian owners, with Gianfranco Zola coming in to replace now-Burnley boss Sean Dyche.

The Hornets subsequently lost four of their first six games, but as the squad started to settle, a string of impressive results started to form, going seven games unbeaten through November - winning five - before repeating the feat across February and March 2013.

Leeds signed one less player than Watford did in 2012, but their start to the season has been no less turbulent, losing three of their first six games, but ending that run with a string of consecutive results.

With the intense nature of the Championship, a run of good form can make or break a season, and an early charge up the table is not necessary for promotion. Not including the opening weeks, Watford reached the top six for the first time in December, making the top two at the end of February, and they remained within the play-off places for the rest of the season - missing out on automatic promotion to the Premier League with a final-day defeat to a certain Yorkshire-based side.

Despite losing to Crystal Palace in the Play-Off Final, Watford were the ultimate surpass package of that Championship season, with many writing them off for relegation prior to kick off. The similarities between the Hornets in 2012/13 and Leeds United now are plain to see, and it will surely be a successful season if the Whites can also reach the Play-Off Final - or perhaps go one better and secure a return to the Premier League.

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