It’s been another disappointing season for Leeds United and a campaign which has once again left the fans pondering the what ifs and the maybes. The Whites look set to make it successive years finishing in the bottom half of the Championship and next season will be their tenth year outside of the Premier League.
True to the words of Marching on Together, “ups and downs” offers the perfect summary of Leeds’ time in the Football League, but here is a look at some of those “ups”, with Leeds United’s top ten moments outside of the top-flight.
10. Leeds United 1-0 Derby County, Elland Road, 7th August 2004.
After the mass-exodus which followed relegation, Leeds’ first game in the newly named Championship was always going to be a tricky affair. With only Gary Kelly, Frazer Richardson, Matthew Kilgallon and Michael Duberry making the starting line-up from the squad which faced the drop just three months earlier, it was a team very much pieced together by Kevin Blackwell in the few weeks which led up to the game. This reflected in the performance as certain players understandably lacked fitness and any sort of cohesion was absent for the majority of the game. But the players dug-in, some playing for their careers, and with the help of the 30,000 strong Elland Road crowd, they were redeemed with a rare strike from Richardson in the second-half, sealing a remarkable win considering the circumstances.
Starting line-up: Sullivan, Kelly, Butler, Duberry, Kilgallon, Richardson, Wright, Walton (Radebe), Pugh, Joachim, Ricketts (Deane). Unused: Carson, Crainey, Guppy.
Did you know? Due to the early kick-off, this was the first game to be played in the Championship since its rebranding.
9. Leeds United 2-1 Norwich, Elland Road, 19th October 2009
In the Whites’ third and final season in League One, one of the campaign’s undoubted highlights came in the shape of a dramatic 2-1 win over fellow promotion chasers Norwich. Bradley Johnson had given Leeds the lead with a close-range header from a Robert Snodgrass corner in the first half, before their future Canaries team-mate, Grant Holt, managed to level things up just before the break. The second-half saw Max Gradel make his United debut and he looked lively in his late cameo, almost teeing up Jermaine Beckford for what should have been the winner. A draw seemed to be the inevitable outcome with both teams ruing missed chances. That was until Fraser Forster made a hash of his goal-kick and Beckford was first to it, racing in on goal at a perilous speed to slot home a 93rd minute winner in front of the Kop, sparking pandemonium in the stands and sending Simon Grayson’s side to the top of League One in typical Leeds United fashion.
Starting line-up: Higgs (Ankergren), Crowe, Naylor, Bromby, Hughes, Snodgrass (Gradel), Howson, Doyle, Johnson, Vokes (Kandol), Beckford. Unused: Michalik, Prutton, Kilkenny, Grella.
Did you know? Max Gradel and Sam Vokes made their Leeds debuts in this game, with their signings from Leicester and Wolves respectively being announced just an hour before kick-off.
8. Leeds United 2-0 QPR, Elland Road, 18th December 2010
In their first season back in the Championship, high-flying Leeds turned in one of their most impressive performances in recent years, with a 2-0 win over league-leaders QPR. The Whites were on the charge having come from two goals down to win at Burnley the week before and when Neil Warnock brought his side to a rocking Elland Road, there was only ever going to be one winner. The R’s nineteen game unbeaten run which had propelled them to the top of the table had come to a halt the weekend before, with a first defeat of the season coming at the hands of Watford, and they appeared to be still licking their wounds when Max Gradel fired Leeds in front after 25 minutes. It was a real show of dominance from the Whites and Man of the Match Gradel added his second to double their lead with a fine solo effort, twisting his way through the QPR defence before beating a helpless Paddy Kenny. By this point Elland Road was bouncing, and there was a sense of belief around the ground that an unthinkable back-to-back promotion could well be on the cards when other results meant that Leeds would spend Christmas day in second place.
Starting line-up: Schmeichel, Connolly, Bruce (Bromby), Collins, McCartney, Snodgrass, Doyle, Howson, Johnson, Gradel (Sam), Becchio (Paynter). Unused: Higgs, Faye, Somma, McCormack.
Did you know? As if the day couldn’t get any better for the Leeds fans, leading goal scorer Luciano Becchio put doubts about his future to bed, penning a new five-year contract after the game.
7. Leeds United v Spurs FA Cup ties
Leeds’ FA Cup run in the 2009/10 season is often stated as one of the factors which almost derailed their promotion push and with league form stuttering, a trip to White Hart Lane looked like it would be a step too far for Simon Grayson’s side. Having already caused a third round upset at Old Trafford, Leeds were full of belief and when the heroic Casper Ankergren saved Jermaine Defoe’s penalty after waves of first half attacks, that air of optimism was starting to return. That was until Peter Crouch stabbed Spurs into lead just minutes before the break, giving Leeds a mountain to climb in the second half. Whatever Grayson had said to his players during the interval seemed to be doing the trick as they came out all guns blazing, with Jermaine Beckford scrambling home an equaliser from a corner. Roman Pavlyuchenko had put Spurs back in front but this Leeds team just didn’t know when they were beaten. After a long ball from Jonny Howson deep into stoppage-time, the superb Beckford was brought down in the box by Michael Dawson and referee Mike Riley didn’t hesitate to point to the spot. The talismanic striker dusted himself down to dispatch an unstoppable 94th minute strike into the roof of the net, sending the travelling army into raptures and forcing a replay at Elland Road the following week. The Premier League class of Harry Redknapp’s side showed in the return game when they were 3-1 winners despite another bold Leeds performance. The Whites did manage to inflict revenge three years later however, with a 2-1 win at Elland Road proving to be one of this season’s highlights.
Starting line-up: Ankergren, Crowe, Kisnorbo, Bromby, Hughes, Snodgrass, Doyle (Becchio), Kilkenny, Howson, Johnson (White), Beckford. Unused: Martin, Michalik, Prutton, Robinson, Grella.
Did you know? Before the win in January, Leeds hadn’t managed to beat Spurs in any of their previous seven meetings, the last victory being a 2-1 win at Elland Road in November 2001.
6. Preston North End play-off semi-final games 2006
After Billy Davies announced that the 1-1 draw in the first leg at Elland Road was “job done” for his Preston side, Kevin Blackwell’s men needed no added incentives when they travelled to Deepdale for the return game the week later. An Eddie Lewis free-kick had cancelled out David Nugent’s opener in the Elland Road tie and despite Preston having the home advantage; Leeds remained uncharacteristically unfazed by the big occasion, clinching a 2-0 win after a professional performance. The Leeds defence managed to withstand numerous first half attacks from the home side but the game was firmly in the balance going into half-time at 0-0. Bizarrely, the floodlights suffered a power failure as the teams were waiting to come back out, meaning that the restart was delayed for a further 25 minutes. The extended break seemed to benefit Leeds and shortly after proceedings had resumed, Rob Hulse opened the scoring with a header from a Gary Kelly corner before teeing up Frazer Richardson to double the lead and leave the Whites just 90 minutes away from a top-flight return. The dismissals of Stephen Crainey and Richard Cresswell had little impact on the outcome for Leeds and they ended the game in celebratory mood, with a trip to Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium awaiting. Job done indeed.
Starting line-up: Sullivan, Kelly, Gregan, Kilgallon, Crainey, Richardson, Derry, Miller, Douglas, Lewis (Stone), Hulse (Cresswell). Unused: Bakke, Blake, Healy.
Did you know? On top of the two red cards, Leeds picked up a whopping eight yellow cards during the game with Derry, Kilgallon, Crainey, Gregan, Miller, Cresswell, Kelly and Douglas all going into the book. Dirty Leeds.
5. Southampton 3-4 Leeds United, St Mary’s, 19th November 2005.
When Kevin Blackwell’s promotion chasing Leeds found themselves 3-0 down at half-time to Southampton, the travelling fans could be forgiven for contemplating heading to the exits with 45 minutes still to play. No doubt there will have been a few who decided they had seen enough when the half-time whistle went, but those who stayed witnessed one of the greatest comebacks in Leeds United’s recent history. A first half goal from Marian Pahars and a Nigel Quashie double had seemingly given Harry Redknapp’s side a comfortable lead at the break and it looked like it was just going to be one of those days for the Whites. After a dressing down, Leeds came out a different side after the interval but time was against them. With Blackwell’s men still trailing 3-0 with just 23 minutes to go, he decided to give it one last throw of the dice, replacing right back Frazer Richardson with Northern Ireland striker David Healy. Something immediately clicked and within minutes, Leeds were back in the game thanks to a Paul Butler header. Robbie Blake pulled back a second shortly after and with 13 minutes still on the clock, there was a real sense of belief that Leeds could take something from this game. The confident Redknapp had used all of his three substitutions at half-time and unable to alter the tide of the game, he watched in disbelief as the Leeds onslaught continued with Healy dispatching a penalty to draw things level. There was still six minutes plus injury time to be played and Leeds had the momentum. The attacks continued and just two minutes after the equaliser, a sweet strike from on-loan midfielder Liam Miller put United in front, sparking mayhem in the away end and sealing a victory which will live long in the memory.
Starting line-up: Sullivan, Kelly, Butler, Kilgallon, Harding, Richardson (Healy), Derry, Miller, Lewis, Hulse, Blake. Unused: Pugh, Bennett, Walton, Douglas.
Did you know? The Southampton starting line-up featured a 16-year old Theo Walcott. It also included former Chelsea midfielder Dennis Wise who went on to manage the Whites less than two years later.
4. Carlisle United 0-2 Leeds United, Brunton Park, 15th May 2008.
The 2007/08 season will live long in the memories of Leeds United fans for a number of reasons. The Whites had faced an uphill battle all year having being handed a 15-point deduction before a ball had even been kicked. But under the guidance of Dennis Wise and Gus Poyet, they continued to defy the odds and it looked as if an instant return to the Championship was on the cards. Despite the dip in form that followed the duo’s departure and the appointment of Gary McCallister midway through the season, United still managed to clinch a top-six finish. After a disappointing performance in the play-off semi-final first leg, a late Dougie Freedman strike to make it 2-1 had given Leeds a glimmer of hope for when they travelled to Carlisle for the return game less than a week later. Leeds had the best away record in the division and they knew that winning the game by any more than one goal would send them to Wembley. From kick-off the Whites looked focused on the task at hand and they got off to the perfect start when local lad Jonny Howson fired them in front inside the opening ten minutes. What followed was a nervy eighty or so minutes, with both sides playing it cautious, not wanting to over commit and find themselves caught out on the break. The game looked destined for extra-time, something the Leeds fans would have jumped at before the game, but with just seconds left on the clock and United on the attack, Freedman laid the ball off to Howson. The 19-year old was striding forward with intent and he calmly swept it into the bottom corner and past the impressive Keiren Westwood in the Carlisle net, sending Leeds to the play-off final. The home crowd was stunned into silence and the Leeds fans couldn’t quite believe it either. From being 2-0 down at one point in the tie, they were heading to Wembley, thanks to two goals from one of their own.
Starting line-up: Ankergren, Richardson, Huntington, Michalik, Johnson, Kilkenny, Howson, Douglas, Prutton, Beckford, Freedman. Unused: Lucas, Marques, Carole, Kandol, Hughes.
Did you know? Prior to the game, Carlisle had won 17 of their 23 home games that season. A record only matched by Premier League champions Manchester United.
3. Reaching zero: Leeds United 2-0 Hartlepool United, Elland Road, 8th September 2007.
The sight of the Leeds squad engaging in a post-match huddle was becoming a trademark of the start of the 2007/08 season, but the one which followed the 2-0 win at home to Hartlepool was the most poignant of the lot. From the opening day victory at Tranmere, the 15-point deduction appeared to invigorate Leeds when it seemed like everything was against them. Having won their opening four games of the season, Dennis Wise’s side had the opportunity to reach zero points after just five games, when they faced Hartlepool at Elland Road. The game itself wasn’t a particularly memorable one, with goals from Tresor Kandol and Jermaine Beckford sealing a 2-0 win, but there was no doubting the magnitude of the occasion. The players celebrated on the pitch like they had just won promotion and in the stands it felt like a victory over the rest of the Football League and those who had voted to impose the 15-point deduction. After all, it was the fans who were made to suffer. Leeds were on the March though, and a thirteen game unbeaten run saw them climb the table at a rapid pace, putting themselves amongst the promotion contenders and flirting with the top two. The result against Hartlepool wasn’t one of the most important in the Whites’ recent history, in fact a lot of Leeds fans would probably struggle to recall the opponents that day, but the significance of it is not to be underestimated. This was a special moment for Leeds United and a marker in their history that showed that this club would never die.
Starting line-up: Ankergren, Richardson, Heath, Marques, Clapham, Prutton, Howson (Huntington), Hughes, Carole (Westlake), Kandol, Beckford. Unused: Bayly, Parker, Ameobi.
Did you know? The fifth straight win meant it was Leeds’ best league start since 1973.
2. Manchester United 0-1 Leeds United, Old Trafford, 3rd January 2010.
The rivalry between Leeds United and Manchester United needs no introduction. After a humiliating televised 1-1 draw away to Kettering in the previous round, the winner of the Elland Road replay would travel to Old Trafford to face the English champions, Manchester United. Leeds needed extra-time to see off their non-league opponents, but a date had been set, January 3rd, for their first meeting in six years against their old rivals. With League One promotion on the cards, Leeds were flying and full of confidence, but so were Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in the Premier League and the Leeds fans feared they could be in for an afternoon of embarrassment in a game where such pride was at stake. After a few nervy exchanges in the opening stages of the game, those fears were laid to rest for the time being when Jermaine Beckford raced onto the end of a Jonny Howson long ball to put Leeds ahead in front of the Stretford End, much to the delight of the 9,000 travelling fans. In the second half it required the goalkeeping heroics of Casper Ankergren, as well as a goal line clearance from Jason Crowe to keep the Whites in front, but Leeds held their own and they had a number of chances to double their lead. Beckford almost added his second and Robert Snodgrass struck the bar with a free-kick as Simon Grayson’s side earned a historic win. There was no questioning that Leeds were the better team over the 90 minutes, with the likes of Beckford and Howson both putting in performances which put them in good stead for their future Premier League moves. Over three years on, Leeds fans still sing about the result today and rightly so. A League One team going to the Champions of England and getting a win is one thing, but when it’s against your bitterest rivals, it feels so much sweeter.
Starting line-up: Ankergren, Crowe, Naylor, Kisnorbo, Hughes (White), Howson (Snodgrass), Doyle, Kilkenny, Johnson, Beckford, Becchio (Michalik). Unused: Martin, Capaldi, Prutton, Grella.
Did you know? It was the first time Manchester United had been knocked out of the FA Cup in the third round and the first time they had been knocked out by a side in a lower division under Sir Alex Ferguson’s management.
1. Leeds United 2-1 Bristol Rovers, Elland Road, 8th May 2010.
It was just so typical of Leeds United to leave it until the last day of the season to seal promotion to League One. Despite seemingly coasting to a top-two finish before the turn of the year, a dip in form hampered by an FA Cup run left the Whites with it all to do and over 38,000 packed inside Elland Road for one of their biggest games in recent years. It should have been straight forward, but when Max Gradel was dismissed on the half hour mark, it became an uphill struggle. Minutes into the second half, Darryl Duffy poked the visitors into the lead after a mix-up in defence and an all too familiar air of desperation filled Elland Road, the prospect of another season of League One football hardly whetting the appetite of the home fans. Jonny Howson was brought on to try and help the cause and within minutes of his introduction, he pulled things level with a stunning strike from the edge of the box. It was the inspiration Leeds needed and the crowd raised the volume another notch, sensing a win was still possible with over half an hour to play. Jermaine Beckford had been made captain for the day and it proved to be an inspired decision by Simon Grayson as the number nine fired Leeds in front from close range after a Bradley Johnson cross had fell into his path. Elland Road erupted and the fans mobbed Beckford and co. on the pitch. Rovers rarely threatened in the remaining twenty-five minutes and at full time the Elland Road pitch was awash with Leeds fans embracing their heroes. Leeds don’t tend to do things the easy way and to call this game an emotional rollercoaster would be an understatement, so winning in the manner in which they did makes it all the more special.
Starting line-up: Higgs, Lowry (Howson), Bromby, Collins, Hughes, Gradel, Kilkenny, Doyle, Johnson, Beckford (Snodgrass), Becchio (Watt). Unused: Ankergren, Michalik, McSheffrey, Grella.
Did you know? Three years on, out of the players that featured that day, only Leigh Bromby is still at the club.
The top 10 moments mapped outSo there’s the top 10 moments since Leeds United’s relegation from the top-flight, but what about the worst? Vote now in the poll below.