Leeds United have hit out at pundit Karen Carney after she suggested that the Covid-induced hiatus last season secured their promotion to the Premier League.
Carney, speaking in her role as a pundit for Amazon Prime during Leeds' 5-0 win at West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday, said they ran the risk of losing steam at the end of the campaign because of their high-tempo style.
"They outrun everyone, and credit to them. My only concern would be, will they blow up at the end of the season like the last couple of seasons?" said Carney, who earned 144 England caps between 2005-2019.
"I actually think they got promoted because of Covid in terms of it giving them a bit of respite. I don't know if they'd have got up if they didn't have that break."
Fellow pundit Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink - a former Leeds player - agreed with her on air and can be heard in the clips circulating on social media.
In 2018-19, also under Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds were in second place before the final four matches of the season, and did not win any of them, meaning they dropped down to third place and out of the automatic promotion spots.
The 2019-20 Championship season resumed in June after a three-month hiatus due to the pandemic and Leeds won seven of their nine remaining matches, drawing one and losing one, going on to win the league with a tally of 93 points.
In response to Carney's comments, Leeds tweeted: "Promoted because of Covid. Won the league by 10 points."
Chairman Andrea Radrizzani joined in, saying on Twitter the comment was "completely unnecessary and disrespectful to our club".
Many fans also aired their views, pointing out that they had won five games on the spin before the season was put on pause.
And later on Wednesday, it was reported that the club had invited Carney to the training ground ahead of their FA Cup game against Crawley.
However, the initial tweet remains on their Twitter feed, and no public statement or apology had been forthcoming, although a club statement published by the Independent read:
Leeds United completely condemns any abuse received by Karen Carney on social media following last night’s Premier League game with West Bromwich Albion. Everyone at our club respects Karen greatly for all she has achieved in the game, as well as her work in the media and the charity work she undertakes.
Leeds, 11th on 23 points from 16 games, take on Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday.
Additional reporting courtesy of Reuters.