Leeds United: Elland Road cult hero countdown - 3

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We continue our countdown of Elland Road cult heroes. Who is in at number 3?

It’s a difficult act to follow, being a Leeds United midfielder.

In the 1960s and 70s, one of the greatest ever players to play that role defined the football club. It is Billy Bremner’s statue that stands outside Elland Road, a constant reminder of the glory that was.

By the end of the 1980s, that seemed like nothing more than a fading memory. It should be no surprise, in retrospect, that glory would come again only when there was an adequate replacement for Bremner.

That was David Batty.


David Batty. PIC: Charles Knight

David Batty. PIC: Charles Knight

Bremner took him under his wing from the moment he broke through - the legendary midfielder would make Batty drink a sherry with a raw egg stirred into it every morning, due to a perception that Batty was lightweight.

Batty made his debut at the age of 18 as Leeds beat Swindon Town 4-2. It took very little time for him to earn a reputation for competitiveness and work rate in the middle of the park, just like his manager and mentor.

It was not until Bremner left that Batty would taste success.

He was an integral part of Howard Wilkinson’s side as Leeds finally exited the second tier and returned to the top flight.

Along with Gary Speed, Gary McAllister and Gordon Strachan, he also made up part of the best midfield unit that Leeds had had since Bremner’s day as the Whites won the championship for the first time since 1974.

Batty has ended up with a reputation of being little more than a bruiser, but while harrying and ruthless endeavour were key aspects of his game, he was also brilliant at passing the ball, with the vision to launch counterattacks.

Even the least impressive part of Batty’s game, his goalscoring, was loved by Leeds fans, who would cry “shoot” whenever he had the ball in the opposition half.

Batty departed a year after the title winning season as Wilkinson sought to rebuild his side, but never really settled at Blackburn or Newcastle.

His move to Blackburn saw them win the league, but Batty refused a medal having played only five games due to injury.

In 1996, he moved to Newcastle, but only stayed for just over two years before returning to Leeds.

His return to Leeds was hailed as the prodigal son returning, and his welcome spoke for that, with Batty presented to a huge crowd at Elland Road.

In his second spell, Batty was integral as Leeds reached two European semi-finals. He provided a sense of stability and experience to David O’Leary’s young side.

After O’Leary left, Batty fell out of favour under subsequent managers and barely featured before his retirement in 2004.

If anything, his lack of media presence after retirement has added to the level of appreciation for him at Elland Road. An extended interview he did with The City Talking, after featuring in this year’s season ticket video, was the first media work he had done since he left the game, and it was greeted as though Elvis Presley had finally been found.

Batty, both the skinny teenager and the bruising 30-year-old, spanned generations at Leeds but was loved by both.