Leeds United: Ross can fire Whites back to Premier League - Clarke

Allan Clarke.
Allan Clarke.
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Leeds United legend Allan Clarke tells Leon Wobschall in-form Ross McCormack is the man who can shoot the Whites to promotion.

YOu WOULD struggle to find anyone who is better qualified to comment about a predatory Leeds United marksman than Elland Road’s prince of goalscorers, Allan Clarke.

The natural-born finisher struck with unerring precision and regularity during his goal-laden stint at Leeds from 1969 to 1978 and the prolific form of United’s current top gun in Ross McCormack is something which unsurprisingly hasn’t escaped his radar.

On the personal front, McCormack is busy stacking up a veritable list of accomplishments.

Saturday’s strike in the 3-3 draw against Watford was the sixth successive occasion he has found the net in a league game at Elland Road, something last achieved by another redoubtable goalscorer in Jermaine Beckford.

It took his league goals tally to an impressive 15 this season, with the Glaswegian comfortably leading the way at the top of the Championship scoring charts, four clear of Blackburn’s Jordan Rhodes.

His 78th-minute strike also represented his tenth goal in his last six outings for Leeds; he managed the same amount in 13 games in another goal rush at the start of the 2011-12 campaign.

If McCormack maintains his irresistible form, he could even reach 20 league goals by the end of the calendar year, with the last player to achieve that milestone by Christmas being John Charles back in 1956-57 en route to 39 goals in league and cup that season.

But in the greater scheme of things, McCormack’s accomplishments will carry a whole load more kudos if they help United, currently just below the play-off spots, somehow return to the Premier League Promised Land, according to Clarke.

The man universally known as Sniffer in his playing days says McCormack very much remains United’s best bet.

Clarke said: “I keep an eye on Leeds United because we all want them back in the Premier League where they belong as soon as possible.

“To be fair, if McCormack hadn’t started knocking all those goals, we wouldn’t be anywhere near it. He is on a purple patch and obviously, when you are scoring goals, it doesn’t matter which division you are in – whether it be in any of the four divisions – when you are going into games home or away, you believe you are going to score in every match.

“He’s obviously playing with a lot of confidence.

“From a manager’s point of view and I have had my spell in management. If you are looking to get promotion, you need a striker at your club who is going to guarantee you twenty-five or thirty goals.

“That gives you a chance of getting a chance of promotion. The way this lad is knocking the goals in, it looks as if he’s going to get that. That would give us a chance of getting promotion.

“I hope he doesn’t get injured, otherwise we might have problems.

“Unless the manager is given some money to bring someone in during the January sales.”

Clarke’s vital statistics in a United jersey were exemplary. In 366 games, he found the net 151 times, with his haul including 110 league goals.

He was joint top-scorer for Leeds with Mick Jones in his maiden season at the club with 26 goals in 1969-70 and he claimed the top-scorers’ mantle on his own on three occasions – in 1970-71, 1972-73 and 1974-75.

McCormack looks to have already sewn up this season’s gong with 16 goals already in all competitions this term, with the Scot needing just three more goals to equal his top tally on the only previous occasion when he recorded the seasonal-best haul in a Leeds jersey, back in 2011-12.

As former commentator David Coleman once famously uttered: ‘Goals pay the rent’ and McCormack is definitely plundering his fair share.

Memorably, it was Coleman who provided the unique commentary to Clarke’s most famous moment in a Leeds shirt back in the 1972 Centenary FA Cup final at Wembley.

No United fan of a certain age can forget the words: “Mick Jones on the right; number nine. He’s going to take on McNab on the outside; he’s around the back. Clarke! One-Nil...” back on May 6, 1972 when the cup came to Leeds for the only time.

Beckford perhaps produced the modern-day equivalent for Leeds supporters when he netted in front of the Stretford End in the sweetest of FA Cup victories against arch-rivals Manchester United on January 4, 2010.

But it’s league statistics which remains a striker’s bread and butter, according to Clarke, with Beckford reaching the 25 league goals milestone in 2008-09 and 2009-10.

Clarke’s best league haul arrived in 1970-71 when he struck 18 times.

He scored one fewer in his maiden season in which United went agonisingly close to a treble of the European Cup, FA Cup and first division title – immediately marking himself out as a fan’s favourite by netting on his league debut in a 3-1 home win over Tottenham Hotspur on August 9, 1969.

Like thousands of others, Clarke is desperate to see Leeds plying their trade back where they belong and McCormack will have a vital say in whether they manage to end their exile in 2013-14.

Do that and continue on the goals trail in the top flight and he will become a bonafide Whites legend in the view of Clarke, who turned 67 at the end of July.

Clarke added: “Let’s take it one step at a time. We are in the Championship and if he (McCormack) does this in the Premier League, then he will make a name for himself. If he gets us promotion, the Leeds fans will really love him.

“Fans love a goalscorer. They do at clubs all over the world.

“Because putting the ball in the net is the hardest thing to do on a football field.

“Like any manager of Leeds United, I want him to be successful.

“At the minute, he has started off alright and it’s there for the taking this season and I just wish him all the luck and all the best. It’s been too long since we have been out of the top division.”

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