The day was a Wednesday and the year 1964. The calendar read 26th of August. 19,000 people inside the stadium, less than one-third its capacity, were perhaps certain of the result beforehand. And they had every reason to anticipate their loss. For their home team, having won the promotion to the top tier league last season, was to face the reigning champions. It was a mismatch, just into the second round, the home team too inexperienced to face the team they were pitted against. Not a kind of start to the league season a fan would be looking for. But what they say about matches being made in heaven sometimes holds for mismatches too.
Elland Road home crowd must have pinched themselves at the end of the designated 90 minutes for sure. For Leeds United beat Liverpool FC 4-2. The Whites outclassed and outplayed the Reds in every possible way. Don Revie, the Leeds United manager, couldn’t have proved his tactical nous any better. To beat Bill Shankly’s Liverpool FC was a herculean task, more so for a newly promoted team. But defying all odds Leeds United were the better team that day. And it wasn’t going to simply be an upset day for the champions by some underdog. It was a day that marked the emergence of a new force in English and European football.
Between 1965 and 1974, Revie’s Leeds United never finished outside of the top four. The club won its fair share of titles to command respect from the footballing world. The Dirty Leeds, a nick-name that epitomized the never say die attitude of its players, won two League Championships (1968-69 and 1973-74), one League Cup (1968) and one FA Cup (1972) and two Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (1968 and 1971). Add to that a string of second places: five times runners up in the league, three times losing finalists in the FA Cup and a European Cup Winners Cup final loss against AC Milan. Those were truly the glory days.
But it wasn’t to last forever. Revie’s brilliant record prompted the FA to offer him the national team’s managerial position, an offer every coach dreams of. And with his departure came the decline. The managers that filled in Revie’s shoes weren’t able to replicate his performance. The boardroom and the fans were impatient and demanded immediate results. Managers came, managers went. The club steadily lost its domination in English football and Leeds United were relegated to the second division at the end of 1981-82 season where it stayed for the following seven seasons, mostly at the bottom end of the table. Success became the reason for their failure!
Leeds United FC have ever since made a few comebacks to the top league, even going on to win the League Championship under Howard Wilkinson in the 1991-92 season. But never again have they so prominently dominated the English football. Impatience for success lead the club to procure heavy loans to buy star players like Robbie Fowler. But poor performance couldn’t be averted and players were sold to cover the excess loans. Boardroom instability only added to rapid decline of the club. Many notable names Rio Ferdinand, Robbie Kean and Harry Kewell left in search of greener pastures in the subsequent seasons. And the club fell into the depths of crisis getting relegated to as far as the third tier league. It was the first time in its history that Leeds were playing in the third division. The year was 2007.
Recently the club has shown signs of progress both financially and in terms of stability. They won promotion to the NPower Championship in the 2010-11 season and have been playing some wonderful football. Currently they are placed 14th in the league table and with only foour more rounds to go, it is certain that they are to stay in NPower Championship for the next season too. However for a club that dominated for over a decade, NPower Championship is not the place to be. Will Leeds United AFC ever reach the heights that it once so gracefully commanded? Or will they forever remain obscure, hidden away in the lower leagues with only its rich history to look back to? The fans can hope for a start for a new glory era and an end to this slump for they now know, Nothing lasts forever!
You might also likePublished 10 Apr 2012, 07:53 IST