Leeds United Bygones: Welcome made Yeboah want to succeed at Leeds

Tony Yeboah
Tony Yeboah
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The transfer which brought Tony Yeboah to Leeds United was as necessary as it was astute.

Yeboah’s finishing soon made a fee of £3.4million look like pennies but at the time of his arrival Howard Wilkinson would have stumped up any money for a flood of goals.

On the day when Yeboah put pen to paper, signing from Eintracht Frankfurt in January 1995, Leeds had gone a month-and-a-half without scoring in a home league game.

Wilkinson’s side were dropping out of contention for a UEFA Cup place and stuck in a rut. But two days after buying Yeboah, they found themselves back in the goals.

The Ghanaian made his debut six minutes from time in a 4-0 win over Queens Park Rangers, a match settled long before he took to the field.

Yeboah had admitted to being “80 per cent fit” after joining Leeds and Wilkinson took heed of that, naming him on the bench and sticking with a front two of Phil Masinga and Brian Deane.

Perhaps driven by Yeboah’s arrival, their touch in front of goal returned.

It had shown itself in some style a week earlier as Leeds sneaked past Walsall with a 5-2 win in the FA Cup.

The result looked straightforward enough but it relied on a hat-trick scored in eight minutes of injury-time by Masinga, a haul which doubled his tally for the season at stroke.

Wilkinson breathed a sigh of relief, spared an early cup exit as the league campaign faltered, but a Premiership victory at Elland Road was what he craved.

Yeboah’s deal went through in time for QPR’s visit after a battle to secure a work permit for him but Wilkinson chose to stick with the height of Masinga and Deane.

Against a relatively small QPR defence, the decision paid off and they went to town.

It took half-an-hour for Masinga to strike first, rising to head home an inswinging corner from Nigel Worthington which dropped nicely into the six-yard box.

If Leeds had problems up front, QPR had problems all over.

The West London club were in serious relegation trouble at that stage, although a spurt of victories in the second half of the season would lead them out of danger and up to eighth place with 60 points.

United’s term followed a similar plot; flaky around Christmas but strong in the finishing straight, helped by Yeboah’s prolific form and his return of 13 goals.

Though Masinga and Deane picked QPR apart impressively, Wilkinson knew which forward he intended to lean on in the months ahead.

Masinga’s header against Rangers was Leeds’ first league goal at home since December 10 but in no time at all, Gary McAllister fed possession to Gary Speed who bamboozled QPR’s defence with a clever back heel. David White swept the ball into the net.

Leeds eased off, thinking the night was done, and QPR fashioned a handful of chances but Masinga scored again as Leeds went through the gears in the second half, striking after Speed’s shot came back of a post.

Deane then sealed a 4-0 win and Wilkinson, with three points in the bag, sent Yeboah on with six minutes to go. It was a fleeting debut of no great significance but it did Yeboah good.

He told the YEP in 2015: “I knew German football and I understood it. The style, the way they did things – in England it was totally different.

“I wasn’t happy at first, not because I didn’t like Leeds but because English football, the kick and rush, didn’t come naturally to me. I didn’t feel like I belonged there.

“I played for the first time as a substitute against QPR (at Elland Road), just a few minutes before the end of the game.

“There was no time to do anything but the crowd ... I don’t know how much they knew about me or if they liked me but the way they treated me, the reception I got, was fantastic.

“It gave me strength. I was motivated.

“I thought ‘you know what? I’ll make this happen.’”