Lucas Radebe expects Leeds United to stay in the English Premier League for "a long time" as the side prepare to play Liverpool on Saturday in their first match in top flight football for 16 years.
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A rejuvenated Leeds, fighting back after years of struggle in which they came close to insolvency, won the English Championship last season under the guidance of Marcelo Bielsa and will kick off their 2020/21 EPL campaign in a fitting manner against the Jurgen Klopp's champions of England.
"It was so emotional to at last have at last seen the club getting promoted," said Leeds legend Radebe, who signed for the club exactly 26 years ago this week, in an interview with BT Sport.
"And knowing they will stay in the English Premier League a long time. The glory days are back at Elland Road again. We will be able to watch the club back where it belongs, and where it made us proud. This is the time now, we are marching on together. Leeds United all the way. Leeds for life," added the former Leeds and Bafana Bafana captain, who played at Elland Road from 1994-2005.
???? 197 #PL appearances/\r\n/
⛔️ 57 clean sheets
Defender @LucasRadebe joined @LUFC, #OnThisDay in 1994 ???????? pic.twitter.com/OWrhMpCsua
— Premier League (@premierleague) September 5, 2020
Radebe was part of the Leeds team that finished third in the English Premier League in the 1999/2000 season and the following campaign played in the Uefa Champions League, reaching the semifinals.
"Playing in the Champions League was amazing," recalled Radebe.
"The atmosphere at Elland Road, the city itself, for me that is what I enjoyed the most.
"We played some great games, we brought most of the big teams to Elland Road … everybody took to us every well, everybody was excited to see us and the following was absolutely amazing."
Radebe puts overspending down to Leeds' demise, that ultimately saw them relegated from the EPL in 2004, the club going into administration in 2007, which saw them relegated to the third tier of English football.
"We were never that big club that will spend big money. I think that is where things went wrong," added Radebe.
"That is terrible, losing your assets."
Radebe was still at the club when they were relegated from the EPL in 2004.
"Seeing players crying, I was dejected," said Radebe.
"The sad part is how long it took (to get back), 16 years of seeing the fans going through disappointment. It was very tough."
The man who started his career at Kaizer Chiefs before moving to England, and who was so popular in Leeds that he even has an English rock band (Kaiser Chiefs) from the area named after him, never gave up hope, however, that Leeds would be back in the big time.
"I refused to believe Leeds would never come back. I always believed the would be back at some point."
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