Leeds United legend Eddie Gray on Premier League fixtures to look out for and Liverpool memories

Leeds United's opener upon their Premier League return will evoke special memories for Whites legend Eddie Gray.

By Lee Sobot
Sunday, 30th August 2020, 11:40 am
LEEDS LEGEND - Eddie Gray, pictured with owner Andrea Radrizzani, wishes that fans could pack Elland Road for some of the club's exciting Premier League fixtures
LEEDS LEGEND - Eddie Gray, pictured with owner Andrea Radrizzani, wishes that fans could pack Elland Road for some of the club's exciting Premier League fixtures

Back in April 1969, a goalless draw at Liverpool ensured Don Revie’s Whites would be champions of England for the first time.

A little over 51 years later, Leeds will head to Anfield as champions, second-tier champions that is, with Jurgen Klopp’s Reds currently the dominant force in the land.

Nevertheless, Gray is relishing the prospect between two title winners on the opening day of the 2020-21 Premier Division, the former Scottish international just delighted his beloved club are back in the big time.

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And just as during Gray’s day, the big games, he says, will come thick and fast with mouthwatering clashes everywhere you look on the Premier League fixture list.

On paper at least, the biggest one comes first with Marcelo Bielsa’s team starting life in the top flight against the newly-crowned champions of England on Saturday, September 12.

In romping to last season’s Premier League title by finishing 18 points clear of Manchester City, Liverpool were crowned champions of England for the first time in 30 years.

Even allowing for a 16-year exile from the top flight, Leeds were most recent winners when Howard Wilkinson’s side secured the last-ever Division One title in 1992 before English football’s switch to a new, Premier League-era.

Having gone up as Second Division winners in the year that Liverpool were crowned champions of England in 1990, United then enjoyed 14 consecutive years competing with the Reds and other giants of the domestic scene before being relegated in May 2004.

It was a sad demise for the Elland Road club, champions of England three times after Wilkinson’s team had followed in the footsteps of Revie’s legendary squad, who secured two First Division titles.

Gray was there on both occasions and Leeds’ season opener at Anfield will bring some fond memories flooding back for the former winger.

But so too, to some extent, will just about every game next season with Gray relishing the prospect of his side once again locking horns with the country’s big guns.

“I think it’s a great fixture, the champions of England against the champions of the Championship,” Gray told the YEP, casting his eye at United’s very first game back.

“And Liverpool against Leeds brings back a lot of memories for people.

“The team I played in, it’s where we actually won our first-ever league championship at Anfield so great memories for a lot of people.

“We drew and it was a great occasion and a great night for the football club.

“But it’s a great fixture anyway and I’m sure everybody is looking forward to it. It’s just a pity with a fixture like that coming out first that the fans cannot be there.”

Casting his mind back to the top-flight battles he used to enjoy the most, Gray reasoned: “In the early days Liverpool were a huge side for us to play.

“There was great rivalry between the two teams and the two managers, there was a great respect for each other.

“Obviously there was Manchester United and Man City were a smashing team then as well – especially the 67-68 team – and these are the type of teams they are going to be playing against again.

“Arsenal were always a top club and you look through the fixtures and we had a great rivalry with Chelsea.

“Wherever you look, there are big games to be played.”

Quite when fans will be allowed back into the stadiums to enjoy those games remains to be seen with the country still very much locked in battle against the pandemic of coronavirus which caused a 15-week halt to last season’s Championship campaign.

But United would not be denied and finally sealed a return to the country’s top flight on Friday, July 17 when second-placed West Brom slipped up at Huddersfield Town.

Liverpool away on the opening day of the season is one fixture which has obviously caught the eye, but April offers a mouthwatering prospect for Leeds’ fans, with dates against Manchester City, Liverpool again and Manchester United coming in quick succession.

“April 10th Man City, Liverpool on the 17th and Man United on April 24th,” said Gray, off by heart. “But it’s two at home and one away. They will be great games to look forward to and, hopefully, by the time we get to them fixtures, we are in a decent position in the league. I think we will be.”

Recalling the feeling in Revie’s camp whenever Leeds took on another big gun, Gray said: “The feeling we always had was that we were going to play top games.

“When you went to London you were playing against the Arsenal, Chelsea and West Ham, who in their day had the three England international players in Moore, Hurst and Peters. The games were always tough and difficult but they were games you always looked forward to.

“The Liverpool games were always a huge fixture for us, them, Man City, Arsenal and, on their day, Tottenham were a good team as well. So wherever you looked there were big fixtures that Leeds United played, virtually every week.

“And when you go back to the 1960s Everton were a great team, too – Howard Kendall, Colin Harvey, Alan Ball and big Joe Royle – they were league champions in the 60s. There were so many tough teams to beat.

“Wherever you look now there are big games, Liverpool, Man City, Arsenal, Everton, Chelsea, West Ham, Man United, just great games for the supporters to look forward to when they can get back in.”