Leeds 100: It might be ‘just’ be a Leeds United kit, but tradition is tradition

Gary Speed and John Pearson celebrate. PIC: GettyGary Speed and John Pearson celebrate. PIC: Getty
Gary Speed and John Pearson celebrate. PIC: Getty
To misquote Henry Ford, you can have it in any colour you like, as long as it’s white.

Sponsors may come and go, the maker might be changed on a regular basis, but one thing remains constant about Leeds United’s home kit.

It is all white - or at least it is today.

For when Leeds played their first Football League matches, they wore blue and white striped shirts with white shorts.

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Yet another tweak was made for the start of the 1955-56 season, with Leeds turning out in dark blue shirts with gold collars.

The biggest change of all followed in 1961, when Don Revie took over as manager and soon let it be known that United would now be playing in white.

The move, it is said, was down to Revie’s desire to have his men wearing the same colours as Real Madrid, where icons such as Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas were busy writing their names into European football folklore.

Leeds, by contrast, were mired in Second Division obscurity and attracting average attendances of around 13,500.

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A gimmick it may have been, but Revie’s decision looked less questionable by the end of the decade as his players - resplendent in their all-white kit, adorned only with United’s owl badge of the time – were crowned First Division champions after a battling 0-0 draw against Liverpool.

Still more complicated, perhaps, is the story of Leeds’s away strips.

For many years, United wore simple yellow kits – sometimes with a blue and white trim – for matches on the road that threw up a colour clash.

The creeping commercialisation of English football eventually put paid to that, with Leeds using all manner of second and third shirts since the 1990s.

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Some are fondly-remembered, while others – like the glow-in-the-dark black pin-stripe number introduced in 2011 – are probably best left forgotten.

Badges can occasionally also be a headache, as the Whites found out at the start of last year when they unveiled a cartoon-style rebrand inspired by the club’s terrace ‘salute’.

The new design was hastily dropped following an unprecedented backlash from fans weaned on famous crests such as the Smiley, the Peacock and the Yorkshire Rose.

Yes, it might be ‘just’ a kit, but tradition – particularly at a club like Leeds, with their glittering and storied past – is something the powers-that-be ignore at their peril.

So, as United celebrate their centenary, let’s raise a glass to them staying all white on the night – and a Saturday afternoon – for as long as football is played at Elland Road.