Leeds United returned to the top of the Championship table at the weekend and there are plenty of reasons for fans at Elland Road to be optimistic about the season ahead.
A few months ago, the club were on the verge of returning to the Premier League after more than a decade, but then it all went horribly wrong.
After falling at the final hurdle in the automatic promotion race, Leeds suffered heartache in the play-offs against Derby. A season that once promised so much, ultimately ended in disappointment.
Marcelo Bielsa’s future at the club was uncertain and there were those who questioned whether the players would be able to pick themselves up and go again this season.
However, fast forward a few months and there’s an overriding sense of excitement and optimism around Elland Road about the season ahead.
Leeds are top of the Championship table, have lost just once in the league all season and perhaps most importantly, Bielsa is still in charge and his high-energy, high-risk style of football is still there.
There were those who questioned whether the Leeds players would be able to pick themselves up and go again this season, but those questions have already been answered after just seven league games.
There’s been no hangover from last season. The hunger and desire to win matches is still there and almost all of the new signings have made an impact and added something to the team.
Leeds may have lost two of their standout players from last season in Kemar Roofe and Pontus Jansson, but they’ve replaced them by bringing in two very exciting young players on loan from the Premier League.
Eddie Nketiah is special talent and the striker has shown in just a few matches that he’s capable of scoring goals at this level.
Ben White is a quality defender and it’s hard to believe that he’d never played in the Championship before. He’s shown fantastic maturity and has already formed a great partnership with captain Liam Cooper at centre-back.
Helder Costa looks like he could be a excellent signing. He’s a fantastic player and has got that ability to produce moments of individual brilliance that can change games.
Jack Harrison has returned on loan from Manchester City and looks a much better player, and Patrick Bamford has come back this season with a point to prove.
Even though the striker has been criticised for his lack of goals given the number of chances he’s had, he’s still scored four times and his all-round game has improved massively.
The players have totally bought into what the club are trying to achieve under Bielsa – just look at how much Stuart Dallas has improved this season, he’s done an excellent job at right-back and Luke Ayling may struggle to reclaim his place in the side.
Kalvin Phillips continues to go from strength to strength. It’s a major boost for the club to get him tied down to a new contract and shows great ambition from the club.
Then there’s the young players coming through, the likes of Jamie Shackleton and Leif Davis look very promising and could both have big futures ahead of them at Elland Road.
Even though we’re just a few weeks into the new season, there are so many reasons for Leeds supporters to be excited about the campaign ahead.
The defeat to Derby in the play-offs could turn out to be a blessing, as it seems as though it has made the team stronger.
The players seem even more determined to win promotion this time around and when it comes down to the business end of the season, they’ll know what to expect and should be able to handle the pressure.
There’s still a long way to go yet, but Leeds fans can certainly be forgiven for thinking that this is the season when the club finally end their exile from the top flight.