Tag Archives: history

Only Believable At Leeds: Fan PAID to Support Cellino??   –   by Rob Atkinson

MASSIMO-CELLINO

Cellino: paying for the love after all?

In the latest twist to Massimo Cellino‘s Machiavellian tenure at Leeds United, Whites fan Scott Gutteridge has claimed that he was paid an average of £500 per month to talk up il Duce on social media. Specifically, the Facebook group Cellino In, later renamed In Massimo We Trust was a vehicle for pro-Cellino propaganda, bought and paid for by Leeds United, alleges Mr. Gutteridge. It’s a story that goes back to February, but it’s resurfacing now, with a vengeance. Names are being named and the whole thing begins to smell like a giant Italian rat.

The tragic part of the accusation is that, with many clubs, you’d laugh it off as nothing more than ludicrous fabrication. Even at Leeds, a club Gutteridge now describes as “rotten to the core”, it stretches the limits of credibility somewhat. But, in the end, if you’ve any more than a passing acquaintance with what’s gone on at Elland Road over the past few years, then yes. You can believe it. In fact, looking at the way our club has been mismanaged, with lack of proper investment and a ridiculous turnover of management staff, not to mention money wasted in various humiliating court cases – the notion that a club owner would actually pay for good press seems horribly likely. 

The irony for me personally is that, in Cellino’s early days at Leeds, I was an enthusiastic supporter. I even had a selfie with him, for God’s sake. Many were the thousands of words I penned in his cause, and against what I saw as the persecution of our saviour by the Football League. And I did it all for free. Laugh? I almost feel like putting in for back pay.

The scales fell from my eyes in due course, and I’ve made myself deeply unpopular with many Cellino acolytes by relentlessly attacking their hero for his dragging down of the football club I love. To me, he’s an inept, dishonest, egomaniac who shouldn’t be allowed near a club like Leeds United, the focus of adoration for thousands of fans worldwide. I’ve long been convinced that United will only prosper once more when Cellino is nothing more than a particularly unpleasant memory. 

Many will still support him. Leeds fans, after all, are stubborn folk. And I’ll get more stick for this and subsequent articles. But I care not a jot. Cellino is receipted and filed as a crook and a charlatan – and if he doesn’t like that, let him sue me. The classical libel defence of “the truth” would see me through.

Is it really possible that even a Music Hall act like Cellino would actually pay a fan to say nice things about him – and then get caught out doing so? This man who once famously and drunkenly said “You can buy a bitch for a night – but you can’t buy the love, my friend”. Could he really be hoist so royally with his own petard?

Knowing the man’s character as I’m confident I do, with the testimony of many wise people, who know him better than I do, ringing in my ears – I have to say, it’s not only possible, it’s more than probable, it’s entirely bloody likely. 

Yes, I believe it. And it’s just one more reason why any Leeds United fan with his or her head screwed on should be saying long, loud and often:

Time to go, Massimo. Cellino must go!

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Birthday Boy Strachan’s Crucial Rocket for Leeds United Against Leicester – by Rob Atkinson

"Have you ever seen a better goal?  Have you ever seen one better timed??" John Helm, YTV

“Have you ever seen a better goal? Have you ever seen one better timed??” John Helm, YTV

On the occasion of Gordon Strachan’s 59th birthday – and by the way, many happy returns, Sir – I thought I’d look back to what was possibly his defining moment as the man who did more than just about anyone to reinvent Leeds as a post-Revie force in English football.

It had been a long time coming since Don’s Glory Boys dispersed to pastures new and a Golden Era faded into the dim haze of memory. We had been eight years in the second division doldrums and had almost forgotten what it was like to be a top team. But – finally! – it looked as though the nightmare was ending as Sergeant Wilko and Captain Strachan were set to lead United back to the Promised Land at long last. A home fixture against Leicester City was the penultimate hurdle to overcome, and expectations were soaring at Elland Road.

Twelve days before the Leicester game, United had appeared to strike a decisive blow, battering closest rivals Sheffield United 4-0 at Elland Road. But any hope that promotion could be clinched early was dashed over the next two fixtures, a draw at Brighton where the lead was squandered to sacrifice two points, and then a home defeat to a relegation-threatened Barnsley who even then had the ability to put one over on us with an inferior team. So the nerves were jangling for this home date with the Foxes.

Leicester breezed into town with no pressure on them at all as they bobbed about serenely in mid-table, but Leeds just had to win. A victory could possibly clinch promotion; anything else and we would be relying on others to give us that final leg-up – not an attractive prospect. The atmosphere at Elland Road that day was something to behold as 32597 packed the stands and terraces, the Kop a seething mass of bodies, a solid wall of sound. If the weight of support counted for anything, then it seemed Leicester might just as well turn around and go home – but to their eternal credit they fought the good fight and played their part in a memorable afternoon.

It all started well. Leeds pressed hard – this had been their preferred approach all season long. No opponent was allowed the luxury of untroubled possession as Leeds snapped at ankles and harried the enemy, hungry for the ball and well able to use it productively. At their best, United had proved a match for any team in the Division; as ever though it was the off days that had let us down. On this particular occasion, attacking the Kop End in the first half, the forward momentum seemed irresistible. Before long, the overlapping Mel Sterland fastened on to a ball at the right corner of the penalty area and fired low and hard into the net to open the scoring. The overwhelming relief was as evident as the unconfined joy around the packed stadium; surely now United would go on to consolidate their advantage and seal the promotion we’d wanted for so long.

Frustratingly, it was not to be. Despite further pressure, Leeds failed to make another breakthrough before half-time and Leicester – relaxed and pressure-free – were looking more and more ominously like potential party-poopers. These fears solidified in the second half as the away side pressed an increasingly nervous Leeds back, and eventually – inevitably – they drew level. The blow when it came was struck by a rumoured transfer target for Leeds, promising young Scot Gary McAllister. He proved that he packed some punch by belting a fine strike past veteran Mervyn Day to shock the Kop rigid and momentarily silence Elland Road.

Worse was so nearly to follow as McAllister almost did it again, another superb shot coming within an ace of giving Leicester the lead, something which would doubtless have produced the unedifying spectacle of grown men crying in their thousands. It may well be that McAllister sealed his move to Leeds with this performance and those two efforts, but I could have seen him far enough from LS11 that day. Leeds were rocking, looking at each other, scratching heads and clenching fists in the time-honoured “come on, let’s bloody sort this out” gesture. Slowly, by sheer force of will, the lads in White regained the initiative and it looked at least as though the danger of further damage was receding. The football was still nerve-shredding stuff, all urgency and little fluency, a desperate battle to eke out the extra two points that would make promotion so much more likely.

Time was ebbing away fast now, as Leeds hurled themselves time and again into the defensive barrier of red Leicester away shirts. Panic was setting in, the biggest enemy of constructive football. It was looking like a draw, which would not be enough. Then, a throw halfway inside the Leicester half in front of the West Stand, under the eyes of a bleakly worried Wilko. Sterland gathered himself and hurled a massively long throw deep into the away penalty area, only for it to be headed out from around the near post. McAllister attempted to complete the clearance with an overhead effort to get rid, but the ball hit Gordon Strachan to bounce back into the box. And there was Gary Speed to lay that ball back instantly to the still-lurking Strachan who simply lashed it, left-footed, into the net. The ball had gone in like a bullet; Strachan – too tired to control it and try to work a yard of space to dink one of those cute little far-post crosses as he might normally – settled instead for catching the ball right on the sweet spot and it arrowed home to a positive explosion of noise from all around Elland Road – the sudden release of what had been unbearable tension produced a massive roar to buffet the ear drums of innocent bystanders miles away.

It was one of those occasions when several things seem to happen at once. The crowd behind the goal at the South Stand end seemed to boil with passion and relief, a maelstrom of delighted celebration which was echoed across the whole stadium. Strachan himself ran to the byline, face contorted, weary limbs pumping in triumphant exultation as he took the plaudits of the faithful. A lone copper is visible on the TV footage between Strach and the cavorting hordes, a grin on his face as he moves to quell any ambitious pitch-invaders. In the commentary box, John Helm unwittingly propelled himself into immortality, not for the last time that afternoon. “Have you ever seen a better goal?” he demanded. “And have you ever seen one better timed?” It was a good question, and right then, right there, I doubt you’d have found a Leeds fan to answer “yes” to either part of it. The rest was a blur; Leeds held out, and we had won – and seemingly gained promotion. Rumours were flying around that Newcastle had failed to win, sending us up. But John Helm was at it again, more iconic words: “Is that confirmed…?” When the confirmation arrived, it was of a late Toon win; we still had it all to do at Bournemouth the following week. But Strachan’s late cracker had kept us in a race that we were ultimately destined to win.

My final memory of that day is of walking down off the Kop and onto the pitch as the masses there were starting to disperse. We crossed the hallowed turf from goal-line to goal-line, eventually exiting the ground into Elland Road at the south-west corner, where the big screen now stands. I can still remember the heady scent of stud-holed mud and trodden turf, my head was still buzzing as I walked over the spot where wee Gordon had made that perfect half-volley contact to send us all into delirium. It had been an atmosphere the like of which I have rarely seen before or since, only the mayhem at Bramall Lane when Gayle scored that own-goal title-clincher coming anywhere near, or maybe that ankle-busting semi-riot of a celebration when Dave Batty broke his long goal drought against Man City in 1991.

For the sheer relief of it however – the absolute nerve-shredding, tension-breaking release of it – this was definitely THE one. Without Strachan’s sublime strike, we could well have missed out on automatic promotion, and we all know only too well that there’s a law against us succeeding in the play-offs. Gordon’s Golden Goal had kept the dream alive and made possible all that followed up to the League Championship triumph two years later. Make no mistake – it was THAT important.

Thanks, wee man, for the brilliant memories. Have a brilliant birthday.

Yorkshire Derby Joy: Sheffield Wednesday 1, Leeds United 6 – by Rob Atkinson

Take That, Wendies - Hat-Trick Hero Leee Celebrates

Take That, Wendies – Hat-Trick Hero Leee Celebrates

Today, we’re taking a look back to almost exactly 24 years ago to one of Leeds United’s, let’s say, more emphatic performances on their travels. Ahead of the lunchtime kick-off at Hillsborough – a fixture we can hardly anticipate with any pleasure, given current form and the sour mood surrounding Leeds United as a club – this match in January of ’92 provides some particularly happy memories.

As 1991 turned into 1992, there was plenty to look forward to for our great club.  Against many expectations, Leeds had stayed the pace in the first half of the season, to remain Man U’s main challengers for the last ever old-style Football League Championship.  We also retained an interest in both Cups, and there was no European football to muddy the waters, as we’d “only” finished fourth on our top-flight re-entry the season before (a position, it should be noted, that gains entry to the guaranteed riches of the Champions’ League these less demanding days).  So it was the League Cup and the FA Cup that promised to be the distractions from our pursuit of the Title, and guess what?  We were drawn at home in both competitions against The Pride of Devon, our main rivals for the Championship.  You couldn’t, as they say, make it up.

History shows that our beloved neighbours from “ovver t’hill” ended our involvement in both Cups, deservedly 3-1, let it be said, in the 5th Round of the League Cup (then Rumbelows Cup).  By contrast, a distinctly unlucky exit in the 3rd Round of the FA Cup followed, when a dominant Leeds performance brought only the bitter pill of a 1-0 defeat, and a worrying injury to Lee Chapman into the bargain.   Prior to the Cup games, we had played Man U in the league at Elland Road, drawing one each in the first game of what was known at the time as a “Titanic Roses Trilogy” by unimaginative sub-editors everywhere.  So honours were by no means even, but the consequences of this mighty three match series would be felt over the remainder of the season, and – some would argue – far beyond.

The immediate fall-out was that Leeds were “free to concentrate on the League”, as the cliché runs.  Man U, meanwhile, continued on to Wembley in the League Cup, enjoying a victory over Nottingham Forest, but ended up losing amusingly at home to Southampton in the FA Cup.  The fixture congestion they suffered as the season entered its final stages would be significant, if not actually decisive, in the eventual destination of the Title.

As far as the Title went, the lads from the Theatre of Hollow Myths had suffered a shock on New Year’s Day, capitulating 4-1 at home to QPR. Later that January 1st, Leeds won competently 3-1 at West Ham, and remained well in the race for the ultimate domestic honour.  The scene was adequately set, then, for Wilko’s first return to Hillsborough since he had quit Wednesday to become Leeds boss in 1988. This would also be Chapman’s last game before his season-threatening FA Cup injury. He was destined to be sidelined only temporarily, and he went out in emphatic style.

There was a crowd of 32,228 at Hillsborough, the usual vociferous contingent of travelling Leeds fans rivalling the home crowd for noise from the outset, and completely drowning them as the game went on. Leeds United were weakened – so it seemed – by the absence of the injured Gordon Strachan and suspended David Batty, half of their legendary midfield Fantastic Four. Any side, surely, would miss performers of such calibre. Leeds, however, seemed determined to make light of the problem, and tore into the shocked Wendies from the start.  Full-back Tony Dorigo made an early, darting run, cutting in from the left and making good progress down the centre of the pitch, before unleashing a right-foot thunderbolt that home ‘keeper Chris Woods had to tip over.  From the resulting Gary MacAllister corner, Chris Fairclough rose to head downwards, and found Chapman in splendid isolation 4 yards out; his finish was sure and deadly.

For a local derby, the contest had been decidedly one-way traffic – Chapman was to send two towering headers just wide before Carl Shutt had a scuffed shot smothered by Woods in the home goal. Then, a true champagne moment as Mel Sterland fed the ball to Chapman on the right. In a completely untypical burst of pace and control, Chappy surged between two hapless Wednesday defenders, raced into the area, and unleashed a shot that beat Woods completely, just clipping the frame of the goal to rapturous applause from the Leeds fans at the Leppings Lane End. I remember thinking at the time that anything was possible now, if Lee Chapman could do something so utterly out of character. And so it proved as, from a free kick awarded just right of centre some ten yards outside the box, Dorigo stepped up to absolutely hammer the ball past a helpless ‘keeper. Cue raucous jubilation from the White Army behind the goal, celebrating as clean a strike as you could ever see, hurtling into the far corner with precision and power.

At 2-0 down, the home side were making increasingly desperate attempts to gain some sort of foothold in the match. This desperation was adequately demonstrated when, from a harmless-looking ball into the Leeds area, Wednesday striker Gordon Watson ran in front of Chris Whyte, continued on for another step or two, and then hurled himself into the air, landing in agonised paroxysms of simulation between a bemused Whyte and Leeds ‘keeper John Lukic. Such obvious fraud and villainy could have only one outcome, and the stadium held its collective breath for sentence to be passed on the miscreant. Instead – amazingly – referee Philip Don pointed to the spot as Whyte snarled his outraged disbelief.  Whether none of the officials had seen the extent of Watson’s ham-acting, or whether they were perhaps moved by sympathy for the mauling Wednesday were taking from a rampant Leeds, it’s impossible to say.  Ex-Leeds hero John Sheridan stepped up, saw his penalty brilliantly saved as Lukic tipped it against his right-hand post, and then gleefully belted home the rebound to give Wednesday a massively unmerited lifeline.

An act of such base and scurvy treachery required nothing less than a riposte of the utmost nobility and beauty. And, happily, so it came to pass. Just minutes after the home side’s ridiculous blagging of an unfair route back into the game, Leeds effortlessly took control again with a goal sublime in both conception and execution. Lukic bowled the ball out to Dorigo on the left flank; he sent it down the line to Gary Speed, who took one touch to steady himself, before sending a beautiful flighted cross into the Wednesday area.  And there, inevitably, was Chapman, horizontal in mid-air, neck cocked to hammer the ball unanswerably past Woods, the perfect counterpunch to suck a knavish low blow.  It was a gorgeous goal, sweeping the length of the left side of the field, taking the entire home team right out of the game, and re-establishing the two goal margin which was the least Leeds United deserved at half-time.

The second half that day was simply a story of how a blood-and-thunder Yorkshire derby turned into a stroll in the park for Leeds United.  It seemed as if all the life had been sucked out of the home team – a Wednesday side, let’s not forget, who were unbeaten at home since the opening day of the season, and who would go on to finish third in the table.  So they were no mugs, but Leeds United were absolutely irresistible on the day, and would have hammered far better teams than the hapless Owls.

Possibly, Wednesday were simply embarrassed about that cringeworthy penalty, possibly they were tired, having been run rings around since the start.  Whatever the case, their heads dropped steadily further and further as the game progressed, and they offered little resistance as Leeds proceeded to throttle the life out of them.  Chapman completed his hat-trick after the hour, heading in after Speed had struck the bar from a corner.  Poor Speedo was looking the other way, bemoaning his bad luck when the ball hit the back of the net, turning his frustration to joy.  Then perennial bit-part player Mike Whitlow ventured forward, just because he could, and rose unchallenged to meet Wallace’s right-wing cross and head easily over a stranded Woods.  It was left to little Rodney Wallace to administer the coup de grâce, striding clear after a shimmering exchange of passes in midfield to dink the ball over the advancing ‘keeper, and put the suffering home side finally out of their misery.

For Leeds, it had been their biggest away win in over 60 years as they returned to the First Division summit in the best possible manner.  The message had been sent out loud and clear: United were serious about their Championship challenge, and they would surely look back after their eventual success in the League, to identify this sumptuous display as one that defined them as potentially the best team in the land.  For Wednesday it was utter humiliation, and truth to tell it was difficult to sympathise.  Better really to lose 6-0 than to be tainted as they were with such a crass and obvious example of cheating – and it hardly reflected much credit on myopic referee Don, either.

It was a massively impressively performance, a hugely significant victory, and the sweetest possible return for United’s ex-Owls contingent.  Mel Sterland always took great delight in beating the Blades, but this victory over his boyhood favourites would have only happy memories for him, as indeed for Chapman, Shutt and of course the Sergeant himself.  Leeds would march on to the Title, Man U’s quarter-of-a-century wait would extend for another 12 delightful months – and Wednesday would recover to finish impressively, despite another awful trouncing at Highbury.

But January 12th 1992 belonged entirely to Leeds United, who looked like Champions a full four months early with this five star, six of the best Masterclass display.

Plans For Statue of Leeds Legend Mowatt at Elland Road   –   by Rob Atkinson

History-maker Alex Mowatt: to be immortalised outside Elland Road?

Leeds United 1 (Mowatt), Cardiff City 0

After eight barren months without a win at Elland Road, and 32 years since a win over this pesky South Wales outfit on home soil, Tuesday night’s 1-0 victory over Cardiff City came as a welcome relief to everyone with Leeds United carved painfully into their hearts.

It was a win that provoked reactions across the full gamut of human emotional response, from a devastatingly gutted Don Goodman, Sky TV’s Leeds match mickey-taker of choice, right through to the joyful elation of young Alex Mowatt himself, the scorer of a goal fit to win any game of football. Picking the ball up halfway inside Cardiff territory, almost midway through the second half, Mowatt shimmied away from a distant challenge with one sinuous matador’s flourish of his hips, looked up briefly and then back down at the ball – which he caught with an absolute purler of a left foot strike to hammer it into the top right-hand side of the Gelderd End goal.

Cue the mayhem of relief and hysteria as the hardy Leeds fans behind that malnourished goal exploded into cavorting celebration. Mowatt took the rapturous applause with a clutch of delighted – or astounded – teammates dancing dervish-like around him. Meanwhile, poor Goodman, with a face like the smell of gas, sadly relayed news of the goal to a mainly disappointed nation.

It was the undoubted high point of a low-key match between two sides currently locked together in second-tier mediocrity. But that goal will long be remembered, and not just for its sumptuous quality. It was a goal, note well, that brought to an end those two dismal runs of failure. No home wins since March was a shameful record for a club whose home was once regarded by many good judges and Alex Ferguson, as the most hostile and intimidating arena in football. And 32 years is far too long to let a club as deserving of regular sound thrashings as Cardiff are, go unchastised.

So, two monkeys were dislodged from our collective back on Tuesday night, two unwelcome ghosts were laid to rest. It’s fanciful of course – even edging close to bitter sarcasm – to suggest raising a statue to our youthful midfielder on the strength of one sublime strike. But though intended as a bittersweet jest, the jocular notion in this article’s headline sums up the relief generated by one fairly unremarkable but sorely needed victory.

In a week when Massimo Cellino bid farewell to Elland Road – as a matchday spectator, at least, and subject to any late changes of his mercurial mind – and when it also became a distinct possibility that a fans’ consortium might replace the Italian, possibly with a Gladiator on board, it was vital, crucial, utterly necessary to mark this possible fork in the road with a win. And that we did – for which Don be praised.

Onwards and upwards now? Well, perhaps. Despite the shenanigans at boardroom level, it appears that new manager (let’s call him a manager now) Steve Evans is expecting to strengthen his patchy squad significantly before the end of the loan window. And that’s with a view merely to staunching the flow of our life-blood, with the prospect of further major surgery in January. From this small beginning, great changes could come about. Maybe. 

We start anew then, with a home win under our belts, with some cocky old foes subdued for once and with a whole new era quite possibly about to begin. Will things get better now? Is the only way up? We shall see. Don’t forget – next weekend is Cup Final weekend. 

Well – it is for Huddersfield Town and their motley crew of dog-botherers, anyway…

How a Don Revie Disciple is Spreading the Leeds Legend Down Under – by Rob Atkinson

It’s the stuff of legend; the story of how new Leeds United manager Don Revie looked for inspiration to Real Madrid in their brilliant all-white strip, as he set about the mammoth task of turning the Elland Road also-rans into the best team in Europe. There’s possibly a touch of the apocryphal about that version of events – after all, there’s strong evidence that United turned out in all-white before The Don took the helm. But the irresistible romance has persisted to this day, that of a young and visionary manager looking from afar at the early sixties Galacticos as his ideal for creating Yorkshire legends of equal prowess. Ultimately, there’s little doubt that Don Revie did create Europe’s top team, the most-feared and respected outfit just about anywhere. It was his dearest wish that United and Real should meet in competition; sadly that never happened in Revie’s lifetime.

The finished article - Yorkshire's answer to Real Madrid

The finished article – Yorkshire’s answer to Real Madrid

Now, over fifty years on, Real Madrid have emerged from their own relatively barren years to once again reign as European Champions, with another galaxy of glittering stars and wonderful footballers. They have Cristiano Ronaldo, too. At Leeds, the wheel has turned full circle in that half-century; the Whites languish once more outside the top flight, a lowly sphere they’ve inhabited now for well over a decade. A new revolution is sorely needed at Elland Road, but where is our latter-day Don Revie? The best hope for Leeds is that the club can benefit from another outstanding crop of youngsters, as we saw back at the start of the 1960s. And still we have that iconic (more or less) all white strip, the symbol of past domination and the inspiration, we hope, for future success.

All of that represents a lot of wistful nostalgia and a fair measure of somewhat shaky optimism that we might one day see achievement on a comparable scale, all based on the symbolic value of that inspirational all-white kit. But way over on the other side of the world, in New Zealand, one ex-pat Yorkshireman and fervent Leeds United fan is creating his own dominant team of all-whites – and he’s drawn inspiration from that Revie story in order to galvanise his own young team.

Jon Stanhope, Leeds United fanatic and (I’m happy to say) a regular reader of this blog, found to his bemusement when he arrived as a teacher at Trident High School in New Zealand, that none of the boys under his guidance had really heard much about Leeds United. “Brainwashed by Sky Sports Premier League coverage” is how Jon puts it. Grimly determined, he set out to put that to rights and, on taking over the reins of the school 1st XI, he echoed Don Revie’s legendary decision, changing the team’s colours from blue to all-white – their former away kit.

Jon Stanhope's Trident Whites

Jon Stanhope’s Trident Whites

The effect of that change of strip has brought about a transformation in fortunes not a million miles away from the one enjoyed by Revie’s Whites in the early days of his time at Elland Road all those years ago. Jon’s Trident High School 1st XI went on to finish third in a national tournament; the best-ever performance in their history. “It had to be the kit!!” enthused Coach Stanhope. “The lads look magnificent when they take to the field wearing the all white strip (although parents complain that it’s hard to wash !!!)”, he adds. “They know why they are wearing an all-white strip as they all know how much I love Leeds United. I feel genuinely proud when I see them lining up before games, the new white strip has lifted the team, they look like a class act wearing it and this has given them huge confidence.”

This confidence and the unprecedented achievements of Jon’s team have been rewarded by the prospect of a first-ever UK tour this coming April, playing teams from South and West Yorkshire. Jon, a native of Yeadon who moved out to New Zealand to be with his fiancée, is looking forward to seeing his charges take on all-comers in their all-white strip, as well as visiting a few stadiums and training grounds along the way. An undoubted highlight of the tour will be a visit to Elland Road to see Leeds United – “the only other team who look magnificent in all white”, as Jon puts it – taking on old enemies Cardiff City. “It should be a spicy affair,” observes Jon. “The lads and myself can’t wait to come over and they are very intrigued as to how I can be so ferociously loyal to a team that is never shown on TV!!! They don’t quite ‘get it’ just yet…..well, they will in April!!”

Jon is quite clearly one of those guys who won’t let the small matter of twelve thousand miles or so separation get in the way of his life-long love affair with Leeds United – and with the zeal of any prophet, he’s set about inspiring the young players in his team and converting them to Leeds fans as well, if he can. “The boys were not really aware of who Leeds United were when I first arrived….they know now and often come and see me on a Monday morning to tell me the Leeds score! How times are changing!!”

The idea of changing times is one that all Leeds fans will wish to embrace after the last mainly miserable decade and a half at Elland Road. The fans, as Massimo Cellino has pointed out, remain the real wealth of the club – with enthusiasm bordering on the fanatical among thousands who live too far from LS11 to hope to see their heroes in the flesh. It’s a globe-spanning devotion that deserves to be rewarded by success. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything wishes the Trident High School team – and their inspirational Coach Stanhope – every success on their forthcoming tour to the UK. Three points against Cardiff City wouldn’t go amiss, either.

I’d like to think that Leeds United itself might perhaps extend some courtesy to a team visiting from so far away. The story of success after a change to all-white is a blessedly familiar one in Leeds, and maybe the way it seems to be playing itself out again half a century on and half a world away, can serve as some little inspiration for the current staff and players of the Mighty Whites. Let’s hope so. Leeds United and Trident High School 1st XI – Marching On Together! 

Celtic Fans Open to Ridicule Over Rangers “Old Firm” Claims – by Rob Atkinson

At Leeds United, we’re no strangers to the unwelcome feeling and experience of your club in crisis. We’ve seen our beloved Whites pushed to the brink of actual expiry and ejection from the league; we’ve seen administration and League sanctions. Spectacular collapse and the plummet from the heights of the game to the depths of despair was a process raised almost to a perverse art form by United – to the point that it became known as “doing a Leeds”. So we know what crisis, despair and poverty are all about – the only thing that can really surprise a Whites fan these days is to see a club in straits even more dire.

Which brings me on to Glasgow Rangers FC. There is no need for me to re-hash here exactly what has happened to them over the past few years. In short, it was a precipitous fall, and an unprecedented reduction in status. From being permanent members of a top two cartel, Rangers were sent spinning into the gloom and obscurity of Scotland’s lowest major league. The journey back is well under way, but problems beset them still. On Sunday, for the first time since their fall from grace, Rangers face Celtic in the Scottish League Cup semi-final at Hampden Park. The Old Firm rivalry is back, right? Well, not according to the hardly unbiased fans of Celtic FC. Take a moment to look at the rationale espoused by a group of their fans in an advert placed recently.

Celtic fans - are they kidding?

Celtic fans – are they kidding?

Now, surely – these Celtic fans cannot be serious? It’s a wind-up, right? Are they quite barking mad, these loose-lipped Bhoys? What are they worried or insecure about, that they should resort to this? The whole “argument” stated above smacks of trying too hard, a mean-spirited attempt to cast back down a club trying to recover from an almost terminal decline. Whatever the rights and wrongs of Rangers’ fall – and without declaring any particular affiliation on either side of the Old Firm divide – this blog has to state in the strongest possible terms that what we have here is a bunch of partisan yet clueless fans talking fluent rubbish.

Whatever arguments you might summon, whatever contortions you might go through, leaning over backwards to show that black is white – surely the one thing any set of football fans must agree on is the major factor in any football club’s identity. It is the fans, it has to be. The fans embody the tradition and continuity of any club. Football shirts might change colour, as with Cardiff. Ground moves are commonplace these days and have never been unknown. Players, directors, managers and staff come and go, without necessarily having any real connection to the clubs they serve for a time.

So what is the one thread that runs right through a club’s very soul and being? It is the fans, the loyal supporters who follow, follow, through thick and thin, passing on the supporting tradition down the generations, wedded to their club in good times and bad. And it is those Rangers fans, the ones who have stuck by the Rangers FC as they sank to the depths and rose again – they embody Glasgow Rangers and in so doing, they give unquestionable continuity to the institution that is Glasgow Rangers FC. They also make a total mockery of this laughable stance from a set of fans who feel just as passionately about their club – and who have thus allowed themselves to go out on a limb, in trying to kick a club when it’s down, succeeding only in making arrant fools of themselves.

I wouldn’t particularly care, normally, who wins on Sunday at Hampden. I miss the Old Firm games for their passion and spectacle, it’s for those reasons that I always tune in to watch and would one day like to attend one of these occasions. The tradition of atmospheric support from both sets of fans, with tempers frequently running high on the park and referees praying for the final whistle to come with as little as possible actual violence – that’s so much of what football should be about. These are factors which are gradually being marginalised in the modern game as a whole, with increasing gentrification everywhere and a diminution of the raucous passion we of a certain age remember. But all of that is still present at certain fixtures – Leeds against Man U is one, Newcastle versus Sunderland bears a mention – there is el Clásico, of course. But the grand-daddy of them all is the Old Firm game – even if a lot of the cause and reason behind this fact isn’t of a particularly savoury or relevant nature.

So where do these Celtic fans get off, trying to defuse, deflate, diminish all of this? Don’t they realise how much the game north of the border needs its return, and in full rude health at that? For goodness’ sake, Celtic need it. Surely, these pompous, paragraph-quoting fools are kidding. If they’re not, then they deserve the ridicule that should be coming their way. And, for the record, against my normal neutral Old Firm stance – I would say to them “If you really do mean this – then you’re idiots; and I hope you get stuffed out of sight on Sunday”. 

When the Anfield Kop Saluted our Leeds United Champions – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United's Champions take the tributes of the Liverpool Kop

Leeds United’s Champions take the tributes of the Liverpool Kop

Each of Leeds United’s three Football League Championship titles was clinched at Anfield, home of Liverpool FC.  In 1992, the Reds were good enough to beat a demoralised Man U 2-0 which, added to our earlier triumph at Bramall Lane, saw us as Champions by 4 points in the last ever proper old-style league competition.  In 1974, Liverpool obliged at Anfield again, losing at home to Arsenal to ensure that they couldn’t overhaul us at the top.  I remember a TV programme going to an ad break and then an information board coming up which read “Football result: Liverpool 0, Arsenal 1 – LEEDS UNITED ARE THE CHAMPIONS”  That simple memory still sends a tingle down my spine, even forty years on.

And of course – probably best of all – Leeds United’s first ever title success at the top level of the game came after a showdown between the two deadly but mutually respectful rivals on April 28 1969 – almost exactly 45 years ago. Leeds had come to Anfield knowing that a point would clinch the league, and they set out their stall as only they could to obtain that point, in the toughest place possible.  They would go on to beat Nottingham Forest in the last game of that season to reach a record 67 points – a mark that wasn’t beaten until Liverpool themselves recorded 68 points, ironically with a 3-0 win at Elland Road, in their fabulous 1978/79 Championship year.

That legendary Leeds United squad of the sixties and seventies hung on Don Revie’s every word, they would follow him into the pit of Hell itself and they trusted him implicitly.  This was the cornerstone of the relationship between team and boss; the unit thus formed was formidable indeed and, on their day, there was no-one to touch them.  It was often said of that Leeds side that if you cut one, they all bled – and then you’d better watch out, because they’d be after you as one man to seek retribution. They would do anything for each other and anything for the legendary Don – but on that historic night at Anfield 45 years back, they must have come as near as they ever came to saying “You what, gaffer?  Are you bloody sure??”

On the final whistle, as the Leeds players cavorted with joy in front of their delirious fans at this first delightful taste of being The Best – and as the weary Liverpool troops, having given their all in vain, sportingly congratulated the new Champions – Revie came over to Billy Bremner and confirmed to him that he was to lead his team over to the Kop. This, remember, was at a time when crowd violence was becoming very fashionable.  A similar gesture at the Theatre of Hollow Myths down Trafford way, and sundry other less-than-welcoming grounds around the country, might very well have got you a crack on the head with a pool ball or a dart in the eye. It did rather seem to be pushing things a bit – but Revie was insistent, and he was very definitely The Boss.

So it happened that Billy Bremner, captain of champions Leeds United, gathered his players together and led them on a long, slow walk to the legendary Anfield Kop.  When it was realised what was happening, a hush fell on the ground.  In near-silence, the heroes in white walked on, nearer and nearer to the most iconic terrace of them all.

On the night, Bremner had won the toss for Leeds, and had elected to make the Reds attack the Kop in the first half; a tactical ploy that went against the home side’s preference for a second half onslaught on their favourite end. So the Leeds players had to walk nearly the length of the pitch to approach the massed Liverpool fans behind the Kop goal, and with every passing second, the silence became more loaded – almost a solid thing you might cut with a knife.  Leeds United were asking for it – what would they get?

What they did get is now the stuff of legend and has passed deservedly into United and Liverpool folklore.  As the triumphant yet apprehensive Leeds warriors finally neared the Kop, the long silence was finally broken as the first cry of “Champions!” went up, swiftly echoed by others on the still-packed terrace – until finally the whole 27,000 population of that mighty hill were acclaiming the title-winners with the same shout, over and over again: “Champions! Champions! Champions!!”

This was completely unprecedented; a moment unparalleled before or since, something to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, the ultimate acknowledgement of respect and admiration even out of defeat – and a massive credit to the football fans of Liverpool FC.  It was the epitome of true rivalry between two crack teams, forged out of one of the grisliest on-field battles any football ground had witnessed for many a long year.  No finer tribute could have been paid by any fans, anywhere – and the Leeds players stayed out there, in front of the Kop, for a good quarter of an hour or more, paying their respects to both sets of fans.

Later, in the dressing room, Leeds celebrated anew with champagne provided by Bill Shankly, whose quote was short and to the point: ‘Leeds United are worthy champions,’ he said. ‘They are a great side.’  Revie responded by praising Liverpool, the club, the fans and their fine team. ‘The reception given us by the sporting Liverpool crowd was truly magnificent,’ he acknowledged, ‘and so, for that matter, was our defence tonight. It was superb in everything.’  The conduct and bearing of both managers was a mark of the relationship between the two top clubs in the land – and a marked contrast to the ungraceful reaction of Alex Ferguson at the same venue 23 years later, after the Leeds of 1992 had pipped his charges to the Last Championship Title and he, characteristically, dripped bile and acid all over the occasion.

Looking back from today’s perspective, with managers bitching about each other, players diving, cheating and trying to get each other into disciplinary trouble – and the stench of filthy lucre all-pervading – it seems far longer ago than 45 years to that Anfield night when the competition was so unremittingly fierce; white-hot, with no quarter given or asked for.   And yet after the battle was done, all that remained was respect from the teams for each other, of the staff for their opposite numbers, and of both sets of fans for an epic battle well fought.

Sadly, those days are gone, never to return.  But for those of us lucky enough to be able to remember, those images will never fade, the sound of those tributes can still be heard ringing out across the years.  It was a night of triumph and disaster, as these decisive nights tend to be, depending on whether you were White or Red; but it was also, let us not forget, a night of dignity, respect and utter, unalloyed class – not least from those 27,000 Liverpool fans on the Anfield Kop.    

Being Leeds: It’s Hoping for the Best but Always Expecting the Worst – by Rob Atkinson

Leeds United - up against loaded dice

Leeds United – up against loaded dice

As the calendar tips over onto Friday, April the 4th – the day a QC is due to hand down his decision on the appeal of Massimo Cellino against his disbarring as Leeds United owner – it’s hard not to reflect on the track record of Leeds as a club, whenever these crucial days come around.  By and large, it’s been a tale of frustrated hope and seemingly inevitable disappointment, whether you’re talking about Cup replays, Cup Finals, points deductions or the attempted over-turning of massive miscarriages of justice.

Justice always seems to frown on my club.  It even did so when it was most urgently sought: in the matter of two lads who travelled abroad to watch their team play in a UEFA Cup semi-final, and who never returned home. On Saturday it’s the fourteenth anniversary of the senseless murder in Istanbul of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight – and justice has never really been served for that despicable act.  RIP lads – you’d be as disgusted as the rest of us with what’s been going on at the club you loved.

Beside such human tragedy and wanton waste of life, lesser matters of course pale into virtual insignificance.  Nevertheless, Leeds United have faced another confrontation with the arbiters of justice this week – and it may well be that yet another slap in the face is about to be administered, after an agonisingly long and drawn-out process which has been dragging on now, through various twists and turns, since well before Christmas.

It’s a saga that has dragged down what had seemed a reasonably promising season with it.  The Leeds of pre-Christmas had been doing alright, without pulling up too many trees; they seemed well-placed to kick on in the new year and maybe challenge for a long-awaited return to the top flight.  Wind forward a few short months, and the picture is radically different. Distracted – apparently – by off-field issues and worries over ownership and payment, the team has performed dismally against a backdrop of cowardly betrayal by GFH, United’s current, spineless owners.  Now we look over our shoulders fearfully at the relegation dogfight, rather than upwards in aspiration towards the play-off zone.  The pattern is remarkably similar to last year; the fans do their bit, pay through the nose – only to see their club’s campaign implode and peter out into embarrassing failure.

Historically, we should be used to having our hopes raised in expectations of glory, only to see those hopes turn to dust as bitter disappointment invariably claims us yet again.  Without going over the dreadful list of all those near-misses – just think of two European Finals ruined for us by bent referees, of domestic ambitions in the early seventies thwarted by intransigent and vindictive League officials (thanks, Mr Hardaker), of an official FA dinner breaking out into spontaneous applause as Leeds were beaten in the 1987 play-off final, of a Premier League referee raising his arms in triumph as the opposition scored against us in a match he was controlling.  And so on and so forth.  We really should know better, by now, than to expect anything more than bad news, the cold flash of shock and bitter let-downs time and time again.

As we await the Cellino verdict, we are again hoping for better times – and we yet again find our mood turning towards pessimism as we realise that – as ever – this one will probably go against us.  In the last day or so, a senior politician has been given a gentle rebuke for another expenses swindle, and Sunderland FC have escaped severe disciplinary action for fielding an ineligible player in five matches this season.  Yet it’s more than likely that Leeds will finally be denied their saviour over a matter of import duty on a yacht which amounts to a measly few hundred grand against Cellino’s wealth of over a billion – and yet this has been gleefully accepted as dishonesty rather than the oversight it quite possibly was.

More happily, it turns out, Massimo Cellino may well be far down the road of  perfecting a Plan B, in anticipation of a stolid refusal to accept him as Leeds owner.  It is now being suggested that he could join forces with erstwhile rivals Together Leeds and their front-man Mike Farnan, to remain in the picture as Leeds move into a new era.  By the time Friday finishes, it’s quite probable that we will have all of our hopes invested in this Plan B if – as history teaches us is almost certain – United get their hopes dashed in Court yet again.  Perhaps the powers that be are even now figuring out a way to nip this idea in the bud.  Paranoia?  Maybe, maybe not.

It does sound, after all, like the old story of a hard-done-by sports team shouting resentfully, “We wuz robbed!”  But when you look at the history of Leeds United – and at what tends to happen every time one of these crunch times comes around – it’s hard to escape the conclusion that we’re rolling with the dice loaded against us.  Inevitably, we end up disappointed, hopelessly crying foul to wilfully deaf ears. There’s no real reason to suppose that things will be any different this time around.  Disappointment and injustice.  It just goes with the Leeds United territory.

Could it really be different today?  By the time our demoralised team takes the field at Wigan on Saturday, we’ll most probably know.  Meanwhile, it’s fingers crossed for Cellino and Plan A.  Surely, one of these days, Leeds United will cop for an even break?  It might be today – stranger things have happened.

Just – you know – don’t hold your breath. 

Happy Monday? It’s a Pivotal Day in Leeds United’s History – by Rob Atkinson

 

"Historic and Iconic" - Leeds United AFC

“Historic and Iconic” – Leeds United AFC

Forget March 2nd 1968, the day Leeds United won its first ever silverware, beating Arsenal at Wembley to lift the League Cup. Forget May 6th 1972 when, at the same venue, against the same opponents and by the same 1-0 score, United won their sole FA Cup. Forget, even, those three incredible days which saw the Whites hailed as the best in the land as our three Football League Championships were confirmed in 1969, 1974 and 1992.  All of those dates pale in comparison with the epochal significance of the legal fixture being played out in London tomorrow, March 31st 2014.  For tomorrow, it’s likely to be decided which of two well-defined paths Leeds United will be treading into the future.

On the one hand we have a signpost pointing upwards which says: possible fame and success, with a minted owner to put us on a par with those we should be emulating. On the other, there’s the signpost pointing downhill, with the equally unmistakable message: more of the same at best, with a distinct possibility of crisis and dissolution in the near future.  It’s not a choice Leeds United or their amazingly loyal and long-suffering fans are able to make for themselves.  We are all in the hands of the legal eagles as they fight it out over the technicality of whether or not the Football League were correct in saying that Massimo Cellino’s peccadilloes rule him out of fitness and propriety under their own test. Upon this technicality hangs the immediate, or short term – or even the whole future of a famous old club that has never been far from the headlines, for good reasons and bad.

A match-day commentator at Elland Road yesterday summed it up in one well-chosen phrase prior to kick-off against Doncaster Rovers.  Leeds, he said, should be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, Man U and Chelsea.  And so, of course, we should.  None of these clubs has more of a right than Leeds – and its magnificent support – to be fighting it out at the top table for the big prizes.  It’s ironic that such telling words should be spoken ahead of a league fixture – and a defeat – against little Donny Rovers.  That sums up the dire straits Leeds have been consigned to by bad leadership, self-interested owners and relentless ill-fortune.  Whatever may have been done wrong, whatever rules may have been broken in the name of Leeds United – it’s no fault of the fans.  And yet, time and again, it’s been the fans who have suffered – whilst the principals in the ongoing pantomime of LS11 have generally waxed fat and walked away happy when their particular final curtain has fallen.  A prime example of this is, of course, Shaun Harvey, CEO of the Football League and a man with a face in each camp, so to speak.  I wonder how he sleeps at night? Blissfully, I expect.

There are two constants in any football club, which transcend players, directors, administrators, League officials and even solicitors, barristers and judges.  One is the entity of the club itself, which in our case is now just five years shy of her 100th birthday.  Where will she be, what state of health will she be in, when that Centenary rolls around in 2019?

The other constant is, needless to say, the supporters.  Come rain, come hail, come snow, the supporters are always there. They were there to cheer on the Greatest Footballer in the World when John Charles plied his mighty trade at Elland Road.  They were there to support Don Revie’s nonpareil team of the sixties and seventies as they witnessed some of the finest football ever seen on the planet. They were there too when Wilko’s Warriors rose, like a Phoenix from the ashes, to swagger back into the big time as if they owned the place and end up, once again, on top of the pile.  And they’re here now, today, watching the dross currently being served up by a team weighed down with larger worries that what happens on the pitch – a team who, with a very few apparent exceptions, are preoccupied with where the next wage packet is coming from, and just how heavy or light will it be?

The supporters will be here in the future as well, whatever happens tomorrow. That is beyond doubt, save only for that nagging worry over the club’s very existence. Only the numbers of that indomitable band will remain open to any variation, depending upon which path we tread.  Any Leeds United fan will tell you what the club deserves – and it’s not more of the same grinding, morale-sapping poverty that we’ve been putting up with now for twelve long and dreary years. Leeds United and their supporters – especially their supporters – deserve some time in the sun.

It’s not United – club or fans – on trial tomorrow.  If anything is on trial, it’s the duty of care owed by the Football League to all of its member clubs – even Leeds. The questions before the appeal panel must include that consideration in the scope of its examination of this whole issue.  The Football League have sat by and they’ve shown every willingness to let their biggest club, their most tangible asset, wither and possibly die for want of sufficient funding to operate on a big club level and compete with their true peers.  And this is the kernel of the matter.

Because, with rapists, con men and porn barons among the current and recent number of their owners and directors, the League has elected to make a stand over an obscure tax question surrounding a yacht.  One little boat, which might be American, and in respect of which some duty allegedly had to be paid in Italy, but was not.  The League have chosen to accept that Cellino, a man of staggering wealth, would court trouble over a matter of what is, to him, small change.  They have leant over backwards to interpret the law and their own regulations such that United are to be denied a saviour and their fans are to continue suffering.  Where is the duty of care amid all of that?

Tomorrow will, in all probability, be the start of a new era at Leeds United. Whether it is an era of further degradation, more doubt, more humiliation, remains to be seen.  There has to be a possibility that things might – for once in a very long while – go in Leeds United’s favour.  And then what? Would we know quite what to do with ourselves in the absence of this millstone of penury and reduced status?  Poverty is not just a matter of not being able to meet the bills, or afford a tank of tropical fish to brighten the place up.  Poverty is much more than that.  It seeps into the very fabric of a place and it poisons the soul.  If we were suddenly to become “Dirty Leeds, Filthy Rich” – how would we cope?

I can tell you this much, especially you lot who occupy the anti-Cellino bandwagon.  I’m heartily sick to death of a penniless existence.  So if the “Filthy Rich” option is there, ripe for the sampling – let me at it.  I’d simply love to try it out.  We lived the dream in the nineties – but there was always that worm of doubt; where’s it all coming from?  With Cellino –  well, it looks as though we’d at last have a man of immense material wealth who is keen to invest it in reviving a fallen giant.  Fingers crossed that he finally gets that chance.

25 Years Today Since Gordon Strachan Signed for Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

"Have you ever seen a better goal?  Have you ever seen one better timed??" John Helm, YTV

Amazingly, for those of us who remember the breaking of the news so well, it’s a quarter of a century today since Leeds United made the historic signing of Gordon Strachan from a minor club over the Pennines.  Over the next seven seasons as the Whites skipper, there were many, many memorable occasions for United’s second-most famous ginger Scottish captain.  Not least among these, of course, was hoisting the last ever Football League Championship Trophy, as well as scoring the first goal in the Stuttgart play-off at the Nou Camp in 1992.

But, as I’ve done before, I thought I’d look back to the famous Leicester City game in 1990 and what was probably Strachan’s defining moment as the man who did more than just about anyone to reinvent Leeds as a post-Revie force in English football.  It had been a long time coming since Don’s Glory Boys dispersed to pastures new and a Golden Era faded into the dim haze of memory.  We had been eight years in the second division doldrums and had almost forgotten what it was like to be a top team.  But – finally! – it looked as though the nightmare was ending as Sergeant Wilko and Captain Strachan were set to lead United back to the Promised Land at long last.  A home fixture against Leicester City was the penultimate hurdle to overcome, and expectations were soaring at Elland Road.

Twelve days before the Leicester game, United had appeared to strike a decisive blow, battering closest rivals Sheffield United 4-0 at Elland Road. But any hope that promotion could be clinched early was dashed over the next two fixtures, a draw at Brighton where the lead was squandered to sacrifice two points, and then a home defeat to a relegation-threatened Barnsley who even then had the ability to put one over on us with an inferior team.  So the nerves were jangling for this home date with the Foxes.

Leicester breezed into town with no pressure on them at all as they bobbed about serenely in mid-table, but Leeds just had to win. A victory could possibly clinch promotion; anything else and we would be relying on others to give us that final leg-up – not an attractive prospect. The atmosphere at Elland Road that day was something to behold as 32,597 packed the stands and terraces, the Kop a seething mass of bodies, a solid wall of sound. If the weight of support counted for anything, then it seemed Leicester might just as well turn around and go home – but to their eternal credit they fought the good fight and played their part in a memorable afternoon.

It all started well. Leeds pressed hard, this had been their preferred approach all season long. No opponent was allowed the luxury of untroubled possession as Leeds snapped at ankles and harried the enemy, hungry for the ball and well able to use it productively. At their best, United had proved a match for any team in the Division; as ever though it was the off days that had let us down. On this particular occasion, attacking the Kop End in the first half, the forward momentum seemed irresistible. Before long, the overlapping Mel Sterland fastened on to a ball at the right corner of the penalty area and fired low and hard into the net to open the scoring. The overwhelming relief was as evident as the unconfined joy around the packed stadium; surely now United would go on to consolidate their advantage and seal the promotion we’d wanted for so long.

It was not to be. Despite further pressure, Leeds failed to make another breakthrough before half-time and Leicester – relaxed and pressure-free – were looking more and more ominously like potential party-poopers. These fears solidified in the second half as the away side pressed an increasingly nervous Leeds back, and eventually – inevitably – they drew level. The blow when it came was struck by a rumoured transfer target for Leeds, promising young Scot Gary McAllister. He proved that he packed some punch by belting a fine strike past veteran Mervyn Day to shock the Kop rigid and momentarily silence Elland Road. Worse was so nearly to follow as McAllister almost did it again, another superb shot coming within an ace of giving Leicester the lead, something which would doubtless have produced the unedifying spectacle of grown men crying in their thousands. It may well be that McAllister sealed his move to Leeds with this performance and those two efforts, but I could have seen him far enough from LS11 that day. Leeds were rocking, looking at each other, scratching heads and clenching fists in the time-honoured “come on, let’s bloody sort this out” gesture. Slowly, by sheer force of will, the lads in White regained the initiative and it looked at least as though the danger of further damage was receding. The football was still nerve-shredding stuff, all urgency and little fluency, a desperate battle to eke out the extra two points that would make promotion so much more likely.

Time was ebbing away fast now, as Leeds hurled themselves time and again into the defensive barrier of red Leicester away shirts. Panic was setting in, the biggest enemy of constructive football. It was looking like a draw, which would not be enough. Then, a throw halfway inside the Leicester half in front of the West Stand, under the eyes of a bleakly worried Wilko. Sterland gathered himself and hurled a massively long throw deep into the away penalty area, only for it to be headed out from around the near post. McAllister attempted to complete the clearance with an overhead effort to get rid, but the ball hit Gordon Strachan to bounce back into the box. And there was Gary Speed to lay that ball back instantly to the still-lurking Strachan who simply lashed it, left-footed, into the net. The ball had gone in like a bullet; Strachan – too tired to control it and try to work a yard of space to dink one of those cute little far-post crosses as he might normally – settled instead for catching the ball right on the sweet spot and it arrowed home to a positive explosion of noise from all around Elland Road – the sudden release of what had been unbearable tension produced a massive roar to buffet the ear drums of innocent bystanders miles away.

It was one of those occasions when several things seem to happen at once. The crowd behind the goal at the South Stand end seemed to boil with passion and relief, a maelstrom of delighted celebration which was echoed across the whole stadium. Strachan himself ran to the byline, face contorted, weary limbs pumping in triumphant exultation as he took the plaudits of the faithful. A lone copper is visible on the TV footage between Strach and the cavorting hordes, a grin on his face as he moves to quell any ambitious pitch-invaders. In the commentary box, John Helm unwittingly propelled himself into immortality, not for the last time that afternoon. “Have you ever seen a better goal?” he demanded. “And have you ever seen one better timed?” It was a good question, and right then, right there, I doubt you’d have found a Leeds fan to answer “yes” to either part of it. The rest was a blur; Leeds held out, and we had won – and seemingly gained promotion. Rumours were flying around that Newcastle had failed to win, sending us up. But John Helm was at it again, more iconic words: “Is that confirmed…?” When the confirmation arrived, it was of a late Toon win; we still had it all to do at Bournemouth the following week. But Strachan’s late cracker had kept us in a race that we were ultimately destined to win.

My final memory of that day is of walking down off the Kop and onto the pitch as the masses there were starting to disperse. We crossed the sacred turf from goal-line to goal-line, eventually exiting the ground into Elland Road at the south-west corner, where the Jumbotron big screen now stands. I can still remember the heady scent of stud-holed mud and trodden turf, my head was still buzzing as I walked over the spot where wee Gordon had made that perfect half-volley contact to send us all into delirium. It had been an atmosphere the like of which I have rarely seen before or since, only the mayhem at Bramall Lane when Gayle scored that own-goal title-clincher coming anywhere near, or maybe that ankle-busting semi-riot of a celebration when Dave Batty broke his long goal drought against Man City in 1991.

For the sheer relief of it however – the absolute nerve-shredding, tension-breaking release of it – this was definitely THE one. Without Strachan’s sublime strike, we could well have missed out on automatic promotion, and we all know only too well that there’s a law against us succeeding in the play-offs. Gordon’s Golden Goal had kept the dream alive and made possible all that followed up to the League Championship triumph two years later. Make no mistake – it was THAT important. Thank you, wee man – 25 years on, Leeds United have yet to make another signing so vital and important in the history of a great club. Chances are, they never will.