Lee Bowyer backed Leeds United to go up before a ball was kicked in the Championship – and now his Charlton side head to the newly-crowned champions on Wednesday in a nerve-jangling finish to the campaign.
The Addicks can still finish in the bottom three – with no club mathematically confirmed yet to make the drop into League One.
Bowyer sat down with the South London Press before a pre-season friendly at Ebbsfleet United last July to give his views on the campaign – and instantly picked out his former club Leeds as the team to beat.
Marcelo Bielsa’s side are top of the pile – eight points clear of second-placed West Bromwich Albion.
Asked if he envisaged needing to go to Elland Road and potentially needing a win to stay up, Bowyer said: “No. In one of my first interviews I said I thought Leeds would go up and that I hoped we were safe when we go there, so both sides can celebrate.
“They were the best side last season. They were unlucky, they should’ve gone up. This season they have been outstanding from start to finish.
“Even yesterday I watched their game [a 3-1 win at Derby] and they won comfortably and that’s when they aren’t playing for anything and are already champions. They made seven changes.
“I’m looking forward to going there.”
Leeds are back in the Premier League for the first time since 2004. Charlton beat them 1-0 at The Valley in late September with Macauley Bonne (above on the turf) claiming the goal.
Bowyer expects United to take the jump in their stride.
“They’ll be fine,” he said. “They play in a unique way. They are very, very high-energy and they’ll surprise a lot of teams.
“I think they’ll add a few players but not go crazy in making new additions. Their manager is exceptional. He’ll definitely keep them up next season.
“I don’t think you can pick out one player as their standout one. For what they have done it is about a collective thing – from back to front they are all exceptional and they are all good at their jobs.
“You can say [Kalvin] Phillips is exceptional in the way he protects the back four so well but they’ve got people up front who work so hard and win the ball before him. [Patrick] Bamford doesn’t stop running and working hard for the team.
“They have scored goals all over the pitch and they’ve got a bit of everything.
“Their work-rate is unbelievable. I played in a team at Leeds that worked hard but these are on a different level to what we were.”
PICTURES BY PAUL EDWARDS
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