Leeds United nostalgia: How Whites wiped out their 15 point penalty in five games

Andrew Hughes.
Andrew Hughes.
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At full-time, Dennis Wise stuck one finger in the air and waved a metaphorical two fingers at the Football League in the process.

Never in the history of English football has a manager been so satisfied to amass no points after the first five games of the season.

“Galvanised” was a word so often used by Wise at the end of United’s darkest summer in 2007.

It summed up the mood. In circumstances so severe, even his own bitter relationship with the club’s supporters was put to one side in the interests of resolving an unprecedented crisis.


Wise stuck with Leeds during a close-season in which the club were ravaged by insolvency, agreeing to take a pay cut and keeping his job in the aftermath of United’s relegation from the Championship.

The majority of supporters wanted him gone and made no secret of their views.

“The easy option would have been to say ‘I’ve done okay out of football and who needs this hassle, thanks and bye’,” Wise said.

“But I’m not one for taking the easy option.”

Administration came with stringent consequences, preventing Leeds from formally signing players until the week before the start of the 2007-08 season. A bigger sanctioned followed when United were deducted 15 points for breaching Football League rules on insolvency.

A rapid appeal was voted down by the other member clubs.

Wise accused the League of “cutting my balls off” and as a club, United were besieged. But with spectacular consistency their huge deficit began to fall – an opening day win over Tranmere Rovers was followed by a rout of Southend at home and a dramatic victory away at Nottingham Forest.

When Tresor Kandol’s strike got the better of Luton Town on September 1, Leeds were in a position to wipe out the 15-point deduction in the space of five games.

Their fixture against Hartlepool United at Elland Road the following weekend drew a crowd of almost 27,000. The contest was typical of that period of the season.

Hartlepool had a header from Richie Barker ruled out despite the ball crossing the line and hit the woodwork three times.

Their chances ran well into double figures as Leeds, in Wise’s words, trusted to luck.

But in Kandol and Jermaine Beckford, United possessed strikers in a fine purple patch. Kandol dispatched a header on 20 minutes and Beckford beat goalkeeper Jan Budtz with a wonderful chip from outside the box, five minutes into the second half.

Leeds rode out the last half hour and celebrated with a mass huddle in the centre circle, a tradition encouraged by Wise.

The afternoon threw up lasting images of Andrew Hughes, captain for the day, punching his fist towards the Kop.

“We’ve cleared the first hurdle and I thought we would need 10 games to do it,” Wise admitted.

“It’s been a massive challenge for all the players and staff but everyone here accepted it.

“We were put on the floor by the Football League and that has made us close, very close.

“They bunged everything at us but you use it to your advantage.”

How Leeds United went from minus 15 to zero points:

Saturday, August 11, 2007 – Tranmere Rovers 1 Leeds United 2

Saturday, August 18, 2007 – Southend United 1 Leeds United 4

Saturday, August 25, 2007 – Nottingham Forest 1 Leeds United 2

Saturday, September 1, 2007 – Leeds United 1 Luton Town 0

Saturday, September 8, 2007 – Leeds United 2 Hartlepool 0