As painful as it would be, could Leeds United benefit if they were to be relegated from the Championship?
The Whites sit just two points clear of the relegation places after 18 games, with a string of poor results leading them closer to the drop.
If their form does not pick up in the coming weeks, the intense festive period could see them fighting for survival for much of next year, and it could take its toll upon the number of young players in Neil Redfearn’s squad. Having to carry the weight of a struggling team could prove to be too much for 19-year-old Alex Mowatt and 17-year-old Lewis Cook, and it is highly likely that they could burn-out, thus limiting their potential heading into next season.
On paper, relegation is one of the worst things that can happen to a club, especially for one such as Leeds who have real aspirations to return to their rightful place in the Premier League. But in their case, it could also prove to be the catalyst that kick-starts a rise to the top flight.
In recent years, Southampton and Norwich have both suffered relegation to the third division, rebuilding their club from scratch, and then winning consecutive promotions to the Premier League. Whilst Norwich returned to the Championship at the close of the last campaign, the Saints are currently riding high - with a second placed position - and look well set to clinch European qualification come May 2015.
Both clubs were relegated and took stock of their current situation, before figuring out that things needed to be run differently if success was to be achieved. Southampton did that by focusing on youth, whilst Norwich were run with wise management and some incredible financial control. For Leeds, relegation to League One gives Massimo Cellino a whole summer to plan his vision for the club, and then a whole year to tinker with it in a less forgiving league than the Championship - with the Whites squad strong enough to comfortably fight at the top end of the table.
The young squad that Leeds possess would also benefit from plying their trade in a consistently good team. With performances and results likely to be easier to come by the third tier, the likes of Mowatt and Cook will be able to develop in a team who are regularly achieving success, building a positive mentality in the run up to the return to the Championship. They would be in a winning team, and, if they were to continue that mentality over into the second tier Leeds could well be serious contenders for a return to the Premier League.
It seems counter-intutitive to suggest that Leeds should be relegated if they want any chance of success, but in current circumstances the advice should be heeded. Not only are there previous examples to back up the claim, but common knowledge suggests that entering the division on the crest of a wave is more productive than surviving in a division when you ought to have been relegated - Wolves and Birmingham offer perfect examples of both situations this season.
Cellino may not agree with the idea, but, in their current situation, it is something that could well be affecting Leeds heading into the business end of the season.