Leeds United: Bittersweet memories of a momentous season for Hendrie

John Hendrie
John Hendrie
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Winger John Hendrie may have been with Leeds United for only one season but it proved to be an ultimately successful one for the Elland Road club. Leon Wobschall reports.

FOR JOHN HENDRIE, his one and only season at Leeds United proved a momentous one with silverware at the end of it – but bittersweet emotions all the same.

The flying winger arrived in the summer of 1989 from Newcastle United as one of a raft of new signings, with his one year at Leeds before moving to Middlesbrough certainly eventful if not for all the reasons he’d have wished.

Hendrie fondly remembers the dressing room craic among a team of characters and winnners – and a Division Two winners’ medal to boot.

But his memories were soured by a couple of frustrating injuries and falling out with the man who signed him in Howard Wilkinson.

In terms of Leeds, it was clearly a sense of what might have been for Hendrie.

The fateful day in Hendrie’s Leeds career was on September 23, 1990 – an autumnal afternoon when the Scot and United made a big statement in terms of a 4-0 blitzing of Swindon.

Unfortunately, it is remembered by Hendrie for the wrong reasons, with the winger the victim of a horror challenge from Robins’ defender Jon Gittens, who ironically later became a team-mate at Boro.

Hendrie said: “It was ups and downs at Leeds really. When Howard Wilkinson was at Sheffield Wendesday, I actually knocked him back and went to Newcastle, but then signed for Leeds as my wife was desperate to get back to Yorkshire. We had two young ones under two and it was tough.

“I went with all guns blazing and with all the new players, it took a wee while to gel in.

“I was just starting to find my feet and then I got crocked against Swindon.

“Bearing in mind, I’d played 173 consecutive league games at Bradford, I was not one to miss games.

“I should have not played in the next midweek game. But because I was determined to play, I thought I’d see it through. The injury was on my right ankle, but I put extra strain on my left thigh and in the 90th minute, it was as if someone stabbed me in the thigh and I ruptured it.”

Hendrie was out for three months, before making an impact in mid-winter, only for another injury to cruelly set him back.

He added: “I remember being thrown straight back in and managed to get on the scoresheet and ended up scoring five goals in a month.

“But when you are out for some time, it’s difficult and you don’t feel sharp as every pro will tell you.

“That little bit of magic and sharpness is missing, although I still contributed.

“But then at the back end of the season, I had a cyst in my knee that no-one picked up and I was having steroid injections for it. Fortunately not too many and I missed the back end of the season.

“It wasn’t until I went to Middlesbrough that the problem was diagnosed.”

His move to Teesside came out of the blue in the close season when he was doing extra work at Leeds in a quest to give himself a head-start ahead of the 1990-91 season. Alas, he was destined to wear the red of Boro and not the white of Leeds.

Hendrie added: “I never asked for a move in my life. Because I was out at the back end of the season, I came in a few weeks earlier to get extra work in so I would hit the ground running when the boys were on holidays.

“I went to Elland Road and came home and there was a note on the kitchen table from my wife saying ‘please ring Colin Todd’ So I did and Toddy said: ‘I’ve agreed a fee with Leeds, will you come and talk to me.’ That was it.

“Normally, you have the courtesy of having a call from your club. But I never had a call from anyone.

“But don’t get me wrong, I had some good times at Leeds and there were some right characters there, strong characters.

“Once we got into gear, there was no stopping us. Gary Speed was coming through, God bless him and Gordon Strachan was phenomenal.

“There was good spirit in the camp and once a month, Vinnie would organise a night out for the players and their wives or girlfriends.

“Vinnie was the social guy and pulled us together and was just brilliant in the dressing room.

“It was still a great adventure of being involved. But unfortunately, I ended up not getting along with Wilko, although it was nothing to do with the club.”