Leeds Title Retrospective: Villa & Hammers Could Still Make Liverpool Champions – by Rob Atkinson


The Last Champions

The Last Champions

The more years that pass since Leeds United’s 1992 title success, making them the Last Champions – it’s 22 years now – the more the myth is perpetuated by the Man U-friendly media that it was the collapse under pressure of the Pride of Devon that year which denied them the ultimate accolade.  In short – and as echoed in Alex Ferguson’s bile-ridden summary of the season – Leeds United didn’t win the League – Man U lost it.

There had been a lot of talk throughout that last season of pre-Murdoch football about how “fitting” it would be for Man U to at last end up as top dogs after 25 years of hurt (or amusement, depending on your point of view).  There was nauseating speculation about the date that the title would finally “come home to OT”.  Somewhere in Greater Manchester, there is, in all likelihood, a warehouse which still contains souvenir candles, t-shirts and sundry other tawdry tat, prematurely commemorating the 1992 Championship success that never happened for Ferguson’s nearly men. There was a fair degree of confidence in the air, as you can see.

In the end, it wasn’t fitting – because Man U weren’t good enough and Leeds claimed a deserved honour.  The Whites finished top by four clear points, having won most games and lost fewest.  They scored the second-highest number of goals and conceded the second fewest to end up with the best goal difference overall.  Any way you care to look at it, Leeds were worthy champions – but that doesn’t stop the media and others from pushing the “unlucky Man U” myth. And the fact is, as well – the winning margin for the Champions could – and should – have been far greater.

Setting aside the well-remembered banana skins that Leeds contrived to skid wildly on away from home as the season got to its final act – those thrashings at Man City and QPR and a pallid defeat at Oldham – Leeds also managed to let slip four seemingly-vital points at fortress Elland Road, to mar an otherwise unstoppable progress in their home campaign.  In the last eight home games, Leeds won six and drew two.  The only teams to escape from LS11 with anything at all were Aston Villa and West Ham – coincidentally the two clubs Liverpool are now relying upon to upset the Manchester City apple-cart, and deliver a long-overdue title to Anfield.

Those two 0-0 draws at Elland Road served, at the time, to increase the conviction that we were destined to fall short at the end of the season. They were games of missed opportunities, including a rare missed penalty by the normally infallible Gordon Strachan – and those four dropped home points could well have been fatal in the final reckoning.  But as things turned out, the two agonising draws served only to limit the final margin of success, proving that then, as now, it was impossible to call correctly the twists and turns of a title head-to-head.

In the end, it was Man U that bottled it – as Liverpool appear to have done at home to Chelsea and at Crystal Palace – and it was Leeds United who finally held their nerve to close the season out with a series of coldly nerveless performances, culminating in that crazy, decisive match at Sheffield United.

Now, in the moment of Liverpool’s blackest despair, it is those two claret-and-blue clubs which hold the key to the Reds’ remaining shreds of hope. Manchester City have to face the challenge of obtaining four points from the two home games left to them, and thereby clinch a title that was Liverpool’s to lose until these last couple of weeks.

City may well be without their talisman Aguero, but of course they have a squad packed with quality even without the quicksilver Argentinian.  But in his absence, City always seem that bit more more ponderous in attack, that few percentage points less lethal than when he is in there and performing at his best.

Neither Villa nor West Ham have anything to play for other than pride; nor indeed do they have anything to fear.  They may well set out to frustrate the home team in these two Etihad encounters – and in both games, the longer it remains goalless, the more Manchester City would become nervous and doubtful.  The fans would sit there, getting edgy – thinking “typical City”. It’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible.

Liverpool, ultimately, will have only themselves to blame if they do end up missing out on what was a golden chance to be Champions again – after so long a time without that once perennial accolade.  The defence has not been good enough and there has been, at times, an unforgivable naivety of approach made worse by shattering individual errors.  A draw was good enough at home to Chelsea, but it was thrown away.  A 3-0 win at Palace would have put the pressure on Man City – but a gung-ho quest for even more goals opened the back door, and the Pulis-inspired Palace nipped in three times to deny the Reds that victory.

It would take a heart of stone not to feel regret and sympathy for the sobbing, devastated double Player of the Year Suarez; he deserves far better from what has been a magical season for him.  And Gerrard, too, deserves more than he looks likely to get.  The list of mediocre players with Premier League medals is a long one, the list of greats who lack one is somewhat shorter.  The injustice of that will not be lost on Gerrard, a player whose fierce desire to be the best has been etched in every line of his being lately; but who is likely, in a vicious twist of fate, to be the man who carries the can for Liverpool pulling up short of the line.

All these players and their team-mates can do now, is wait – and hope.  If Aston Villa – notorious for blowing hot and cold this season – can turn it on at City and claim a highly unlikely win, then the Reds’ fate would be back in their own hands come Sunday.  They would be one home victory over Newcastle from recapturing the Holy Grail; given that vastly improbable last chance, you sense they would not squander it at any price.

Now that Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has played his last card in the game of raising the pressure stakes, by publicly conceding the title, City will be as well aware as anyone that a banana skin awaits them on Wednesday, with another beyond that on Sunday.  They’re the same two home-ground banana skins that Leeds United so nearly slipped up on all those years ago in 1992. Can Villa and the Hammers throw a spanner in the works for real this time?  

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34 responses to “Leeds Title Retrospective: Villa & Hammers Could Still Make Liverpool Champions – by Rob Atkinson

  1. sniffersshorts

    fairly simple message as far as purple head concerned C U NEXT TUESDAY

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  2. As long as Newcastle don’t get involved in this and we end up with Chelscum as Champions

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    • my thoughts too, nothing against Liverpool or citeh, either winning it will rub salt in the manures season. but I would hate to see john terrys gurning racist mug lifting up the trophy and half the clubs in England copying Jose aragantos anti-football bus parking bullshit.

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  3. JOHN INGHAM

    DEAR MR.ATKINSON,I NORMALLY ENJOY READING YOUR HONEST AND OFTEN AMUSING COLUMNS,HOWEVER ON THIS OCCASION I FEEL BOUND TO COMMENT AND SAY I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO SYMPATHY FOR ‘OUR STEVIE’OR THE CHEATING CRY BABY, (GREAT STRIKER MIND,SUAREZ).KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK,COME ON LEEDS,OH AND CITY!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  4. JOHN INGHAM

    APOLOGIES,I ALWAYS WRITE IN CAPITALS,DIDN’T REALISE IT MEANT SHOUTING.I’M AN OLD PERSON NEW TO TECHNOLOGY!!!!!

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    • It does mean shouting. Never mind, I’ll bill you for a virtual hearing aid 😉 Meanwhile, it’s good to have your point of view, thanks for sharing.

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  5. Shame about Liverpool….looks like its all down to Man Citeh ( a team that’s worth 300 million but cost a billion to develop). Cant say im bothered either way if Citeh win it.

    I will be quietly pleased if Norwich go down though…… had enough Canary fans rubbing it in that we are their feeder club. WE will have to make a song about that next season………

    As for man cities approach id rather go down the more careful route to success, a few good players bought every season and blooding of good youth players then it feels more like you as a fan are involved.

    Saw the negative comments from some leeds fans re McCormack on YEP but cant be bothered to reply there. All I can say is RM is quite right, we need to be pushing every season and hes basically saying ill stay if you show some ambition, which given his age and current form is perfectly understandable. But for some delusional fans 30 goal a season strikers grow on trees and are “easily replaceable” Well they are on “Championship Manager” anyway…….

    That’s my rant for the day. Laters

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    • It’s a good rant and indeed quite inspiring. I’ll be having my say on the fact that McCormack and Cellino appear to be singing from different hymn-sheets a bit later.

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  6. Can’t agree with you on this one Rob. Mancs who grew up to support former comic turn City deserve all for their strength of character, turning their backs on the Theatre of Hype and Hagiography. Still, we can’t lose really, either way!

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    • I see your point – but I’ve been far more entertained by Liverpool this season than by either Citeh or Chelsea – more even than by Arsenal, for whom I have more than a sneaking regard. It’s on this that I base my wish that Liverpool would be champions, together with the fact that I feel Gerrard deserves a medal to reflect his excellence over many years. Still – it’s all about opinions!

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      • Citeh still play nice football, maybe not as cavalier as Liverpool but they’re closer to Liverpool entertainment wise than the boring dross played at Chelsea.

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  7. Sorry Rob, still dont get this Liverpool love in thing.

    You have clearly forgot the level of arrogance of the Liverpool fans after that run of success in the 80s. I was at the 1992 Anfield game on the title run in and the nonsense about their divine right to be successful I heard from die hard reds in the pub after the game sticks with me every season they fail .

    I also dont like the link that they make between justice for the hillsborough victims and winning the title. That is an insult to those poor fans who never survived. Football is football and contrary to the Shankley myth it is not more important than life and death.

    Rant over.

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    • As ever on this blog or in the wider world of football and everything else, it’s all about opinions. Long may they continue to differ, saving us all from a long slow death by boredom!

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    • PS – if you want to see a rant, read my blog on why Leeds fans were right to sing Revie’s name at Blackburn through a compulsory minute’s silence for Busby. Opinions differ on that one, too…

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  8. You’re in La la land Rob ..Liverpool have blown it…and I do feel a bit uneasy about how often you have cosied up to them and the Arse this year…I know its all anti Scum motivated but lets be Frank, LUFC have lost the right to be spoken of in the same breath as these clubs..at least for a season or so before we’re promoted

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    • Sorry if it makes you feel uneasy – I can only hope you don’t have nightmares, or go off your food or something.

      As with anything I write here, you have the usual two choices presented to any reader.

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      • Well actually I love reading your stuff. You are my favorite Leeds Blogger, however sometimes I think you need a reality check. Leeds are not the equals they once were to the Premier League giants.I think any perceived rivalry or even ‘mutal respect’ is only relevant when we get back to where we belong.
        We will be back and then I look forward to taking on the giants again, but for now, we have to worry about the Brightons and Blackpools.

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      • My view is that we can’t go down that road of passive acceptance. Just as the fans are currently the club’s biggest asset, so the dreams and pride of the fans are all we have as a foundation on which to build future glory. Reality checks and worrying about a mundane present are not part of a fanatic’s lexicon. We are here to be loud and proud and to have those dreams and aspirations – failing which, we really might as well be any old club. And we’re patently NOT.

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  9. Greetings Rob

    I would personally prefer to see City win it, think Liverpool should have played Agger and then maybe they would not have conceeded 3 times last night. Think the Liverpool supporters need a reality check, as most of them thought the title was theirs before the Chelscum game, Man City will win both games and wont concede a goal i.m.o.

    Bring on the new season, and lets hope we show as much fight as those Palace players have in the last 3 months, that effort and the crowd as 12th man I think is not only impressive, but has helped them to their lofty league position

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    • The Palace crowd were magnificent and they’ve had a great season.

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    • Rob, I will end the debate in the knowledge that we are both passionate about our club and we deal with getting through living in a world where we have to deal with our past glory, and both the pride and the frustration that this brings, in our own way.
      By the way, do you now agree its City’s Title?

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      • It will be City’s title when Liverpool cannot – mathematically – win it themselves. I anticipate that will be the case at the final whistle on Sunday, but I can’t be entirely certain of that. There may yet be a blog entitled “Can Former Reds Striker Carroll Win Title For Liverpool?” Watch this space 😉

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  10. I still think there’s a few twists and turns rob , I flew back in to Leeds/bradford last night and was supprised at the Liverpool score and expect to be supprised again before the season is over ,,, going down the leagues id like brighton to win our play offs and rotherham to win league one play off , good luck to both (

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  11. Hope Derby go up, only because they deserve it and I’ve had two miserable trips there in succession . Preston up so it’s a trip to a traditional ground and not a multi purpose arena, I keep expecting Billy Graham to turn up at these places. Hate all other Yorkshire teams , so bitter but there you go . Almost forgot , sod Liverpool

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    • I don’t mind boro and bradford.

      But I’m with you when it comes to the wendys (who I like to loose to everyone bar salford united and chelski). Oh and the dog botherers.

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    • Not sure of Hammersfans whereabouts though I’m half expecting him to pop up again anytime soon saying he was negotiating the purchase if his 14th house or holidaying in Croatia or something similar . Kinda pleased we didn’t have to face his daily drivel during the Cellino ‘Fit and proper ‘ saga..can you imagine what it would have been like !

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  12. I cant say I have any sympathy for Liverpool at all. I have a great and healthy respect for the, I started watching Leeds United in the late 1960s after all. The thing with me is as long as they fail, we have won the league more recently than they have which kind of puts the mockers on the popular press’s theory that they SHOULD be winning it every year and that when it comes to Leeds we have no tradition.
    .

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    • Surely the darlings of the press are that shower from salford, look at them fauning over “super manager” giggsywiggsy

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