Leeds United nostalgia: Tough guy whose stint was emotional

1989: Vinnie Jones.
1989: Vinnie Jones.
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The tattoo running down his left leg serves as a marker for the esteem he holds Leeds United in but the feeling was always mutual.

Vinnie Jones was already a hero in Leeds before he made his debut, with his famed ‘V’ haircut prevalent amongst the youth of Leeds.

Speaking to Leeds fanzine The Square Ball in 1990, Jones said: “An idiot could come here and know the fans are brilliant.”

Looking back on his time at the club, he considers joining Leeds “one of the biggest, best and proudest decisions of my life.”

“They were on this massive, positive thing,” Jones said.

“I thought ‘If you cut these people in half they’re going to bleed Leeds United.’”

It almost turned sour though, as a heated pre-season friendly against Anderlecht saw Jones hit an opposition player in the face. Gordon Strachan’s anger in the dressing room after the game changed the course of Jones’ Leeds career.

He clearly took his captain’s words to heart, picking up only two yellow cards over the course of the season.

His debut, an exciting prospect for the fans, was delayed due to an ankle injury and Leeds lost their opening game of the season 5-2 to Newcastle. Four days later at Elland Road, with the score against Middlesbrough locked at 0-0, his arrival from the bench on 87 minutes signalled the true start of Leeds’ promotion winning season.

The roar that greeted Jones’ appearance carried through to the final whistle, as an innocuous through ball from him found its way into the back of the Middlesbrough net via a defensive mix-up, giving him a dream start to his time in Yorkshire. The photo of him climbing the Kop fence in celebration is the iconic image of the period.

The last game of the season saw Jones line up alongside Strachan, Chris Kamara, and Gary Speed in midfield against Bournemouth during what would turn into one of the most famous and infamous days in United’s history. With pressure on the team, a position in which Leeds teams traditionally collapse, they performed, won, and went up as Division Two champions.

Upon promotion to the top flight, however, the arrival of Gary McAllister threatened Jones’ position, and after a short period of time, he realised his days were numbered.

Not, however, before he could carry out one of the more daring methods of asking for more first team football in the history of the sport.

Holding an empty shotgun to Howard Wilkinson’s head, Jones asked, simply: “Now, are you going to play me at Luton tomorrow?”

Wilkinson laughed and played him but it proved to be Jones’ last appearance for Leeds. Jones was distraught to leave the club, and summed it up as being like “telling the Queen she was on her way out of Buckingham Palace.”

“I’d been at my happiest at Leeds, playing proper football and loving the professional feel of the place,” he said. “Leeds and I had connected really well.”

It was as simple as that. The fans and Jones loved one another and he’s still remembered fondly by the Leeds faithful.

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