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LUFC 21 years ago - It seems like only yesterday

To me it seems like only yesterday but last month it was twenty-one years since Leeds last tasted promotion from the second flight of English football and after looking at the similarities of this seasons fixtures to the one of 1989/90 it got me reminiscing about that wonderful season.

The 1989/90 season is still my favourite ever season by a country mile. I missed only two games all season, home and away.

It was the days when the lowfields ran along the side of the ground and the kop and South Stand were jam packed full to the rafter`s week in week out, as Leeds finally waved goodbye to the Second Division, after eight painful years.

We were full of confidence going into the season after manager Howard Wilkinson had been busy during the summer months. Mel Sterland, John Hendrie and Vinnie Jones were amongst the players brought in to help Leeds 'battle` their way out of the division.

Already at the club was Gordon Strachan who had joined towards the end of the previous season and was to prove to be one of the most inspirational signings the club will ever see at a bargain 300,000.

Howard Wilkinson had built a side that were ready to fight their way out of the division but still had enough class to turn on the style.

Wilkinson had Mike Hennigan as his number two who was always ready to keep the players on their toes, barking orders from the sidelines.

The season didn`t start off too well with a heavy defeat at Newcastle on the opening day.
Leeds looked in control of the game in the first half and went in at the break 2-1 ahead.

Unfortunately, big fat Micky Quinn bagged four goals to send Leeds to a 5-2 defeat.

Leeds home programmes started against Middlesbrough in midweek.

Who will ever forget the winning goal in the home game with Boro? Probably one of the strangest own goals you will ever see. I was seated in the Lowfields that night and you would have thought we had won promotion at the final whistle.

Leeds weren`t winning many friends and Wilkinson was slaughtered in the London press after a 1-0 win at West Ham.

Vinnie Jones was already a cult hero on the terraces and it was his goal that defeated the Hammers as Leeds fans didn`t care what the press had to say.

There were some amazing games; Hull at home and Oxford away are two that stand out.

If there was ever a game of two halves then the game at Oxford was one. Two down at half time and looking very poor saw a number of Leeds fans decide to venture to the nearest watering holes.

Four goals in seventeen minutes and a missed penalty in the last minute saw a completely different Leeds in the second half. Such was the tightness of the division, Wilkinson went mad with the players decision to allow Chapman to take the last minute penalty and try and complete his hat trick.

The 4-0 demolition of Sheffield United on Easter Monday. Leeds and the Blades had set the pace all season but there was no stopping a rampant Leeds that day.

I stood in the same position in the South Stand all season, once I realised it was the home end again after the fiasco of the Boro game. The game kicked off late with thousands locked outside, yet the south stand was half-empty.

Some great characters in the squad that season. Mel ' Zico' Sterland at right back, who also chipped in with a number of crucial goals. Who will ever forget his free kick at Sheffield United?

What a signing Vinnie Jones turned out to be, he was actually a decent footballer, only two bookings during his time at Leeds. He also chipped in with a number of crucial goals including two tremendous goals against Brighton and Hull City at Elland Road.

How we could do with a leader like Gordon Strachan now, the bloke ran on Duracell!!

David Batty the enforcer in midfield, alongside Jones with Strachan on one side of midfield and being ably supported by the tricky John Hendrie on the other we had a mixture of flair, grit and determination.

A number of players were unsung heroes that season, Mervyn Day in goal, Chris Fairclough and Peter Haddock in the centre of defence.

Bobby Davison would surely have gone on to score twenty goals that season had injury not forced him to miss a large chunk of the season.

Carl Shutt and Ian Baird were two players who always gave 100% whenever they pulled on the Leeds shirt. Bairdy`s diving header in the game at home against Newcastle was another memorable moment.

Andy Williams was Wilkinson`s first signing from Rotherham when he joined the club in 1988 and when he got the chance in the starting eleven he never let us down.

Manager Howard Wilkinson also had the knack of bringing in the players at the right time when we needed them. Journeyman striker Imre Varadi came in during February and scored on his debut in the game against Hull.

Chris Kamara was another great signing. He sounds the most laid back and easy-going person when you listen to him on Sky at the weekend. When he was on a football pitch he was a different animal and was not to be messed with.

Probably Wilkinson`s best signing of the season was Lee Chapman, a player I never rated during his time at Sheffield Wednesday and Nottingham Forest.

In fact, Wilkinson made a habit of signing players I didn`t like, Strachan, Kamara, Chapman and Varadi were all players I didn`t rate. Kamara was especially a player I loved to hate when we came up against Stoke City.

Chapman came in during January when we were struggling for goals.

He soon started to win me over after scoring on his debut at Blackburn, to help Leeds to a crucial 2-1 win.
David May who went on to play for them from across the Pennines, also smashed an injury time penalty over the bar for Blackburn.

Chapman scored twelve goals in total during the season, including the all-important winner at Bournemouth on the final day.

He was to prove a prolific striker during his time at Leeds and scored goals for fun in the top division.

He may have looked like Bambi on ice but he knew where the back of the net was.

The last home game against Leicester, I have never been so nervous going into the last ten minutes and then Strachan popped up with that goal. I was up to my elbow in plaster but it didn't stop me scaling the fence to be on the pitch at the end, along with most of the rest of Elland Road.

Vinnie Jones telling everyone we were promoted, which sparked wild scenes of celebration on the pitch, only for these to be premature and the season going down to the final game at Bournemouth.

The final weekend of the season was on a red-hot Bank Holiday weekend on the South coast.

Leeds took somewhere in the region of 15,000 fans to Bournemouth that weekend and unfortunately events off the pitch over shadowed what should have been a weekend of celebration for all to do with the club.

Lee Chapman`s soaring header after a great cross from Chris Kamara ensured we went up as champions and an end to eight years of misery.

For people like me who were born in 1971, I had only really ever seen the decline of Leeds United.
I had witnessed eight years of pain in the Second Division during the 80`s. Trips to places like Shrewsbury and losing became the norm.

Sunday lunchtime kick offs at Plymouth and losing 6-3. We went to Stoke City and lost 6-2. The following season surely it could only get better. No, we went one better and lost 7-2.

We did have some good moments during the 80`s. Under Billy Bremner, we came so close to promotion and a place in the FA Cup final in 1987. Unfortunately, we lost out in the play offs in a replay to Charlton after extra time. We even took the lead through a fantastic John Sheridan goal in extra time but Peter Shirtliff; a defender who rarely scored found the net twice to break the hearts of Leeds.

In the cup, we went out at the semi final stage against Coventry City at Hillsborough, again after extra time.

The good moments were outweighed by ones of disappointment, as the mighty Leeds of the 60`s and 70`s were only a memory as we struggled to find a way out of the division.

Two weeks after the promotion at Bournemouth, I moved to Oxford and after being an almost ever present at Leeds games for a number of seasons, I was struggling financially to see the side in the top flight of English football.

Fortunately, by the time we started our second season in the top flight I was in a better financial situation to see us become champions of England for a third time on a regular basis.

I am now the member of one of the fastest growing supporters clubs in the South of England, The Thames Valley Whites, so getting to games is much easier.

The branch was formed in 2009 after a number of fans had noticed fellow Leeds fans from the Oxfordshire and Berkshire area making the long trek up the M1 to Elland Road.

After a few beers pre match at Elland Road they decided to organise a bus and see how it went.

Now with almost 200 members the supporters club run a coach to all home and away games during the season and at a very reasonable price, which makes it far easier and much cheaper in these times of financial difficulty.

I hope that we can all enjoy a season in 2011/12 that can rival that of 1989/90 which will ironically once again be eight seasons since our relegation from the top flight.

What are your memories of that fantastic season?

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The Journalist

Writer: Dazza71 Mail feedback, articles or suggestions

Date:Sunday June 19 2011

Time: 8:25AM

 

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