Tag Archives: history

Leeds United, Club and Fans, Could Have Done Better Over Jay-Roy Grot – by Rob Atkinson

The Don – fostered family atmosphere at Leeds

In a week hardly short of news stories about Leeds United, one in particular stands out for any fan of the Elland Road club who remembers how the first faltering steps to greatness were taken under Don Revie in the sixties; how, in short, football’s greatest family club was built. So, while I could have written this week about the arrivals at Elland Road of quality recruits for the campaign ahead, I will resist that temptation.

Instead, let’s look at Joe Urquhart’s recent Yorkshire Evening Post revelations about the struggles in his Leeds career so far of a young man called Jay-Roy Grot who, at the tender age of 20, is going for a year on loan at Dutch side VVV-Venlo. Grot, a young colossus of a man at 6’4”, arrived at United last summer from NEC of Nijmegen, snatched from under the noses of Italian giants Fiorentina. Sadly, the lad’s first year at Leeds did not go well, and his confidence has suffered. The loan away from United is designed to remedy that, in the hope of seeing him return stronger in the future.

All well and good, but a look at the role of club and supporters in this less than creditable tale might be instructive. The Elland Road support has been notorious since well before Revie’s time as “a hard crowd to play for”. They’re a crowd of extremes. They can get right behind their team, lifting them to peaks of effort and attainment. But, for the individual who is struggling to put a foot right, it can feel much less encouraging, with the terrace critics sometimes launching in even before a ball has been kicked. Young players of great potential can nevertheless find themselves dismissed as “crap”, and persecuted accordingly, should they fail to hit the ground running. Such was the shattering experience of Jay-Roy Grot.

Back in Revie’s day, before the term “pastoral care” had gained much currency, it was nevertheless a big part of the foundations of the Super Leeds side that grew up as a band of brothers to carry all before them. Revie saw to it that off-field problems would not get in the way of his team’s success on the park; his charges were looked after and nurtured. When the boo-boys got to a young and cherubic Billy Bremner, Revie supported and shielded him. If a player’s wife had a baby, there would be flowers from the Don, or a box of chocolates to celebrate a girlfriend’s birthday. No detail was too small, no problem too trivial. Revie looked after his lads and their families, and they repaid him by becoming legends.

Now, with the constant recent managerial changes at Elland Road, there seems to be no such continuity of care. The sad loss of Lucy Ward from her health and welfare role a few years back created a gap in the Leeds United system that remains arguably unfilled. These heartbreaking words from young Grot make for uneasy reading: “I am not someone who makes friends easily. And that also broke me up in England. Cooking, I had no problems with that. But coming home every day to an empty house, I had a hard time. I did nothing, nobody knew. I also had little contact with the other boys in the beginning”. The uncomfortable truth of the matter is that both fans and club could and should have done better in the case of Jay-Roy Grot and, going forward, they need to take this on board.

We must aim for less of the destructive booing from fans, less ignorant haranguing on Twitter, with more awareness and support coming from the club. This is not rocket science, and it’s simply not acceptable for a young player to feel as isolated as Grot evidently did. Maybe Leeds United should just ring Lucy Ward and beg her to come back? In the sad absence of the late, great Don Revie, Lucy is probably the best option.

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Leeds Fan Requests a Bremner Square Tile for Istanbul Victims Chris and Kev – by Rob Atkinson

Anthony Hawkridge’s inspired tweet

Browsing through the LUFC Twitter feed just now, I happened across something wonderful, something inspiring, something that couldn’t possibly be more fitting.

It was a heartfelt call on Twitter (see above) from a Leeds fan, Tony Hawkridge, which was promptly liked and retweeted by other Leeds fans, for Leeds United to include in their wonderful Bremner Square initiative a tile dedicated to the memory of Chris Loftus and Kevin Speight, brutally murdered in Istanbul 18 years ago as they followed their beloved Whites to a UEFA Cup semi-final.

Of course Chris and Kev are already honoured by the plaque on an Elland Road wall nearby. But Billy Bremner‘s statue has been a focal point for United fans ever since it was raised in 1999, two years after Billy’s untimely death. You often hear fans say, I’ll meet you at Billy’s statue. It’s iconic, a symbol of the club’s greatest captain, and of the pride which runs through Elland Road right down to its last rivet.

The Bremner Square refurbishment of the statue area is a fantastic idea, and has been carried into reality in an equally fantastic manner. Phase one is complete, with the names of many die-hard United fans etched forever into the fabric of the club. What better way after all to pay tribute to, and be recognised by, the greatest club in the world?

There is more to come though, another phase of development, with yet more names to be added to those already honoured by inclusion in Bremner Square. I’ve thought of getting one for myself, or of arranging one for my late Dad, who bequeathed me my love of Leeds. But a greater opportunity presents itself, with this idea of the inclusion of two names that symbolise the most tragic and needless episode to befall our club and its massive family of fans.

I’m sure that the club will see the compelling case for including a Chris & Kev tile in phase two. I’m equally sure that, if a cost is involved, then any appeal for the meeting of that cost would be over-subscribed many times by Leeds fans, myself most heartily included, eager and willing to chip in.

There are no obstacles to the realisation of this excellent idea. It’s the right thing to do. I’d appeal to anyone who reads this to contact the club and press the case, in the certain knowledge that the club would listen and empathise. We can make sure that the horror of Taksim Square is addressed and superseded by the pride and honour of Bremner Square.

Leeds United – it’s over to you. Let’s get this done.

Chris and Kev

Rest in Peace

Massive, Defining Week Ahead for Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the next few days for Yorkshire‘s number one football club. The decisions due to be made by various parties could well dictate the shape, not only of the season ahead for Leeds United, but even of the next few years. A major change in management style and recruitment policy seems to be under consideration, with the abiding question being: and what happens if prime target Marcelo Bielsa doesn’t take the United helm?

That could of course turn out to be a question strictly for the pessimists and the more mischievous outposts of the press. While the glass-half-empty brigade on Twitter and the 95% of the media hostile to Leeds have done their best to stoke up doubt and despondency, the club itself, as well as respected journalists closer to the people in charge, exudes an air of businesslike calm. The expectation clearly exists that what initially appeared to be wishful thinking could actually happen. If it does – and we should know quite shortly now – then it could easily change the course of Leeds United history. And in a good way, too.

Interestingly, the betting markets still appear to assume that these great events will take place. And bookies have a vested interest in getting these things right. So this next week, so nearly upon us, could well be an epochal time for anyone with LUFC carved on their heart.

And if Bielsa doesn’t happen – well it’s still significant that Leeds are looking at that end of the talent market. There’s no reason to suppose that, should the volatile Argentinean decide that Elland Road is not for him, United will inevitably resort to the bargain basement outlets they’ve frequented before. The apparent change of attitude at the top of the club is at least as important as the names in circulation as possibilities as coach or new players. The intent of the club is the crucial thing, and we must presume that the nature of this intent will survive any short term disappointments.

So it’s still a case of “watch this space”, though not, you’d suspect, for too much longer. Sit back, and wait for great happenings to unfold down LS11 way. This could well be the first week of a whole new era for Leeds, maybe even one of a distinctly golden hue.

Elland Road’s England Extravaganza Proves Premier League Needs Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

World-Cup-2018-England-costa-rica-Elland-Road-970941

Southgate’s England win at a vibrant and atmospheric Elland Road

England‘s last stopping-off point before their Russian quest for World Cup glory was at a vibrant and atmospheric Elland Road – and the occasion told us plenty, some of it even about our national team and its chances this summer.

Talking about England first, this was a competent and dominant performance against a slightly jet-lagged Costa Rica team who were still nobody’s mugs. England pretty much won as they liked though, with Marcus Rashford, looking much more effective with better players around him, making a persuasive case for inclusion in the opening game of England’s group, ahead, perhaps, of Raheem Sterling. Rashford’s spectacular 13th minute opener brought generous cheers from the Kop, despite the lad’s day job, with Danny Welbeck‘s close range header near the end greeted equally warmly by the South Stand. In between the two decisive strikes, England passed prettily, defended well enough to leave their keeper Jack Butland largely unemployed, and a lively attack gave the Costa Rican defence plenty to think about.

But the signature note of the evening was struck by the occasion’s real star – Elland Road itself. For once in a very long while, the muted, apathetic atmosphere of Wembley was replaced by a thrillingly raucous fervour to urge on the national team, courtesy of one of football’s genuine, old-style cauldrons of white-hot atmosphere. That’s done nowhere quite so well as it is in this part of Leeds; the crowd lifted the England players to a degree that was obvious to anybody who’s suffered through some of those dreary friendlies in North London. This was dutifully acknowledged by commentators and pundits alike; Clive Tyldesley for ITV noted that the attendance was around 36,000, “but sounds like twice as much”. Indeed. Old Trafford, it’s worth mentioning, can do a similar trick – only the other way around.

Lee Dixon in his punditry role was fired with enthusiasm afterwards. This is what you need, he exulted, thumbing over his shoulder at the arena behind him. Let’s take England on the road. It’s a good idea, one that’s been around for years now, but the commercial lure of Wembley has usually won the day. Perhaps there will now be a rethink. It’s no coincidence that this was one of the better England “friendly” performances; the team responded to the crowd, the occasion, the unique atmosphere. Above all, tonight showed beyond doubt that the Premier League – currently stuffed with pedestrian acts like Bournemouth, Huddersfield and Watford – positively needs the return of Leeds United. The stadium, the club and the fanatical support are all wasted on anything less than the elite group, and the so-called Premier League has been diluted too far and for too long by elements of mediocrity. The return of United cannot come too soon, for the sake of all parties concerned.

For Leeds United fans, it was a taste of what might be to come, the stadium packed out and cheering on some top class footballers who may even be destined for great things. How the fans of Yorkshire‘s top club would like to sample that atmosphere, and witness this style of performance, on a more regular basis. It’s a dream, something to hope for and aspire to. And, you never know – those dreams do occasionally come true.

Yorkshire Football Urgently Needs a Revival, and Only Leeds Can Do It – by Rob Atkinson

Pride

Yorkshire’s best and only hope – Leeds United

The frenzied scenes of celebration among Huddersfield fans, as their club narrowly avoided relegation from the Premier League, served mainly to put into sharp focus all that is wrong with Yorkshire football. And, much to the chagrin of any fan from the right side of the Pennines, there’s plenty wrong. Huddersfield saved their top-flight existence in much the same way as they’d earned it in last season’s play-offs – by hanging on grimly for draws and relying on slip-ups from others. It was a glory-free spectacle but, sadly, it’s the best the Broad Acres currently has to offer, which is a stinging indictment of the current state of all things football in God’s Own County.

When you look elsewhere in the county, the Sheffield clubs attained differing degrees of mediocrity, Leeds flattered to deceive and then reverted to type, Barnsley went down not with a bang but with a whimper – and the less said about the rest, the better. Perhaps Rotherham United might earn some glory for Yorkshire; that remains to be seen. The point is, the football performance of the Yorkshire area has been much the same as usual: when Leeds aren’t doing well, there’s nowt much going on. And so, while United remain in the doldrums, the best we can offer is the occasional play-off success or relegation escape. Compared to the fare being served up in parts of the lesser county to our west, where Manchester’s finest has emerged as the best team in Premier League history, this is a humiliating state of affairs.

The fact of the matter is that just about all of Yorkshire‘s footballing pedigree, such as it is, resides in LS11. The last two times that Leeds United have gone up to the top division, survival has been the last thing on their mind. On both occasions, they’ve gone up, had a brief and not exactly respectful look around to gauge the lie of the land, and then set about winning the thing, elbowing lesser mortals out of the way and imposing themselves brilliantly, much to the annoyance of media and rival fans alike.

This is the responsibility that Leeds United carries, nothing less than the pride and honour of the greatest county in the land. Nobody else will pick up that baton; nobody else can. It’s down to Leeds – if they can’t do it, it won’t be done. Things are different now as compared to those two previous promotions in 1964 and 1990. That twenty-six year span – the same gap, ironically, that now separates us from our most recent League Title – was the last hurrah of old style, ultra-competitive, strength in depth professionalism, when there wasn’t a six team cartel at the top of the league, monopolising the glory. To dominate in that era, as the Revie Boys did, when there was much less of a financial divide between the great and the not so great, was an achievement indeed. The way things are now, Leeds – in order to fulfil their destiny of salvaging Yorkshire pride – will have to place themselves on a comparable financial footing to the current behemoths of the game. To say that won’t be easy is to fall into the trap of hopeless understatement – yet, if United can just barge their way into the Premier League, there would be few  if any juicier investment opportunities than a one club city of enormous prestige and illustrious history.

So, there’s the challenge. And only at Elland Road, as far as Yorkshire is concerned, is there even the remotest expectation, never mind demand, that such a challenge should be accepted. Because at no other club in Yorkshire will it even occur to the fans or the directors that such a thing is possible. The ultimate aspiration for them is to survive at the top table, hoping to lick up some rich men’s crumbs. This is the lesson of the unbridled joy with which Huddersfield’s survival was greeted. For Leeds, this would be a humiliation they could not countenance; when United do go up, the demand and expectation will be for so much more. And rightly so, for that is our proud legacy.

However hard the task, however unlikely the chance of gatecrashing that elite group, it’s the hungry and imperious expectation of success, written into the DNA of the club and its fans, that makes Leeds United the only candidates to bring some football honour and respect back to Yorkshire. If Leeds United can’t deliver, then nobody will – and we must hope that Leeds Rhinos in Rugby League, and Yorkshire County Cricket Club too, can fulfil that urgent desire for honour and success. In White Rose football, it’s United first and the rest nowhere, just as much as it has always been; that’s the grave responsibility we carry, just by virtue of being Leeds.

With the club’s centenary approaching, it’s time to deliver on that responsibility. As the Great White Hope of an entire county, let’s grit our teeth, and get on with it.

New Leeds United Badge, a Considered Response – by Rob Atkinson

No, no, no. For the sake of our pride and sanity, please God – NOOOOOOOOOO!!!

A thousand times no. Bring back the Smiley, give us a football in a Yorkshire rose. But not this. This is the worst idea ever.

No.

Cardiff Revisited for Leeds as Whites Crash Out of Cup at Newport – by Rob Atkinson

South Wales

South Wales: Leeds United’s 21st Century FA Cup graveyard

An early lead in the FA Cup Third Round for Leeds United in an away tie in South Wales, live on TV. A sending off for our talismanic blond striker, then a late winner for opponents many places below us in the league ladder. A classic Cup shock, to the delight of the media and the nation as a whole. Yes – that was the fate of Leeds United 16 years and one day ago at Cardiff City. And today at Newport County, the same grisly circumstances played themselves out all over again as history eerily repeated itself to leave United stunned and “free to concentrate on the League”. For Alan Smith, read Samu Saíz. For Ninian Park, read Rodney Parade. The joyous celebrations in the media and around the nation remain identical.

On that previous occasion, United’s League position could not have been better – top of the Premier League pile with the Title in their sights. Today, the situation is of comparative poverty, with Leeds in and around the Championship play-off places after an inconsistent first half of the League campaign. Exiting the FA Cup is no tragedy, it’s happened once a year for the past 46 seasons. What we must hope is that the League slump, which followed United’s virtually identical Cup defeat 16 years ago, is not now replicated by Thomas Christiansen‘s troops. In that regard, it will clearly be seen that the sending-off of late and needless sub Saíz is far more potentially damaging to Leeds than an almost predictable Cup cock-up.

The really worrying thing was that, yet again, so many of the fringe players were found wanting when asked to step up and take their chances. We all know there’s a certain pressure that goes with the territory of playing for a club like Leeds, where expectations are always higher than attainments and the weight of history can be a heavy burden on young shoulders. But this fact has to inform player recruitment; it has to be a factor when targets are identified. Quality is essential, and will become ever more so as and when Leeds move upwards. But character and guts, with the ability to handle the goldfish-bowl environment and the glare of publicity – these are vital too, and it would seem that, in too many current squad members, those characteristics – epitomised today by lone warrior and scorer Gaetano Berardi – are sadly lacking.

Despite the uncanny similarity of the two South Wales FA Cup exits, 16 years apart, there’s no hiding the fact that the squad defeated at Cardiff was light years ahead of the current bunch in skill, character, attitude, desire – all the components of a successful football unit. That’s the gulf we have somehow to bridge over the next few years, if we’re to usher in our second century in a state befitting the history and global fame of this great club. On the evidence of the entire campaign so far – and in particular, based on the unpalatable offering we had to digest against Newport on Sunday lunchtime – there are light years still to travel, and this at a time when the clubs at the top of the game are streaking further away from the also-rans at an increasing speed.

By common consent, this squad – as a whole – is simply not good enough, and it will take more than boardroom platitudes to deal with that fact. The defeat at Cardiff was the start of a long and slippery slope for United. The best we can wish here and now is that the defeat at Newport might yet be part of the process whereby, slowly and painfully though it may be, Leeds United somehow contrive a return to something like their previous illustrious heights.

From Top Man to 32 Red – the History of Leeds Utd’s Shirt Sponsorship

Top Man

The iconic, promotion-winning “Top Man” Leeds United away shirt 

Leeds may have started out life playing in a blue and white striped kit but it was not long before the famed yellow and white colour scheme was introduced, coinciding with the club’s rise to prominence. It has often been Leeds’ unconventional and sometimes controversial shirt sponsorship that has helped thrust it into the public eye. Starting in the early 1980s going through to present day sponsor 32 Red, Leeds United have a wealth of shirt sponsors that are definitely worth talking about.

The original reason for Leeds adopting shirt sponsorship was due to the club’s financial situation, which was less than positive to say the very least. This probably shows with the fact that the club ran through a number of sponsors over an initial four-year period, with Lion Cabinets, WGK, Systime, and RFW all making an appearance in the shirt. In 1986 things changed with the club agreeing to a five-year deal with then local – soon to be national – clothing group Burtons Top Man. The chain would become a fixture on the Leeds United shirt, probably its most iconic shirt and the club’s first successful foray into the world of shirt sponsorship.

Following the conclusion of the Burton Top Man deal, the club needed a stopgap sponsor until a pre-agreed deal with Admiral would come into effect. Lucking out on a level that nobody would have ever expected, local newspaper the Yorkshire Evening Post stepped up and would make up a part of one of the most iconic Leeds United kits of all time. With the return of the Division 1 title to Elland Road after an 18-year absence, it’s a kit that holds a special memory for many fans.

Admiral would claim its position on the shirt come the 1992/1993 season, but that would be a short-lived association of just a year, with the season being largely uneventful when it came to league competition. Following a legal dispute, Admiral was in the rear-view mirror, proving that the financial implications of shirt sponsorship were something that no club would be willing to mess around with.

Thistle Hotels – the popular hotel chain – became sponsors for three years following this, accompanying a shirt design overhaul, with a blue and gold hoop across the chest, along with blue collar and cuffs, being implemented. Dark blue and green striped shirts were introduced in 1994, with this – along with following 1995/1996 kit – being remembered fondly by fans.

During the mid to late 1990s, with Leeds experiencing something of a league resurgence, despite not actually claiming any silverware, Leeds adopted its very first international sponsor – computer firm Hewlett Packard.

The first kit featuring the brand’s name is probably one of Leeds United’s most forgettable kits, but what followed in between 1998 and 2000 proved to be iconic. Wearing this particular kit, Leeds secured a UEFA Champions League place and a seat at European football’s top table. Following the conclusion of the Hewlett Packard sponsorship, for Leeds United’s European efforts, Strongbow would adorn the shirt. Accompanying the club’s run to the UEFA Champions League semi-final, just falling short of securing a final place, this shirt is probably the most adored by Leeds United fans, as it represents the most successful time period for the club during the Premier League era.

Post-2002, with Leeds stuck in the financial mire, also saw the conclusion of the relatively popular Strongbow sponsorship deal. From 2003/2004 whisky manufacturers Whyte and Mackay began a three-year association with the club, but they – in common with the fans – had little to cheer about as Leeds slumped to an almost unfathomable relegation.

Further relegation followed of course, with Leeds entering the most troubled time in its history. In a rare bit of good news though, they would break new ground by being one of the first English clubs to adopt a sports betting sponsor – Bet24 for the 2006/2007 season. Following this, two names would take the role of shirt sponsor in NetFlights.com and Enterprise Insurance. Both would be attached a number of kits, all of which have proven to be pretty unmemorable.

The 2015/2016 season saw Leeds doing something particularly noticeable, doing away with a shirt sponsor for a single season. Waiting for the right deal, the kit proved to be rather fresh looking and a hit amongst fans. The shirt sponsor void was eventually filled by 32 Red, a popular UK online casino, that would rubber stamp – initially in red – the club’s resurgence.

However, this would be met with a backlash, red being the colour of Man United. Answering the fans’ concerns and quashing the controversy, the 32 Red logo was changed to blue for the 2016/2017 season and gold for the 2017/2018 season. That being said, no matter the colour, it’s evident that, as Leeds United make a realistic (but bumpy) challenge to return to the Premier League, 32 Red will be backing them every step of the way.

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!

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.