RICHARD JOBSON may have started just 22 league games in a career decimated by injury at Leeds United – but one will always stand out above all others.
That date was Christmas Eve 1995 when the Whites provided the perfect Yuletide present for supporters by vanquishing bitter foes Manchester United in the sweetest of festive victories in front of an ecstatic Elland Road lunch-time crowd. Well, most of it anyway ...
Then 32, it represented an occasion to savour for Jobson, who had to wait until the twilight of his career before hitting the big time with Leeds.
Sadly, injuries dictated that there were not too many more to cherish for the central defender during his spell at United, which failed to hit the heights of his golden associations with both Oldham Athletic and Hull City.
Jobson played just four more times that 1995-96 campaign for Leeds, in what proved a sign of things to come.
Now 52, Jobson, who now works for the PFA, told the YEP: “Despite the injuries, I had some good times with a good team and good players there. Even though it was a while ago, I still remember my time at Leeds.
“The big game I remember was Christmas Eve 1995 and everything just seemed to click into place.
“I think previously, we had been hammered 6-2 at Sheffield Wednesday and were going through a bit of a bad spell and had lost two or three recent games.
“They (Manchester United) were also a top team at the time and I remember it was a packed Elland Road with almost 40,000 there and we beat them 3-1. That game was probably the highlight of my time there. I didn’t realise at the time how intense the rivalry was. But still living in West Yorkshire for such a long time now, I have a few Leeds supporting pals and I am fully aware of the situation. It is still intense now even though the clubs are in different divisions.”
The list of players who have beaten a path from Elland Road to Oldham’s Boundary Park and put themselves on the path to stardom became a notorious one in the eighties. Think Dennis Irwin, Andy Linighan, and Tommy Wright and you get the picture.
For Jobson, the reverse journey across the M62 to Leeds – who signed him from Latics for £1m in October 1995 – had few early bumps in the road either with the fee forked out looking money well spent, despite the advancing years of the defender.
But Jobson’s cruel injury curse reared its ugly head again with a move to Leeds having previously fallen through due to an ankle problem sustained at Oldham.
A separate knee injury ended his 1995-96 campaign prematurely and despite battling back to fitness, he then broke down again in the autumn of 1996, with his final league appearance coming at Villa Park just over a year after joining Leeds.
On his switch to Leeds, Jobson, previously linked with a number of high-profile clubs during his time at Hull and Oldham where he carved out a reputation as an elegant and commanding centre-back, said: “It was a great move for me at that stage of my career. I think I was about 31 or 32.
“No disrespect to my previous clubs, but you don’t get many moves to a top Premiership club and a big, big club. It was great as it was also a local club to me as I’d been living in West Yorkshire.
“I signed in the October time and they had shown interest in the summer. But there was concerns over another injury I’d received in the second half of the season before at Oldham.
“But I continued playing for Oldham at the start of that 1995-96 season and Leeds were monitoring the situation. I think I’d played the first 12 or 15 games for Oldham and that was when they said I was clearly fit. It started off reasonably well at Leeds and I got into the team straightaway. But obviously, injuries then kicked in.
“I played about 13 games in my first season there and managed to get fit for the start of the second season and then Howard Wilkinson got the sack and I played about four or five games under George (Graham) and then got a really bad knee injury.
“It was a shame as I’d waited for a move to a big club like Leeds and it didn’t work mainly because of injury.
“It was disappointing, but I still have fond memories of my time there.
“You can’t do anything about injuries, they are just one of those things.”
Comfortably into his thirties, the road to rehabilitation was a painstaking one for Jobson, who came close to hanging up his boots before a restorative loan spell at Southend United helped facilitate a move to Manchester City under his former boss at Oldham, Joe Royle, in the spring of 1998.
While at Maine Road, Jobson played his part in City being promoted back to the Premier League in 1999-2000.
Few could have begrudged Jobson sampling a modicum of success, given his injury travails, at another big club in City, with his hard graft in the treatment room late on in his career at Leeds at least extending his career – albeit elsewhere.
Jobson said: “It looked like I was going to have to pack in playing completely while at Leeds as I’d had problems with my knee before.
“I suppose it was one of the most frustrating times in my career. I got back from my first bad injury, but the second one happened when I was 34 and Leeds had a batch of really good players coming through such as Jonathan Woodgate, while George Graham also brought in Robert Molenaar in my position.
“But I managed to get it sorted out, although I was out for about 10 months. And that was basically my time at Leeds finished.
“The fortunate thing was I got fit at Leeds and proved my fitness on loan at Southend and ended up going to Man City and played for another four or five years until I was just short of 40.
“I got myself fit at Leeds, although I got the benefit at other clubs.”