THERE’S long been a feeling that Leeds United have nothing but pride to play for the remainder of the current campaign.
Yet things were rather different 13 years ago when a 6-1 win at Charlton Athletic breathed new life into the club’s Premier Division survival bid.
Leeds would be relegated one season later and their prospects looked bleak heading into the clash at The Valley on Saturday, April 5, 2003.
United had lost five games in succession and the fourth of those games – the 3-2 loss at home to Middlesbrough – proved to be Terry Venables’ final game in charge.
Peter Reid was installed as interim manager – challenged with the task of keeping Leeds up – and the 6-1 success at Charlton proved the foundation both for keeping the Whites in the division – and for the former Sunderland manager getting the job on a permanent basis.
Leeds approached the Charlton clash on the back of a 3-1 loss at Liverpool for whom Michael Owen, Danny Murphy and Steven Gerrard all netted.
But this was a United team full of stars and three of them were on the scoresheet at The Valley.
United lined up with Paul Robinson in goal, playing behind a star-studded team of Danny Mills, Lucas Radebe, Dominic Matteo, Michael Duberry, Ian Harte, Gary Kelly, Erik Bakke, Alan Smith, Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka.
The substitute’s bench featured a young James Milner, alongside Nigel Martyn, Jason Wilcock, Nick Barmby and Seth Johnson. Reid was charged of getting the best of out a bunch that had lost four league games in a row heading to The Valley –home games against Newcastle United and Middlesbrough plus away matches at Manchester United and Liverpool.
In between, United had been dumped out of the FA Cup through a 1-0 loss at Sheffield United. But Leeds ran riot at Charlton who themselves are now staring at the drop to League One 13 years later.
The game kicked off 17 minutes late due to crowd congestion but United were quick out of the blocks with Smith and Viduka setting up Kewell for a 12th-minute opener.
Harte then doubled the lead from the penalty spot 22 minutes later after Smith was fouled by Richard Rufus before Viduka put United 3-0 up when drilling home three minutes before the break.
Charlton then gave themselves hope on the stroke of half-time when Jason Euell converted a penalty for Radebe’s foul on Scott Parker.
The Addicks came out firing on all cylinders after the break but Robinson produced a fine save to deny Parker and that stop proved crucial with Viduka then bagging his second and United’s fourth eight minutes after the break.
Just three minutes later, Viduka had his hat-trick after he converted the game’s third penalty, awarded for Luke Young’s challenge on Smith.
A fantastic solo goal from Kewell then provided the icing on the cake with 14 minutes left. Leeds went on to draw at Tottenham and beat Fulham and famously Arsenal away to guarantee their Premier Division survival before a final day win at home to Aston Vila.
United finished 15th – five points above the dropzone and two points behind Charlton who ended up in 12th.
Charlton and Leeds will meet again on Saturday, April 30 this term when things will be rather different 13 years on.