When Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink helped solve Leeds United's goalscoring woes for top five surge

LEEDS United are targeting a challenge to the Premier League’s top six following their long-awaited return to the top flight, eventually that is.

By Lee Sobot
Sunday, 26th July 2020, 5:50 am

That, said both chairman Andrea Radrizzani and chief executive Angus Kinnear this week, would be the aim over the next few seasons.

United’s chiefs are fully aware that adapting to life in the Premier League after a 16-year exile will be no mean feat.

Leeds would also be going some to replicate their success the last time the club were promoted back to the country’s top flight.

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PROLIFIC: Leeds United striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink heads home to complete a brace in the 3-1 win at home to Chelsea of April 1987. Picture by Mark Bickerdike.

Under Howard Wilkinson, United’s first season back in 1990-91 saw them finish fourth. Incredibly, one year later United were champions.

But by the time the 1997-98 season came around, Leeds were back looking for ways to put themselves back in the top half having finished mid-table in the last two seasons.

In June 1997, the summer acquisition of striker Jimmy Flloyd-Hasselbaink helped work the oracle as George Graham’s side sealed a fifth-placed finish, putting the club back in Europe the following term.

Having become champions of England for only the third time in their history in 1992, United’s following season was one of disappointment as the Whites only narrowly stayed up in finishing 17th.

Managerial legend Wilkinson restored order in the next two campaigns in which Leeds finished fifth for two seasons in a row with the latter finish sealing qualification for the UEFA Cup.

But the 95-96 season ended with a disappointing 13th-placed finish and five games into the 96-97 campaign Wilkinson found himself sacked after Leeds were walloped 4-0 by Manchester United at Elland Road.

Under new owners Caspian, United then looked to former Arsenal boss George Graham who took over on September 10, 1996.

The season ended with an 11th-placed finish with two clear features to United’s play - a fine knack of keeping clean sheets but a dismal goalscoring record.

United kept 20 clean sheets as part of just 38 goals conceded but scored only 28 goals - the lowest in Premier League history at that point.

Lee Sharpe, a record signing the previous summer from Manchester United, and Brian Deane finished joint top of the Whites goalscoring charts but with just five goals each, one ahead of Lee Bowyer who had also been signed the previous summer.

But on June 12, 1997 Leeds forked out £2m to land striker Hasselbaink from Boavista and it meant Graham’s second full season in charge was a different story.

The summer of 97 also saw United recruit Alf Inge Haaland from Nottingham Forest and David Hopkin from Crystal Palace.

Some rather decent youngsters were also emerging, notably Harry Kewell, Alan Smith, Jonathan Woodgate and Paul Robinson.

It was the very beginning of a glorious new era.

Deane, Rush, Tony Yeboah, Tony Dorigo and Carlton Palmer were among those to move on but Leeds stormed their way to a fifth-placed finish.

This time the Whites were somewhat leakier in defence, conceding 47 goals, but United cracked in 57 with Hasselbaink banging in 16 and making an immediate impact and netting two braces, including when Leeds beat Chelsea 3-1 at Elland Road in April.

Wallace also netted ten with Haaland banging in seven and Kewell five whilst Bowyer, Bruno Ribeiro and David Wetherall claimed three each.

Leeds also made the quarter-finals of the FA Cup and their league campaign featured a 1-0 win at home to Manchester United thanks to a Wetherall strike in September and a 4-1 hammering of visitors Newcastle United the following month.

The season ended with three games without a win but United were back with what was to prove the start of five consecutive top-five finishes.

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Thank you Laura Collins