Stumbling blocks are not unknown in Leeds United’s landmark seasons
There can be no denying that Leeds United were more than a little unfortunate to emerge from the Yorkshire derby clash with Sheffield United empty-handed, writes columnist Rob Atkinson.
Given ordinary luck, with just a break or two going the way of the Whites, it could have been a very different story; even a draw would have seen Leeds two points clear of third place. But little went right on the day and that, sadly, is a feeling that every Leeds fan down the years knows all too well.
As it is, we take an undeserved defeat on the chin, with the woodwork, injuries and just about every factor you could name ranged against us.
United were left a point off the automatic promotion places, when they could have been five points clear of third. Loud and woeful has been the wailing among the United faithful, as the fates seem determined to conspire against Yorkshire’s Number One club.
But calm yourselves, fellow Leeds devotees, and be of good cheer. It’s all happened before, at about this time of year too - and it’s rarely been fatal to our chances of success. When you look at our most recent landmark seasons, right back to when I was nobbut a lad, you’ll see that a late stumble or two, with tension mounting, is much more the rule than the exception.
Going as far back as 1974, when Don Revie’s Super Leeds were stumbling somewhat along the title path, having at one stage been nine points clear, Burnley visited Elland Road and departed with two points from a 4-1 victory. It was hailed as nearest challenger Liverpool’s great chance to overhaul United, but Leeds ended up as Champions and by a decisive margin.
Then, in 1990, Barnsley were the visitors on a night when nothing went right for Leeds. Centre back Chris Fairclough was absent for 13 first half minutes having seven stitches in a head wound. He rejoined the fray in time to plant a brave header into the Barnsley net, giving Leeds a well-deserved interval lead, to the massive relief of a huge Elland Road crowd. Surely, nothing could go wrong now?
In truth, Leeds battered Barnsley throughout the ninety minutes but, in a sickening second half turnaround, two subs for the Tykes scored in quick succession, gifting the Reds an extremely unlikely win.
Again, doom and gloom stalked the streets of Leeds - but United still went up as champions. And then, two years on, Leeds were engaged in an almighty battle with Them from There for the last ever Football League Championship.
When Leeds lost heavily away, twice in a short space of time, it looked as though the script was written, with Leeds cast as fall guys. A 1-4 defeat at QPR had been followed in short order by a 0-4 reverse at Manchester City, and the Leeds-hating nation celebrated. But it was the Whites who held their nerve and marshalled their resources to clinch the title of Last Champions by four points, while Manchester’s second club amusingly choked on the dry ashes of defeat.
So nil desperandum, all you devoted Whites out there. We’ve tripped up, recovered and gone on to win many a time before, in accordance with this great club’s motto of Keep Fighting - and there’s no reason we can’t do it again. Have faith in Marcelo Bielsa’s boys, who really do have that fighting spirit that typified Super Leeds of old, and all will come right in the end. Believe.