Leeds United have lost their third player this season from the club’s glory days following the sad loss of World Cup winner Jack Charlton.

After the deaths of fellow defenders Norman Hunter and Trevor Cherry in April, Leeds fans are mourning once again.

It would be a fitting tribute to those legendary players, who appeared a combined 1,985 times for United, if they won the Championship this season and returned to the promised land after 16 seasons away. Sympathy aside, Leeds deserve to go up because of their performances on the pitch this season.

If the Championship had been curtailed as Leagues One and Two were, Leeds would already be champions and plotting a Premier League campaign, with an average 1.92 points per game when lock-down began.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - JULY 11: Tributes are paid to former England Football World Cup winner and Ireland manager, Jack Charlton at Elland Road on July 11, 2020 in Leeds, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)
LEEDS, ENGLAND – JULY 11: Tributes are paid to former England Football World Cup winner and Ireland manager, Jack Charlton at Elland Road on July 11, 2020 in Leeds, England. (Photo by George Wood/Getty Images)

Seven points should do it

As it stands, though, Brentford’s magnificent run and West Brom’s consistency probably makes the promotion race two from three clubs. Leeds may need another seven points from their last four games to gain promotion.

They would probably be happy to take a point away at play off-chasing Swansea on Sunday (12 July), which would leave them looking to win two of their last three games – Barnsley (H), who are fighting for survival, off-the-boil Derby County (A) and another relegation battler, Charlton Athletic (H).

I think Marcelo Bielsa’s side will do it but, as Leeds fans know all too well, they won’t do it the easy way. Look at what happened in last season’s play-offs. After winning the first leg at Derby, Leeds fans were planning a trip to Wembley until their side collapsed at home and lost 2-4.

LEEDS, ENGLAND - JULY 09: Leeds United players celebrate Liam Coopers goal, his sides third during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Stoke City at Elland Road on July 9, 2020 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Alex Dodd - CameraSport/CameraSport via Getty Images)
LEEDS, ENGLAND – JULY 09: Leeds United players celebrate Liam Coopers goal, his sides third during the Sky Bet Championship match between Leeds United and Stoke City at Elland Road on July 9, 2020 in Leeds, England. (Photo by Alex Dodd – CameraSport/CameraSport via Getty Images)

Record Leeds league appearances

Charlton, who is the club’s record holder for league appearances (773), a record unlikely to be broken, passed away aged 85. Charlton won every major domestic honour with the club during his 23-year playing career and won 35 England caps. He was at the heart of the Three Lions’ defence when they won the World Cup in 1966.

As a manager, Charlton took the Republic of Ireland (ROI) to their first two World Cups, earning him honorary Irish citizenship.

Fellow World Cup winner Sir Geoff Hurst tweeted: “Jack was the type of player and person you need to win a World Cup. He was a great and loveable character and will be greatly missed.”

Former Leeds captain Dominic Matteo said: “An absolute legend in every sense of the word to Leeds fans, England fans and ROI fans. Rest easy big man. Your legacy will march on and on and on.”

Charlton’s family said in a statement: “We cannot express how proud we are of the extraordinary life he led and the pleasure he brought to so many people in different countries and from all walks of life. He was a thoroughly honest, kind, funny and genuine man who always had time for people. His loss will leave a huge hole in all our lives but we are thankful for a lifetime of happy memories.”

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