How much of an impact would Ian Snodin have made at Leeds United had money not spoken loudly at the start of 1987? The midfielder has asked himself that question many times since experiencing what he called the “worst moment of my career.”
His transfer from Elland Road to Everton less than two years after his Leeds debut was negotiated and agreed on United’s terms. Everton and Liverpool offered fees in excess of £800,000 for Snodin and chairman Leslie Silver was not about to turn them down.
“I didn’t want to leave but I had to,” Snodin said. “It was a done deal.”
The high esteem in which he is held in Leeds contradicts the length of his career at Elland Road. Snodin played 55 times for United and was on their books for no more than 18 months, albeit long enough to win the club’s player-of-the-year award in his one full season. Snodin’s brother, Glynn, made twice as many appearances as him. He moved to Everton before he could make a lasting impression.
Snodin was the sort of midfielder that football in England in the 1980s called out for – a hard, biting player whose ability to play at a higher level than the second division was apparent to everyone.
“John Sheridan was a ball-player,” former Leeds captain Brendan Ormsby once said, “but Snod gave you that dig. A good midfield needs people who can do both jobs.” Snodin and Sheridan were a perfect pair.
Snodin’s talent was not a great secret when Leeds signed him from Doncaster Rovers in 1985. Eddie Gray paid £200,000 for the teenager which, by United’s standards, was a hefty investment. The profit made by selling him in 1987 was three times as high. He had won England youth and Under-21 caps whilst playing in Division Three and was simply waiting for a door to open. At the age of 18 he replaced Peter Lorimer as captain at Elland Road.
That decision was taken by Billy Bremner, the coach who replaced Gray as manager within months of Snodin’s transfer. Snodin was frustrated by Gray’s dismissal but pleased to have the opportunity to work so closely with Bremner again.
The fiery Scot had nurtured Snodin at Doncaster and willingly sold him to Leeds, allowing a gifted youngster to spread his wings. Bremner was no more willing to stand in his way when Everton and Liverpool submitted bids; on the contrary, he drove Snodin to both training grounds to help him make a decision.
Snodin’s departure from Leeds in 1987 did not wreck the club’s season. Under Bremner, they reached the last four of the FA Cup and contested an exhausting play-off final against Charlton Athletic. Snodin, who turned 50 on Thursday, had seven years with Everton and wound down his career at Oldham, Scarborough and Doncaster before moving into media and agency work. He writes a column for the Liverpool Echo.
The Snodin family have continued to associate themselves with Leeds, with Glynn working as first-team coach for three years and Ian’s son Jordan signing scholarship forms in 2011. Jordan was released by United at the end of last season.