We continue our countdown of Elland Road cult heroes. Who is in at number 5?
“It’s Howson, forward towards Beckford and the ball’s over Brown, and this is Beckford, it’s just run away from him, but he’ll still get a strike in on goal and score at the Stretford End for Leeds United!”
Out of context, it reads as nothing more than a string of words.
To Leeds United fans, it was a moment in which the disappointment of nearly 25 years could be done away with instantaneously.
If rivalries are defined by results, Jermaine Beckford gave Leeds fans a gift that can never be taken away. It is very unlikely that there will ever be a situation in which Manchester United travel to Elland Road as a League One side to take on Leeds, the champions of England.
Even if they did, chances are they wouldn’t have a Beckford.
That day, January 3, 2010, is unlikely to be matched in the history books. Leeds had not won against their eternal rivals away from home since 1981, even as a Premier League side, even when Leeds finished above Man Utd in the table. For the League One side, so much of it was about the man who finished off the solitary goal.
It was not his only great moment in a Leeds shirt.
That season alone, there was the late penalty against Tottenham Hotspur. There was, of course, the winner against Bristol Rovers, when Beckford took on the mantle of captain and drove Leeds to victory and promotion despite the odds.
Prior to that, there was goal after goal, Beckford ensuring that League One was not pure misery for a club that had never dropped down to that level before.
Yes, there is reason to question his motivation after handing in a transfer request, but Beckford was one of the most coveted strikers in English football. For three years, despite constant interest from elsewhere, he stayed at Leeds.
In fact, his response to being linked to moves elsewhere is almost as famous as any goal he scored. Asked post-match about transfer speculation, he simply said: “What shirt am I wearing, bruv?”
There is and always will be debate over whether Beckford deserves legendary status for what he did at Leeds.
While he may never rank along the likes of Billy Bremner, Beckford is still lauded whenever he returns to Elland Road.
The reality is that Beckford was the first player of quality and longevity that the club had after falling out of the Premier League. It may have taken a drop down to the third tier, but Leeds fans finally had a hero who performed every week.
It will be a long time before Beckford is forgotten at Elland Road, as a genuine hero to an entire generation raised on disappointment.