Leeds United: Part 3 of our Elland Road cult heroes

MARCH 1989: Ian Baird celebrates scoring against Portsmouth.
MARCH 1989: Ian Baird celebrates scoring against Portsmouth.
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Leeds United fans are used to disappointment, especially during the barren years of the 1980s and the mid-2000s.

Today we look at two players who were embraced by the Leeds United faithful despite stumbles in promotion challenging seasons.

If you have not been following the series so far, we kicked off on Tuesday and followed it up on Wednesday with another four names, including a controversial choice at no. 16.


12. Ian Baird

As Leeds stumbled around in the darkness of the 1980s, Ian Baird was one of few shining lights.

Baird joined Leeds from Southampton for £50,000, and there was little in his record to suggest he would grow into such a figure of love for fans of the Elland Road club.

He had scored only five goals in 22 games for the Saints, but it was his work rate, attitude and aggression that endeared him almost immediately to Leeds fans.

His first spell in West Yorkshire saw him hit home 33 times in 85 games.

More importantly, Baird gave Leeds fans something to believe in again after the huge fall from grace they had suffered over the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s.

He was taken into Leeds hearts so fully that he was made captain of Leeds by United’s greatest ever captain, Billy Bremner.

While Baird’s first spell would be characterised by a series of bitter disappointments, such as the FA Cup semi-final loss and the play-off defeat at St. Andrews, upon his return from Portsmouth he would finally find success.

Baird was brought back for only £120,000 and resettled quickly, winning the club’s player of the year award.

He played a key role in the first half of Howard Wilkinson’s first season at the club as Leeds fought for promotion from the second tier.

While he still refers to Wilkinson as “gaffer”, the title winning manager decided Baird was surplus to requirements after signing Lee Chapman, and sold him to Middlesbrough.

However, Baird contributed enough to earn a winner’s medal after promotion was secured, and spoke about his affection for Leeds in his book, Bairdy’s Gonna Get Ya!

He said: “Leeds will always be a special club for me.

“The fanaticism of the supporters when I was there was unbelievable.

“I wasn’t the best player in the world, but always gave 100 per cent and for me to play for Leeds made me so proud.”

11. Shaun Derry

There are few better ways to introduce yourself at a new club than scoring a goal on your debut, and few more Leeds United ways to do that then crediting it to beans on toast.

That was the case for Shaun Derry, who was forced to turn to a local greasy spoon after the hotel he was staying in could not provide him with the food he wanted.

Speaking to the press after his goalscoring bow against West Ham, he said: “Every footballer has their own pre-match routine and I always have pasta, chicken, beans and scrambled egg for my meal. I am staying in a hotel at the moment with my girlfriend and I rang down to reception, but they wouldn’t do my pre-match meal.

“So we had to walk into town and we ended up in a greasy spoon cafe near the market. I was sitting there and said to my girlfriend ‘You do realise that if I score today, we will have to come here every Saturday?’

“I had beans on toast and about seven Lambert & Butlers due to it being so smokey in there. I had to shower when I got back to the hotel, but it did the trick.”

If his right-footed effort in a 2-1 win was the perfect introduction for Derry, his career at Elland Road soon hit new heights.

He was a key player for the Whites in the 2005/06 season as they charged up the table and put together a promotion push that suggested they would soon return to the promised land of the Premier League.

Derry’s position as a cult hero was cemented during this spell, thanks to his passionate displays and his tough tackling nature - exactly the sort of things Leeds fans like in a player.

Leeds lost the play-off final that year against Watford, collapsing to a 3-0 defeat. It would turn out to be the closest the West Yorkshire side would come to promotion since leaving the top flight.

Derry’s contributions as Leeds fell towards League One the following campaign were hindered by a hernia and Achilles tendon injury that he suffered in January.

Soon enough, he was gone, cast aside by Dennis Wise and loaned back to Crystal Palace, who he eventually joined permanently.

There were rumours that he would return when Neil Warnock was in charge at Leeds, but it never came to fruition, disappointing baked beans retailers throughout the city.