Leeds United 100: Why Elland Road is home sweet home for Leeds United
They are names woven into the fabric of Leeds.
The Gelderd End, the Scratching Shed, the Lowfields, the West Stand Paddock – these places and the stories told about them are a special part of the magic of Elland Road, the home of Leeds United.
Today, Elland Road is the heartbeat of the city, with its famed Billy Bremner statue acting as a gathering point for supporters in good times and bad. But the ground, one of England’s most vibrant and passionate cathedrals of football, had a relatively humble start to life.
Elland Road’s story begins in the 19th century, when it was little more than a patch of land at the bottom of Beeston Hill owned by Bentley’s Brewery.
Originally called the Old Peacock Ground, it was used by the brewery’s sports teams and Holbeck Rugby Club before a new tenant, the recently-founded Leeds City, arrived in 1904.
City’s demise in 1919 was followed in short order by the formation of Leeds United and the new club also took up residence at what was now known as Elland Road.
The ground – slowly but surely – started to evolve, with a barrel-shaped roof being put in place along its south terrace in the 1920s to create the Scratching Shed and a stand built on a bank of terracing on its Lowfields Road side.
Fast forward to September, 1956 and Elland Road – then being regularly graced by the incomparable John Charles – suffered one of the worst days in its history, when a fire caused £100,000 worth of damage to the West Stand.
A generously-supported public appeal helped raise funds for its replacement, which opened during the first few weeks of the 1957-58 season.
The following decade saw United kicking off their domination of English football and, with success giving the club additional financial clout, major changes were made to ensure Elland Road was a ground fit for Don Revie’s team of champions.
A new roofed Kop – also known as the Gelderd End – was constructed in the late 1960s, while the South Stand took the place of the Scratching Shed in the mid-1970s.
United’s record crowd was also set during this period, with 57,892 fans squeezing into Elland Road for an FA Cup encounter with Sunderland in 1967.
In contrast, the Eighties were a time of stagnation for a by-now cash-strapped Leeds, who sold their ground to the city council for £2.5m in 1985.
It was eventually repurchased by the club at the back end of the 1990s, a decade also notable for the development of the East Stand and Elland Road’s conversion into an all-seater stadium.
Another twist in the tale came in 2001, when Leeds – emboldened by their lucrative adventures in the Champions League – announced plans to quit LS11 and move to a purpose-built ground at Skelton, near the M1.
United’s subsequent implosion on and off the pitch meant the proposal soon fell by the wayside and today, as they prepare to celebrate their centenary and – hopefully – a return to the Premier League, Elland Road definitely remains the only place for us.