Great Britain

Vinnie Jones says Marcelo Bielsa and Leeds can finally Snatch promotion to Premier League three decades after he did it

VINNIE JONES is backing his beloved Leeds to end 16 years of hurt and win promotion — three decades after he helped them into football’s Promised Land.

The fallen giants were relegated from the Premier League in 2004 and have known little but  heartache and misery ever since.

After last season’s near-miss in the play-offs, Marcelo Bielsa’s men have wobbled alarmingly in recent weeks and let slip an 11-point lead over third place in the Championship.

Yet last weekend’s 1-0 home win over Bristol City gave their promotion dream a huge shot in the arm and they now lie three points ahead of Fulham with 13 games  remaining.

Legendary hardman Jones, who has gone on to forge a lucrative career as a tough guy actor, was part of the Leeds side who went up as champions in 1990 under Howard Wilkinson.

The 55-year-old even has a  Leeds tattoo on his leg to mark  the promotion.

And Jones — who appeared in such cinema successes as Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and Gone In 60 Seconds — remains a cult hero at Elland Road.

He said: “The ups and downs that this great club have endured throughout the past 30 years since then have been quite astonishing.

“My two career highlights were winning the FA Cup with Wimbledon in 1988 and then getting promoted with Leeds two years later.

“What Wimbledon achieved was a fairytale but going up with Leeds in 1990 was a must.

“Bill Fotherby brought me to Elland Road when I signed and said ‘This is s*** or bust’, so there was a lot of pressure on us.

“After I was signed and John  Sheridan was let go, some Leeds  fans tore up their season tickets in  protest. When we went to Bournemouth for that final day in May 1990, we simply had to win.”

Lee Chapman’s goal secured a 1-0 victory for Sergeant Wilko’s side to send them up into the First Division as champions.

The game was marred by violence though, as Leeds fans clashed with police the night before.

Jones recalled: “I can see it now as if it was 20 minutes ago — Chris Kamara’s cross and Chapman’s header. I had taken a risk by  dropping down a division to come and play for Leeds but I couldn’t believe the loyalty and passion from the fans.

“I pray to God they don’t f*** it all up again, which they have done for quite a few years now. It’s a mental block we need to overcome.

“But once they get back to the  Premier League, I don’t think there will be any stopping this club.

“I recently attended the Leeds’  centenary dinner and the reception I got from fans was unbelievable.

“There were a couple of club legends who probably thought I shouldn’t have been there but the reaction from fans put them in their place.

“Leeds are so close now and have a fantastic manager in Bielsa, who everybody seems to love.

“Back in 1990, we had a few blips but we got over the line.

“Wilko says he let me go too early and that’s my one regret, that I was a Leeds player for only 18 months.”

Jones became reunited with former Wimbledon boss Dave Bassett at Sheffield United, playing alongside current Blades chief Chris Wilder.

Jones added: “I’m not surprised to see Chris doing so well because he is a proper down-to-earth Yorkshireman who believes in his system.

“He would have learned a lot from the old school like Bassett and is doing an amazing job. I think it is important to stay loyal to your roots — and Chris does that very well.”

Vinnie was speaking at an Evening with Vinnie Jones organised by Kong Events at Elland Road.

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