Leeds United nostalgia: Terrace hero Batty left his mark on the Whites

Leeds United's David Batty challenges Manchester United's Philip Neville.
Leeds United's David Batty challenges Manchester United's Philip Neville.
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YOU do not get much more ‘Leeds’ than former midfielder and cult hero David Batty.

Revered as one quarter of THAT Rolls Royce midfield alongside Gordon Strachan, Gary McAllister and the late, great Gary Speed, who all graced the stage in the late eighties and early nineties, it is hard to believe that it is almost 27 years since Batty made his debut for Leeds United.

That date was November 21, 1987 and the Bee Gees were at number one in the charts with ‘You Win Again’. Leeds certainly did when young Leeds lad Batty walked into the building.

A home game with Swindon Town, who included a certain former United head coach David Hockaday in their starting-up, provided unglamourous opposition for the debut of 18-year-old former Leeds City schoolboy Batty, who came in for the suspended John Sheridan.

Batty, a week or so before his 19th birthday, adhered to the adage of ‘to thine own self be true’, and was given a talking-to by the referee during proceedings after leaving his mark on seasoned professionals Dave Bamber, Jimmy Quinn and Jon Gittens, the latter being a formidable figure who most rivals gave a wide berth to. Not Batty.

Speaking after the game in typical straight-forward fashion, Batty said: “I knew one or two of their players were after me, but I wasn’t worried.

“It always happens. It’s the way I play and probably because I am small.

“But I just get stuck in. I was surprised to be given my chance, but I enjoyed it.”

And the Leeds fans enjoyed it too, David...

The United side that afternoon was Day, Gary Williams, Adams, De Mange, Ashurst, Haddock, Batty, Rennie, Taylor, Davison and Glynn Snodin with the hosts recording a 4-2 win in front of a crowd of just 15,457 in the old second division.

On the mark that day were Dave Rennie, Bob Taylor, Peter Haddock and Bobby Davison, with the latter sharing the limelight with Batty on his maiden appearance for the Whites following a £350,000 transfer from Derby County.

The former shipyard worker, then 28 and with a predatory reputation following his exploits with the Rams, was thrown into the fray, despite not even training with his new club and he came up trumps with a goal on his first appearance.

But it was the performance of Batty, who combined combative ball-winning skills and bite and aggression with the passing quality that later persuaded Kenny Dalglish to part with £2.75m to sign him in October 1993, which set tongues wagging the most.

Leeds were in need of a lift, ambling around off the promotion pace behind the likes of Middlesbrough, Aston Villa and Millwall, who saw off Leeds 3-1 at the old Den in the game prior to the arrival of the Robins.

It was a time when the pressure was starting to swirl around Billy Bremner, with Batty providing him with a timely tonic and offering a nostalgic rewind to his own terrier-like performances when he was starting out at Leeds.

There was certainly plenty of Bremner in Batty, with the pair sharing the same footballing DNA. United got off to a good start when a Gary Williams corner was flicked on by Jack Ashurst to Taylor, whose shot was turned in by Scottish defender Rennie.

Twenty-five minutes in, following another set-piece, Davison – one part of a north-eastern forward line alongside Taylor – emphatically fired in his first goal in a United jersey.

Not bad considering he was in bed earlier in the week, struggling after a bout of influenza.

The game looked over as a contest 10 minutes later, when Taylor got in on the goalscoring act when converting Snodin’s centre.

But they reckoned without a rally from the Wiltshire visitors, with former West Ham attacker Bobby Barnes pulling goals back in the 40th and 77th minute to set up an overly anxious finale in front of a sparse crowd.

The alarms were certainly reverberating, but relief was at hand when another player hailing from the north-east of England in Haddock restored the home side’s two-goal buffer late on.

It was a choice occasion for the former Newcastle United player who produced a timely moment to net his first-ever goal for Leeds.

It was a consummate one to boot, with the Geordie firing home after exchanging passes and then dummying a couple of defenders with an impish piece of skill, certainly for a defender with his finish past former England goalkeeper Tim Flowers a tidy one as well.

Rob Green, centre, looks like staying at Elland Road.

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