Stumbling Blocks Hardly Unknown on Leeds United’s Historic Success Trail – by Rob Atkinson

All White Champions

Champions 1973/74 – despite a late blip

There can be no denying that Leeds United were more than a little unfortunate to emerge from Saturday’s Yorkshire derby clash with Sheffield United empty-handed. Given ordinary luck, with just a break or two going the way of the Whites, it could have been a very different story; even a draw would have seen Leeds two points clear of third place. But little went right on the day and that, sadly, is a feeling that every Leeds fan down the years knows all too well. 

As it is, we had to take an undeserved defeat on the chin, with the woodwork, injuries and just about every factor you could name ranged against us. United are now a point off the automatic promotion places, when they could have been five points clear of third. Loud and woeful has been the wailing, rending of garments and gnashing of teeth among the United faithful, as the fates seem determined to conspire against Yorkshire’s Number One club.

But wait just a minute. Calm yourselves, fellow Leeds devotees, and be of good cheer. It’s all happened before, you see, at about this time of year too – and it’s rarely been fatal to our chances of success. When you look at our most recent landmark seasons, right back to when I was nobbut a lad, you’ll see that a late stumble or two, with United there or thereabouts and the tension mounting, is much more the rule than the exception.

Going as far back as 1974, when Don Revie‘s Super Leeds were stumbling somewhat along the title path, having at one stage been nine points clear, Burnley visited Elland Road and departed with two points from a 4-1 victory. It was hailed as nearest challengers Liverpool‘s great chance to overhaul United, but Leeds ended up as Champions and by a decisive margin.

Then, in 1990, Barnsley were the visitors on a night when nothing went right for Leeds. Centre back Chris Fairclough was absent for 13 first half minutes having seven stitches in a head wound. He rejoined the fray in time to plant a brave and bloody header into the Barnsley net, giving Leeds a well-deserved interval lead, to the massive relief of a huge Elland Road crowd. Surely, nothing could go wrong now?

In truth, we battered Barnsley throughout the ninety minutes but, in a sickening second half turnaround, two subs for the Tykes scored in quick succession, gifting the Reds an extremely unlikely win. Again, doom and gloom stalked the streets of Leeds – but United still went up as champions.

And then, two years on, Leeds were engaged in an almighty battle with Them from There for the last ever Football League Championship. The media were all agog for the Devonians to win the league – how fitting it would be, they purred. When Leeds lost heavily away, twice in a short space of time, it looked as though the script was written, with Leeds cast as fall guys. A 1-4 defeat at QPR had been followed in short order by a 0-4 reverse at Manchester City, and the Leeds-hating nation celebrated. But it was the Whites who held their nerve and mustered their resources to clinch the title of Last Champions by four points, while Manchester’s second club amusingly choked on the dry ashes of defeat.

So nil desperandum, all you devoted Whites out there. We’ve tripped up, recovered and gone on to win many a time before, in accordance with this great club’s motto of “Keep Fighting” – and there’s no reason we can’t do it again. Have faith in Marcelo Bielsa‘s boys, who really do have that fighting spirit that typified Super Leeds of old, and simply trust that all will come right in the end. Believe.

Marching On Together

19 responses to “Stumbling Blocks Hardly Unknown on Leeds United’s Historic Success Trail – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Football, like boxing, is about staying on your feet until the final bell. We’ve taken a heavy blow but it was not a knockout. We still have the skill to win on points. Let’s move on.


  2. We must not turn on individual players, after a set back!



  3. Reality Check

    Great post Rob that keeps our realistic promotion chances in true perspective and restores hope that our fantastic season will yet be crowned with glory.

    Yesterday’s result only serves to keep the players minds firmly focused on winning our remaining games. There did seem to be a growing belief amongst our fans that if we had managed to put a 5 point gap between us and 3rd place that we were practically promoted despite there still being another 24 points up for grabs with more twists and turns more than likely.

    So lets keep the faith and cheer the lads over the finishing line. I also hope that we are still in prime position to land James after his amazing performance against Citeh last night Rob. ALAW


  4. Spot on Rob. Calm is required. Leeds played as they have for most of the season. Plenty of the ball, missed chances and a couple of defensive errors.
    Sheffield Utd defended well and rode their luck. Fair enough. Goals win games etc. The team still obviously believe and so should we.
    BTW Wolves did well. That cheered me up.MOT.


  5. ‘Just watching Betis v Barcelona and wondering why Leeds can’t put chances away like Barca. Any thoughts?


  6. Spot on Rob. I remember that slip-up against Barnsley, when we all thought that we’d really blown it.
    The 3 – 0 defeat at home to Swindon and away defeat to Gillingham, both in the 2010 promotion season, was also a huge worry, but we won the games that mattered after that.
    Eight games left and only a point behind Sheffield Utd isn’t a total disaster and being in second position might become too much for a Sheffield United team who haven’t hit a sticky spell for a long time.
    The only disaster is that we haven’t got a game for two weeks.


  7. Rest assured Shaun Harvey will be walking around the football league hq with a fun sized mars bar protruding from the front of his trousers thinking about the possibility of us not going up. I was going to post a comment before the season began singling out a certain player and the fact that at some point in the season he will let us down and lo and behold he did,twice.


  8. Common sense out of all the doom and gloom Rob. No disrespect to any of our great fans but if you were in nappies during the seventies you will have missed some of the biggest heartbreaking defeats and dissapointmenta endured by those who were privileged to be part of the Revie legend. Saturday’s result pales into insignificance in comparison. Had you been in Wembley Stadium on that day in 1973, having saved up for a weekend of anticipated, utter bliss you would have suffered the most intense feeling of despair enough to drive a man to find the nearest hole and bury yourself. Add that to some of your very best mates being fanatical Chelsea supporters and you will well understand.
    It’s all about bouncing back, it’s about having a bad day at work which does not make you a bad workman. Roosevelt said in 1941, “It’s not who fired the first shot, it’s who fires the last shot”
    So come on guys get behind this team who have sweat blood this season for you and me. Cant hear the fat lady singing yet. MOT


  9. Life is LUFC

    Having had a good slug of the brandy a day dream that it was Leeds that won 1 0. I pulled myself together and said ” so Leeds are a point down”. There are still eight matches to go and all the teams are going to loose, draw and win. The wins sound good but I’ll take a draw or two but then those lads have played their socks off this season and they are not going to give up on the top two places lightly. So behind them I will get, one game at a time and cheer as loud as I can, wave my scarf and love them all to bits . Come on Leeds you know it’s in there,,,go, go, go give those haters something to hate, Leeds in the Prem.


  10. I’m sure, before the game, that Mr Wilder said that it wasn’t a season defining game, and that it would be disrespectful to infer that it was. Well maybe he should have told his players, especially that smug git in goal, typical Devonian. Anyways, upwards and onwards, about time Lady Luck stopped flirting with the Blunts and the six-fingered farmers and hopped in the sack with us now.


  11. one day we will get the breaks in a vital game as sheffu are mickey mouse, irrelevant, annoying & IF they go up & WHEN they immediately return back to where they belong oops sorry league one i meant with another similar club in size rotherham bless em’…. will just join the plethora of boring, very small clubs whose sole ambition is to finish fourth bottom whilst playing tedious, anaemic style football just like half of the very small clubs that make up the ‘premier’ league! (my arse!)

    its the jealousy you see, why we are so big even after 15 years down under!

    Andy hinks Kent white (every one knows a Leeds fan no matter where you are in the world.. its a fact ! )

    MOT great club!


  12. You’d think by the twatterati we had blown it. The yellowbellies and steel softies had better watch their back because the Bielsa roar is gonna hit them harder than that hapless sky interviewer got it. It ain’t..over..YET!


  13. Rob, fabulous blog and a must read for any Leeds fan. What’s your view of Victor Orta these days? You’ve not been shy in giving him plenty of stick in the past. Apparently he was responsible for bring Bielsa in and has played his part in getting Leeds to where they are now. Do you think you might have been a bit harsh?


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