Leeds United nostalgia: Rare away win at Norwich is stay of execution for boss Adamson

Jimmy Adamson.
Jimmy Adamson.
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FOR THE Leeds United supporters who travelled to Norfolk for the Division One clash at Norwich City 35 years ago, the songs that there were singing at the end of proceedings were welcome if surprising ones.

The Whites’ travel sickness for most of 1980 was truly debilitating, with manager Jimmy Adamson desperately scrambling around for an antidote for most of that troubled year.

United fans who journeyed to Carrow Road showed what they thought of proceedings and more particularly the club’s painful start to the 1980-81 campaign with a banner which simply read ‘Adamson Out.’

Adamson had been given a reprieve in the summer of 1980, with United’s home form the previous season arguably saving his skin. It certainly wasn’t anything to do with his side’s away form, with Leeds coming to Norwich with a horror run of no wins in nine games on the road – a barren run which had seen them plunder just one point and four goals.

Prior to that afternoon in East Anglia – August 23, 1980 – Leeds could boast just one away win that calendar year, with a solitary Terry Connor strike giving them a 1-0 victory at Highbury on January 12.

United’s poor start to 1980-81 had seen a 2-1 home reverse to eventual champions Aston Villa followed by an even more alarming 3-0 loss to Middlesbrough at Ayresome Park, to ensure that the obituaries were beginning to be penned for Adamson.

Sections of Leeds fans needed no invitation in showing what they thought of the north-easterner in no uncertain terms, but a brief hiatus was provided at Norwich, before it returned to business as usual.

Most Leeds fans in the away end at Norwich were perhaps entitled to envisage the final act of Adamson’s reign, but in the event, the chants at the end were ‘United are back’ as opposed to ‘Adamson Out’.

In a bid to stem the tide, Adamson brought back veteran Paul Madeley into his line-up for his first start of the campaign to add some experience to a shaky back-line, while showing his ruthless side by dropping four players.

Adamson and Leeds were afforded the perfect start when a rebound from Trevor Cherry’s free-kick saw Paul Hart smash an easy finish into the net to give the visitors’ a sixth-minute lead.

With Argentinian play-maker Alex Sabella displaying evidence of the touches of class which persuaded Adamson to fork out £400,000 to bring him up the M1 from Sheffield United, Leeds were displaying much-needed verve on the road, for the first time in a good while. That said, United had to wait until the 55th minute before doubling their tally when Connor laid on a chance for Arthur Graham, which the Scot, who had a fine game, converted from close range. Sabella then impressively carved out a chance to make it 3-0 after racing clear, but Barnsley-born Roger Hansbury saved his effort and soon after, the Canaries pulled one back to set up a potentially nervy final 20 minutes.

A striker’s finish from Justin Fashanu reduced the arrears when he headed in a right-wing cross, but Leeds, to their credit, dusted themselves down and adhered to the maxim that attack is the best form of defence.

United were rewarded six minutes from time when brilliant skill from Sabella set up Connor, who made no mistake, with the celebrations on the touchline of the usually phlegmatic and undemonstrative Adamson speaking volumes.

A strike from Clive Woods to pull another goal back for City couldn’t prevent it being Leeds’ afternoon, with the win buying time for the under-fire Adamson.

Although ultimately not much, despite his declaration to the press after the much-needed win that ‘the season starts here’. A week later, Leeds lost to Leicester and a subsequent defeat to another Midlands outfit in Stoke City marked the beginning of the end for Adamson, who left the club at the start of October.

Leeds United: Lukic; Cherry, Greenhoff; Flynn, Hart, Madeley; Chandler, Hamson (Thomas), Connor, Sabella, Graham. Referee: Mr. R. Toseland (Market Harborough).