Leeds owner Andrea Radrizzani paid special tribute to Norman Hunter and Jack Charlton in the wake of the club’s Premier League return.
United are back in the top flight after a 16-year exile as a result of Huddersfield’s win over West Brom on Friday, and the club’s players and officials marked the occasion with a behind-closed-doors party at Elland Road.
Thousands of fans celebrated on the streets outside, but Radrizzani was also eager to take time remember those the club have lost over recent weeks.
Hunter and Charlton died at either end of the recent lockdown, while Trevor Cherry passed away in between. The trio are Leeds greats from the Don Revie era and made a combined 1,985 appearances for the club.
Celebrating the club’s centenary last October, Hunter wrote Radrizzani a letter expressing his wish that the club would be promoted in his lifetime, and the Italian was quick to pay tribute.
“A word about Norman Hunter and Jack Charlton, two club legends we lost recently and who would have certainly celebrated this achievement with us,” he said in a letter on Leeds’ website.
“They are part of a great legacy that we will work hard to honour, as we continue to take strides forward in a new cycle for this fantastic club.”
Radrizzani assumed sole control of Leeds in 2017, having initially gone through a staged buy-out from the unpopular Massimo Cellino.
After a false start under Thomas Christiansen and then a short spell under Paul Heckingbottom, he and director of football Victor Orta pursued Marcelo Bielsa to be their next manager.
The enigmatic Argentinean has delivered, transforming a perennial mid-table team into their current guise and thus allowing Radrizzani to achieve his goal of promotion.
“I am so happy for everyone in the Leeds United family, we all deserve this promotion,” he added. “Leeds United is one of England’s greatest and most well-supported clubs with a rich history known all over the world.
“We have been out of the top flight for 16 years and I am thrilled for the whole club and our incredible fans that we are back in the Premier League.
“Since my journey with Leeds United began in the summer of 2017, we have strived for this moment and it is a time for us all to celebrate the club returning to where we belong. This is truly an amazing achievement and I’m so proud to be part of this club’s success.”
Radrizzani also asked fans to remember the ongoing coronavirus pandemic while celebrating, and thanked those who have helped make football’s return possible.
Congratulations came from America and the San Francisco 49ers, who own a 10 per cent stake in the club.
“I wanted to tell you how excited we are to be associated with you,” said president of 49ers Enterprises Paraag Marathe. “We are so happy for the fans, Andrea, coach Marcelo and all the players.
“Now we have a couple more things to do. Let’s go and get the Championship and then get to the Premier League and make some damage of our own.”
Bielsa met fans outside his house on Friday night, but had his players back in training on Saturday ahead of their clash at Derby.