The 6-2 defeat suffered by Leeds United at Hillsborough in 1995 was as humiliating as any recorded in the Howard Wilkinson era; the heaviest of his tenure at that juncture.
Sheffield Wednesday 6
Leeds United 2
Hillsborough, Dec ember 16, 1995
On an afternoon of endless finger-pointing, he chose to lay the blame at his own door.
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United's manager deflected criticism away from his team, conceding that the rout was primarily his fault. He regretted his tactics and his choice of players, admitting that two of them should not have been asked to start against Sheffield Wednesday.
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Tony Yeboah and Gary Kelly were both included despite strenuous international appearances earlier in the week, Kelly in a European Championship qualifier between the Republic of Ireland and Holland and Yeboah in a fixture involving Ghana. Their tired legs told in a one-side derby which Wednesday won inside 25 minutes.
"I pick the team, I choose the tactics and it was entirely my decision to play Gary and Tony," said Wilkinson. "I take full responsibility for all of that, and for the result.
"Kelly suffered from what you can only describe as exhaustion and Yeboah's played despite getting back to the team hotel from Ghana last night. He only left Ghana at midnight the previous evening. In retrospect, I wished I hadn't started them."
As counter-productive as Wilkinson's line-up was, the tactical decision to move Carlton Palmer from midfield and play him as one of three centre-backs in a five-man defence was a bigger mistake.
Wednesday revelled in the space afforded to their more creative assets, among them the lively Chris Waddle and Belgian international Marc Degryse.
Wilkinson realised the scale of his error after only five minutes when David Hirst's pass caught Kelly out of position and invited a cross from Lee Briscoe which Degryse headed home.
Kelly was replaced by Rod Wallace at half-time and Yeboah made way for Brian Deane with 65 minutes gone but the damage was done long before then.
Guy Whittingham scored Wednesday's second goal 11 minutes after Degryse's opener, and Degryse struck again midway through the first half to give David Pleat's side a 3-0 lead.
A scrambled, untidy goal from Tomas Brolin – the first scored by Leeds' 4.5million signing – was a minor consolation for Wilkinson, whose attempt to revise his formation at the start of the second half came to nothing.
Mark Bright struck again on 67 minutes and Hirst scored the first of
two goals before Wallace's finish on 84 minutes briefly reduced
Wednesday's advantage to 5-2.
"We played like a team who were capable of scoring six or seven goals," said Wilkinson. "But unfortunately we defended like a team who would concede six too.
"But I have to say that we were a bit unlucky at times. I don't think we deserved to get beaten 6-2."
Pleat almost agreed, saying: "We got the breaks today. But we worked very well for our goals and they were beauties – I mean, those goals go into the cabinet, where you can get them out and show them to your kids."
United: Lukic, Kelly (Wallace 45), Dorigo, Palmer, Wetherall, Jobson, McAllister, Speed, Couzens, Brolin, Yeboah (Deane 65). Subs (not used): Worthington.