Leeds United Nostalgia: Maverick midfielder Batty proved vital man for United

David Batty.
David Batty.
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There’s a YouTube video that does the rounds from time to time that puts smiles on the faces of Leeds fans everywhere.

It centres on a 24-year-old David Batty, whose first spell with the club ended on this week in 1993.

Lee Chapman, Eric Cantona and David Batty.

Lee Chapman, Eric Cantona and David Batty.

Fresh faced and with a glint in his eye, the five-minute video sees Batty crashing around during a pre-season friendly against Sampdoria.

With the match meandering in front of a half-empty Elland Road, Batty took it upon himself to liven things up. He dives in to one tackle, then another.

Roberto Mancini pokes a finger in his face, and Batty laughs it off.

Another tasty challenge follows and the referee asks Howard Wilkinson to substitute him. Wilkinson goes spare, the crowd burst into song.

David O'Leary unveils new signing David Batty in 1998.

David O'Leary unveils new signing David Batty in 1998.

A year later Batty was a Blackburn Rovers player.

Casual observers might argue that the clip goes some way to summing up Batty’s style of play; an uncompromising and old-fashioned midfielder that had opposition players clamouring for bigger shin guards.

Leeds fans know better, of course, and remember him as an exquisite passer of the ball who could wrestle control of a match at will.

His hometown hero status among the Elland Road faithful was immense, of course, and there was derision when Wilkinson decided to move him on in exchange for £2.75m with Leeds having limped to a 17th-place finish in their defence of the title.

He had been the engine room in that title-winning side, and alongside Gary Speed, Gary McAllister and Gordon Strachan, made up one of the finest midfield quartets in the history of British football. It wasn’t enough to keep him in favour with Wilkinson, though, who made him the most expensive sale in a three-year squad rebuild.

The two men didn’t see eye to eye during their time at Leeds and the manager threatened to sue Batty after comments made in his 2001 autobiography.

Batty’s laid back off-the- field style was at odds with his manager’s meticulous approach and the England international described him as “boring, authoritarian, unimaginative and inflexible”.

And laid back he was. Legend has it that Batty didn’t like football and that throughout his career he spent as little time as possible at training grounds, often showered on his way home before his team-mates had made their way off the pitch.

He didn’t watch football, and quite how a man with such relative disinterest in the sport could play with such unbridled passion on the field is anybody’s guess.

Though he was injured for much of the season, he went on to win another Premier League title with Blackburn in 1995, and after a £3.75m move in 1996, played a starring role as the calming influence in Kevin Keegan’s iconic Newcastle side.

Leeds came calling again two years later, and in a young and exciting side that would reach the Champions League semi-finals in 2001, Batty’s experience was vital.

It’s no coincidence that across these two spells he featured in two of Leeds’ greatest ever sides, of course. David Batty was a winner.

With every crunching tackle or inch-perfect pass he embodied what it is to be Leeds United and will always be remembered fondly in the city as one of their own who became one of the ultimate Elland Road icons.

Leeds United goalkeeper, Felix Wiedwald.

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