Leeds United nostalgia: Sullivan’s standard united Whites fans

Neil Sullivan.
Neil Sullivan.
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Kevin Blackwell once described Neil Sullivan as the best signing he ever made at Leeds United.

Admittedly, some could see that as a negative, but Sullivan’s consistent presence between the posts at Leeds brought an air of calmness to a period famed for its sheer turbulence.

His signing was a bit of a coup at the time, as Leeds snatched him away from Chelsea. Whilst he had only played eight games for them the previous season, he had spent the previous three years in and around the first team at Spurs.

On paper, Sullivan did not seem like a goalkeeper likely to end up at a financially troubled Championship side.

However, speaking at the time, Sullivan saw the move as a complete no-brainer.

He said: “When a club like Leeds come in for you, you don’t really have to think about it.

“It would have been easy for me to stay at Chelsea and see out my contract, but I wouldn’t have been involved and at this stage in my career I want to be playing.”

As all around him collapsed or was sold off, Sullivan performed and was partly responsible in stopping Leeds’ slide further down the divisions. The extent to which he could be individually credited was seen in his penalty saves, making several key stops to give Leeds points they would have otherwise lost.

The fans even identified his importance to the side, eschewing norms to award the Scottish international the club’s Player of the Year Award at the end of 2005, his first season at the club.

This was a year of rebuilding after relegation from the Premier League, and the club finished 10 points off the play-offs at the end of the season.

“It was a great honour to win the awards at a club like this,” said Sullivan.

The next season saw Leeds’ fortunes change, and they performed well in the league, ultimately earning a place at the Millennium Stadium in the play-off final.

That season, Sullivan spoke with joy at having made the move, saying: “It’s given me a new lease of life.”

Sadly though, the play-off final against Watford ended in tears for Leeds, as they often do.

Leeds lost 3-0 and Sullivan was at fault for the second goal of the game.

Blackwell was relieved of his duties shortly into the following season, and Sullivan fell out of favour with his replacement, Dennis Wise.

Given his services to the club, Sullivan left Leeds United in relatively ignominious circumstances, farmed out on loan, having his fitness questioned by Wise, and then allowed to depart with little fanfare.

His career was not over yet, and after 184 games at Doncaster Rovers, and at the age of 42, his final game saw him and his side promoted from League One – in famously dramatic circumstances against Brentford.

Sullivan is now back at Thorp Arch.

He is starting off his coaching career by working as part of the Leeds United club’s academy, helping out with the young goalkeepers.

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