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Championship Season Preview Leeds United

Leeds United Odds: 9/1 Last Five Seasons 2005/06 - 5 (Championship), 2004/05 - 14 (Championship), 2003/04 - 19 (Premiership, Relegated), 2002/03 - 15 (Premiership), 2001/02 - 5 (Premiership). 2005/06 Cup Progress FA Cup Third Round (replay) vs Wigan Athletic (h) - lost 4-2 on penalties with the score at 3-3 after extra time. Carling Cup Third Round vs Blackburn Rovers (a) - lost 3-0. Top Goal Scorer 2005/06: David Healy and Rob Hulse (strikers) - 14 goals. Players In Kevin Nicholls (Luton Town - 700,000), David Livermore (Millwall - 400,000), Sebastien Carole (Brighton & Hove Albion - Free) Players Out Rob Hulse (Sheffield United - 2,200,000), Simon Walton (Charlton Athletic - 500,000), Danny Pugh (Preston North End - 250,000), Jermaine Wright (Southampton - Free), Michael Ricketts (Southend United - Free). After a spirit crushing 3-0 play off final defeat against Watford in May, Leeds United should bounce back stronger this season and should be in better shape to tackle the Championship at the third attempt.

Manager Kevin Blackwell has sold midfielder Simon Walton, who made his debut in Blackwell's first match in charge as a 16 year old at the start of the 2004/05 season, to Premiership side Charlton Athletic. But while the youngster made 33 appearances for the club he only featured five times last season. Despite losing the talented youngster, the squad, on the whole, has improved. Luton Town captain Kevin Nicholls arrived for a 700,000 fee to bolster the centre of midfield although Leeds had a bid for striker team mate Steve Howard turned down. Another captain joined the ranks in the form of Millwall skipper David Livermore for 400,000.

Predominantly a left sided midfielder, Livermore has also played in central defence for the Lions and can also operate at left back if required. Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Seb Carole arrived on a free transfer after making 40 appearances for the relegated Seagulls last season. Carole activated a release clause following Brighton's relegation after joining them from Monaco last summer. Other than Walton, a few other fringe players have been shipped out to balance the books. Midfielder Jermaine Wright joined Southampton on a free transfer after spending four months on loan at St Mary's at the end of last season, while former England international Michael Ricketts signed for Championship new boys Southend United. Ricketts spent time on loan at Cardiff City and Burnley last season.

Verdict It could be a case of patience being a virtue for Leeds United. Following two tough seasons in the second tier manager Blackwell is building a side capable of challenging at the top of the table. The Whites have strikers who can score goals in David Healy and Rob Hulse while more steel has been added with the arrivals of Nicholls and Livermore. They are good value at 10/1 to win the division outright.

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