Leeds United F.C.

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Leeds United F.C. is the only professional association football club in Leeds. The club was established in 1919, following the demise of Leeds City F.C.. They currently play in the Football League Championship and play their home games at the Elland Road stadium.



Leeds City

Leeds United's predecessor club, Leeds City FC, was formed in 1904 by the committee and supporters.

Formation of Leeds United

Shortly after the collapse of Leeds City, a new club, Leeds United, was formed and shortly began playing in the Midland League, taking the place vacated by Leeds City's reserve team. Yorkshire Amateurs AFC, who now occupied Elland Road, offered to make way for the new team under the manager of former player Dick Ray. In 1920, Leeds were acquired by Huddersfield Town's then chairman, Hilton Crowther. Crowther brought in a new manager, Arthur Fairclough, from Barnsley, and in May 1920 the new club was elected to the Football League, along with Cardiff City.

Before Revie

Over the following few years, Leeds consolidated their position in the Second Division and in 1924 won the second division title with 54 points. However, they failed to establish themselves there, being relegated in 1927, thereby setting the pattern for yo-yo'ing between the divisions over the next 30 years or so. In 1956, Leeds once again won promotion to the First Division, with a team which included the brilliant John Charles and then emerging defender Jack Charlton. However, Charles was sold to Juventus, Leeds once again went into decline and were once more relegated to the second division in 1960. In March 1961 the club's directors appointed former England centre forward Don Revie as player-manager.

The Revie Period: "The Glory Days"

It was under Revie that Leeds enjoyed their most successful period, and during which they became probably the leading English football club. Revie's stewardship started in some difficulty; the club was in some financial difficulty and in the 1961-1962 season only a win in the final game of the season saved the club from relegation to Division 3.

However, Revie developed a new team around the Scottish striker Bobby Collins, bringing through a crop of outstanding youngsters, including Norman Hunter, Paul Reaney, Gary Sprake and Billy Bremner, and acquiring winger Johnny Giles from Manchester United. In 1964 this new team won promotion once more to Division 1.

Leeds reputation was built on strong organisation, physical toughness (at a time when football was more physical than it is today) and considerable skill. Most of the team went on to become full internationals; in 1970 the squad contained 17 full internationals (and again, it should be born in mind that this was at a time when players from outside the British Isles were rare in English football, and international players were correspondingly more rare). Further players to emerge included Terry Cooper, Peter Lorimer and Eddie Gray, while key acquisitions included Allan Clarke (at the time for a British record transfer fee) and Mick Jones.

They also developed a reputation for under-achievement. During the late 1960's and early 1970's Leeds won the league championship twice, and the FA cup once. Many times the club came within proximity of success only to lose it at the last; their record during this period includes an inordinate number of second placings. However, under Revie Leeds won promotion to Division 1 in the 1963-64 season; two league championships: 1968-69, 1973-1974, League Cup in 1968, Fairs Cup 1968 and 1971, FA Cup in 1972 and FA Charity Shield in 1972.

Revie's last season at Elland Road concluded with Leeds' winning the championship. In 1974, Revie, as the leading English manager of his day (comparable figures such as Matt Busby and Bill Shankly were Scottish) left Leeds to take up the role of managing the English national team.

The Post Revie period: Slow Decline

Revie had recommended Johnny Giles as his replacement, and the thoughtful Giles went on to become a successful manager elsewhere. However, the club's board made the major error (which its successors would later repeat several times) of appointing the biggest, rather than the most appropriate, name. Brian Clough was at the time one of the most successful and outspoken English managers. Unfortunately he openly despised Revie, his team and his players. The team (and its supporters) returned the compliment, and after a few weeks of deadlock Clough was dismissed with (not for the last time for a departing Leeds manager) a significant pay off. He was replaced by former England captain Jimmy Armfield, who took Revie's team to the final of the European Champion's cup, where it was defeated by Bayern Munich after seeing a goal controversially disallowed. Armfield (with noted coach Don Howe) rebuilt Revie's team, and though it no longer dominated English football, it remained in the top 6 for subsequent seasons. However, the board was impatient for success and dismissed Armfield, replacing him with another managerial legend Jock Stein.

Unfortunately once again Stein remained in the role for only a short period of time, leaving (on far better terms than Clough) to take up an invitation to manage the Scottish national team. The board turned to Jimmy Adamson, a long term manager at Burnley but not from the "top tier" of management. At this point the decline shifted a gear. In 1980 Adamson was in turn fired, and replaced by former Leeds and England star Allan Clarke. Clarke, despite spending freely on players, was unable to stem the tide and the club was relegated at the end of the 1981-1982 season. Clarke was in his turn replaced by former team mate Eddie Gray.

Gray's concentration on youth development turned round Leeds' precarious financial situation, without winning them promotion from the second division. Most Leeds supporters would give Gray the benefit of the doubt during this period as he had no money to spend on team building, and those players he developed were often sold off as well. However the board again became impatient and sacked him in 1985, replacing him with another former Revie star, former Leeds and Scotland captain Billy Bremner. Bremner carried on where Gray had left off, but found it just as difficult to achieve promotion. In October 1988, with the team standing at 21st position in Division 2, Bremner was fired to make way for Howard Wilkinson.

The Wilkinson Period: Re-emergence

Wilkinson, with extra money to spend, set about building a team capable of promotion, one which combined youth and experience, and toughness with guile. Key acquisitions included winger Gordon Strachan from Manchester United, around whom he built the team, well known "hard man", Vinnie Jones, right back Mel Sterland, striker Lee Chapman and centre half Chris Fairclough. He also began to bring players through from the youth team, including David Batty (actually a product of the Bremner era) and Gary Speed. The following season Leeds finally won promotion back to the first division, after an absence of 8 years.

Wilkinson continued to rebuild the team, discarding players such as Jones who had been brought in to specifically deal with physicality of second division football, and bringing in goalkeeper John Lukic (the club's first 1m signing), defender Chris Whyte and promising midfielder Gary McAllister. The club finished its first season back in the first division in fourth place, and the board continued to make money available to Wilkinson, allowing the purchases of England left back Tony Dorigo, England midfielder Steve Hodge and striker Rod Wallace. In 1992 Leeds once again won the league championship and looked set to re-emerge as a dominant force.

However, the following season was a poor one. The club had set its sights on winning the UEFA Champions League but progress was halted by Glasgow Rangers FC who beat the English champions in both legs of a pulsating clash labelled the "Battle of Britain". The defeat to Rangers proved the last straw for Eric Cantona, the talented and charismatic - but highly disruptive - French star, who moved at what by this time was recognised as a low fee of 1.2m to Manchester United, Leeds' principal rival since the late 1960s. While Cantona proved to be the essential final jigsaw piece in Manchester's emerging team, Wilkinson's subsequent teams failed to gel, despite inspired signings such as Nigel Martyn, Lucas Radebe and Lee Bowyer. Additionally other key players, such as Speed and Batty, left to fuel Wilkinson's transfer strategy. Wilkinson's position with the board had become more precarious with the sale of the club in 1992 to a new consortium, and wasn't helped by a chronic, negative display in the 1996 League Cup final which saw star striker Tomas Brolin left on the bench and Aston Villa win 3-0. Early in the 1996-1997 season, after a particularly painful Cantona-inspired 4-0 home defeat by Manchester United, Wilkinson was fired.

George Graham

Leeds controversially appointed George Graham, rescuing him from the football scrap heap; Graham had been out of a job since being accused of accepting illegal payments at his former club Arsenal. When Graham arrived, he stepped into a club where the players' morale was low; he started work immediately by sorting out the team's defence and he became the "bore draw" specialist. At the start of the season, Graham brought in some bargain buys, notably Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for £2 million (GBP). Graham introduced Australian youngster Harry Kewell from the youth team and he quickly became a fan favourite with his pace, skill, enthusiasm and eye for goal. At the end of the season Leeds booked its place in the UEFA Cup for the next season. The 1998-99 season saw Leeds scrape past Maritimo in the UEFA Cup; however, stories were circulating that George Graham had accepted an offer from Tottenham Hotspur. Graham denied this, but a week later he was indeed manager of the north London club.

The O’Leary Period: "Living the Dream"

Leeds searched for a new manager for weeks with Martin O'Neill seeming certain to take the job; however pressure from Leicester City fans meant O'Neill stayed on as their manager and subsequently snubbed Leeds United. Leeds opted for David O'Leary, George Graham's assistant manager.

Under O'Leary the glory days seemed likely to return. On the pitch he let his team do the talking. He introduced promising youngsters like Jonathan Woodgate, Alan Smith and Stephen McPhail to complement the likes of Harry Kewell and Ian Harte, who were already established first teamers. The fans and pundits saw a new vigorous and dynamic Leeds United side. A young and inexperienced Leeds side narrowly lost in Rome against Italian giants A.S. Roma and Leeds was unable to break the deadlock a week later at Elland Road.

With David O'Leary in charge the 1999-2000 season approached and was looking good for Leeds. O'Leary put himself across to the media as "nave" and his squad were just "babies". But those "babies" played fast-paced, attacking football under the coaching of Eddie Gray. Leeds were again paired with A.S. Roma in the UEFA Cup and they were beaten this time over two legs. The superb run in the UEFA Cup was complemented by good form in the league, with a win at Watford sending Leeds top of the league. Leeds secured 3rd place in the league that season sending the club into the Champions League for the first time. The Champions League campaign was marked by victories over Anderlecht and Deportive La Corunua on a run to the Semi-Finals.

However, if there ever was a point in Leeds United's history that would change the club it occurred during January of 2000. Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer were involved in an incident in Leeds city centre outside the Majestyk nightclub, which left an Asian student in hospital with severe injuries. The fact that the victim of the attack was Asian meant the players, fans and the club were under the spotlight as the tabloid press among others were suspicious that the attackwas racially motivated, even to the point of assuming this was the case unless it was proven otherwise. Leeds ever since have been labelled "racist" and "dirty" in certain tabloid newspapers, a large percentage of supporters boycott the Daily Mirror because they strongly deny this and find the accusation offensive. It took nearly two years to resolve as the start-stop court case came to a close. Bowyer was cleared and Woodgate convicted of affray and sentenced to community service. Bowyer played some of the finest football of his career during the trial and would often drive straight from court to play for Leeds; however, Woodgate’s form deteriorated and he had to sit out games due to pressure.

Leeds’ UEFA Cup run continued beating Slavia Praha in the quarter finals, Leeds reached their first European semi-final in 25 years and were paired against Turkish champions Galatasaray, notorious for their fanatical support. Another dark moment in Leeds’ history was around the corner when two Leeds United fans, Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight were brutally stabbed to death before the game in Istanbul. The Turkish FA and Galatasaray's actions showed how they didn’t care and ordered the game to go ahead that night, Leeds lost 2-0. The return leg in Leeds had the most charged, emotional yet poisonous atmosphere. Outside the ground saw running battles between police and fans and there were attacks on Turkish TV crews, the game saw Harry Kewell sent off and a 2-2 score wasn't enough for Leeds, as they went out of the competition.

In recent years they have been rebuilding with young players, including midfielders James Milner (born 1986), who broke Wayne Rooney's record for youngest player to score in the Premier League, and Aaron Lennon (born 1987), the youngest player ever to play in the league.

Following their appearance in the Champions League semi-final against Valencia Leeds' fortunes started to change. Although the general public were unaware, the club under the leadership of Peter Ridsdale had taken out loans worth extremely large sums of money. In reflection this was not a smart move at all. Leeds started the 2001-2002 season needing to qualify for the Champions League after missing out by one spot to Liverpool the previous season.

However this was not to be, Leeds started well and on New Years Day 2002 were on top of the Premiership. From here on things went downhill and eventually Leeds finished 5th, missing out on the much coveted Champions League spot again. Following Rio Ferdinand's strong performances at the World Cup there was rumours circulating that he would be sold. Eventually in July 2002 he was sold to Leeds' hated rivals Manchester United for a sum of approximately 30 million pounds. David O'Leary was also sacked for a number of reasons and replaced by Terry Venables.

After O’Leary: Decline and Fall

Under Venables, Robbie Keane was sold to Spurs; this was only the start of the fire sale due to increasing debts and an unsustainable wage bill. In the January 2003 transfer window Robbie Fowler, Olivier Dacourt, Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate all left the club in a bid to ease the financial burden. The sale of Woodgate particularly upset Venables, who had been promised by Ridsdale that Woodgate would not be sold. Tensions mounted between the pair, eventually resulting in the sacking of Venables, who was replaced by Peter Reid. With his no-nonsense style of management, Reid helped Leeds retain its top flight status and was given a contract. During this time the now hated Peter Ridsdale resigned from the Leeds board and was replaced by Prof. John McKenzie.

During the 2003 summer Harry Kewell controversially left Leeds for Liverpool for a paltry sum; what exactly happened is still unknown, but many Leeds fans feel Kewell and his agent Bernie Mandic acted immorally.

An unsuccessful start to the 2003/04 season saw Peter Reid dismissed, following a 1-6 defeat at Portsmouth in early November with fans' hero and former manager, Eddie Gray, taking over as caretaker manager - appointed until the end of the season.

A period of serious financial difficulty ended in early 2004 with a takeover by a consortium, led by new chairman Gerald Krasner. Nevertheless, the team continued to struggle on the field and were relegated to the Football League Championship at the end of the 2003/2004 season, ending a fourteen-year run at the highest level of the English football league system that included the first twelve seasons of the Premiership.

Following confirmation of the club's relegation, Gray's reign as caretaker manager was terminated. His former assistant, Kevin Blackwell, was appointed caretaker manager for the final match of the season, and afterward permanent manager.

Goalkeeper Paul Robinson was sold to Spurs at season's end, and Alan Smith to Manchester United. Dominic Matteo was sold to Blackburn Rovers, Mark Viduka was sold to Middlesbrough [1] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/m/middlesbrough/3876427.stm), and even Milner, who Leeds had been intent on keeping, has been sold to Newcastle United [2] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/n/newcastle_united/3852503.stm). In their place, Leeds has been signing players with lower wages.

Another Takeover

On January 21, 2005, Krasner announced the sale of a 50% stake to Ken Bates for a reported 10,000,000 and Bates became the club's new Chairman, replacing Gerald Krasner. This investment effectively saved Leeds United. All now associated with the club appear to have cautiously welcomed the take over as there was little other option. Bates has headed three other league football clubs but most famously, importantly and recently Chelsea F.C..

The Future

With Ken Bates as the new chairman of Leeds United, the club's finances have been secured and bankruptcy is no longer a possibility. Leeds are set to end the 2004-05 Coca-Cola championship campaign with a mid table finish. Manager Kevin Blackwell's contract expires next year, whether or not he will be given a new contract will almost certainly depend on whether promotion is achieved at the end of the 2005-06 season.

BBC Story: Bates takes over Leeds (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/teams/l/leeds_united/4191871.stm)


Football League Division 1 (now known as the Premier League)

Champions 1968/ 69, 1973/ 74, 1991/ 92

FA Cup

Winners 1972

Finalists 1965, 1970, 1973

League Cup

Winners 1968

Finalists 1996

European Cup

Finalists 1975

Semi-finalists 1970

European Champions League

Semi-finalists 2001

European Cup Winners Cup

Finalists 1973

UEFA Cup/ Inter Cities Fairs Cup

Winners 1968, 1971



Notable players

The Revie Era


External links

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Football in England

League competitions

The FA

Cup competitions

FA Premier League FA Cup
The Football League (Champ, 1, 2) England
League Cup
Football Conference (Nat, N, S) FA Community Shield
Northern Premier League (Prem, 1) (women) Football League Trophy
Southern League (Prem, 1W, 1E) List of
FA Trophy
Isthmian League (Prem, 1, 2) FA Vase
English football league system Records FA NLS Cup

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