Gary Speed: Key games for Leeds United PART 1

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Leon Wobschall looks back at the first of six great Leeds United games of the 80s and 90s to celebrate the Elland Road career of Gary Speed.

Sheffield United 2 Leeds United 3

Division 1, Bramall Lane, Sunday, April 26, 1992

A windy lunch-time in South Yorkshire was followed by a climactic afternoon on Merseyside which led to dark clouds over the red half of Manchester and the warmest of fronts in Leeds – where it was simply raining champagne for Gary Speed and Co.

It was a true “Where were you when?” moment in United’s history as Howard Wilkinson’s class of 1991-92 etched themselves into Elland Road folklore to lift the Division One title for the first time since the Super Leeds days of the 1960s and 1970s under Don Revie.

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And it was all the more enriching for pipping their foes from Old Trafford in the process, with Liverpool’s 2-0 victory over Alex Ferguson’s ailing Red Devils – thanks to goals from Ian Rush and Mark Walters – kick-starting the mother of all parties in West Yorkshire by tea-time.

United’s players had been glued to the television screens after doing their side of the bargain – just – courtesy of a 3-2 win at Bramall Lane.

It was the first act in an extraordinary Sunday with Fergie’s troops then failing to secure the draw they required at Anfield to keep their title hopes alive – in an afternoon full of heart-stopping drama, tension and even a touch of farce.

A crazy few hours in Sheffield saw the visitors fraught with nerves at the outset, with their tentative start duly punished when veteran Blades striker Alan Cork fired home in front of the Kop.

But a madcap moment in front of the 5,000-strong travelling contingent restored parity, with Speed playing a telling part.

This time it was the Blades who had the jitters as a comical defensive clearance from home captain Brian Gayle rebounded off the onrushing Speed straight onto the body of Rod Wallace and into the back of the net.

In the melee, Paul Beesley – later to sign for Leeds – and goalkeeper Mel Rees were both injured, with the latter struggling throughout the second period.

Unsing hero Jon Newsome, largely a fringe player that season, then made the most decisive of contributions in his home city, stealing in at the far post to head home Gary McAllister’s curling free-kick with Rees a virtual bystander.

But the advantage, in keeping with a daft old 90 minutes at Bramall Lane, lasted just a few minutes before predatory striker Lee Chapman fired home, but at the wrong end, firing in a cross-shot from John Pemberton into his own net.

The twist in the tale arrived 13 minutes from time, when a Gayle-force moment took the Whites to the brink of Championship glory.

The Blades skipper got into a pickle under pressure from Wallace and United substitute Eric Cantona and headed over his own keeper Rees and into an unguarded net.

Victory secured, the Whites players then went their separate ways to watch the Anfield action unfold.

Speed watched the game at close friend Newsome’s parents house in Sheffield and Cantona, David Batty and McAllister headed to Chapman’s rural retreat at Boroughbridge.

And later on that afternoon, a compelling title race was over and signed, sealed and delivered for United, who were presented with the trophy the following Saturday when Wilkinson’s all-conquering crew played Norwich City. What a team, what a season....

United: Lukic, Newsome, Dorigo, Batty, Fairclough, Whyte, Strachan (Shutt), Rod Wallace, Chapman, McAllister, Cantona, Speed.

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