TODAY marks the 26th anniversary of two integral forces in Leeds United’s inexorable charge to the top of English football again at the start of the nineties making their debuts for the club.
The legend that is Gordon Strachan, whose immaculate leadership skills and considerable prowess on the pitch orchestrated Leeds’ Division One and Two title-winning campaigns in 1991-92 and 1989-90, made his bow for the Whites in a 1-0 victory against Portsmouth at Elland Road on March 25, 1989.
The date was also noteworthy for another key cog in United’s rise to prominence striding out for the first time for Leeds in the shape of ice-cool defender Chris Fairclough.
The presence of the pair helped swell United’s crowd to 27,049 - the attendance for their previous home fixture against Ipswich was over seven thousand lower at 19,639 - and they witnessed a 1-0 home victory that Saturday afternoon, thanks to a goal from former Pompey forward and United cult hero Ian Baird.
Then 31, Strachan arrived on transfer deadline day in March 1989 for a bargain £300,000 from arch-rivals Manchester United with former Nottingham Forest stopper Fairclough initially coming in on loan from Terry Venables’ Tottenham Hotspur.
The move was subsequently made permanent, with Strachan and Fairclough playing their part in full in the following campaign as Leeds ended their eight-year exile from the top-flight.
Upon heading across the Pennines, stylish Scottish midfielder Strachan, then 31, returned to the form that earned him a whole host of admirers with the Red Devils and Aberdeen, with his renaissance such that he was recalled to the Scottish national side that October (1989).
Along with captaining United to league glory, Strachan was also named Footballer of the Year in 1991 and awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours list in 1993.
Fairclough went onto memorably form a rock-solid central defensive partnership with Chris Whyte, which played its part in helping United win the top-flight title in 1992, ending their 18-year wait for English football’s biggest prize.