Howard Wilkinson's view on Leeds United 'bunch' after last win of title-defence campaign
and live on Freeview channel 276
Thirty years ago, promoted trio Ipswich Town, Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers were the new sides on the Whites fixture-list for the country’s first ever Premier League campaign.
Howard Wilkinson’s side approached the season as defending champions of England following their glorious 1991-92 title-winning campaign yet could only finish 17th the following year.
Even as a newly-promoted side, Blackburn soared to fourth and three years later they were winning the thing.
Yet Leeds well and truly put Rovers in their place in the Elland Road clash of April 1993 in which Gordon Strachan bagged a hat-trick in a 5-2 victory.
United’s hopes of successfully defending their title had long since been dashed as part of a campaign in which Eric Cantona departed for Manchester United and Leeds failed to win away from home all term.
But the emergence of several promising youngsters provided a bright light during a season in which Leeds defeated Manchester United’s youngsters over two legs of the FA Youth Cup final in May.
One month earlier, Whites young guns Mark Tinkler and Jamie Forrester both lined up in the April os of Blackburn yet it was the experienced prowess of 36-year-old midfielder Strachan that burned brightest as the Scot struck a treble in a five-star romp.
Wilkinson’s side lined up with John Lukic in goal behind David Kerslake, Dylan Kerr, Tinkler, Chris Fairclough, Chris Whyte, Strachan, Gary Speed, Forrester, Rod Wallace and Lee Chapman. Jon Newsome, Steve Hodge and Mervyn Day made up the bench.
The Rovers side featured a future Whites player in Jason Wilcox as well as the likes of David May, Colin Hendry, Graeme Le Saux and Tim Sherwood.
Leeds went ahead with just ten minutes on the clock from a penalty awarded for a handball as Chapman challenged for a header in the box. Strachan took the spot kick and deceived Rovers ‘keeper Bobby Mimms by tucking a neat effort into the left hand corner of the goal.
Just 18 minutes later, Leeds were awarded another penalty as Strachan was scythed down to the left hand side of the box and the Scot sent his second spot kick into exactly the same place as his first one, Mimms beaten again despite this time diving the right way.
The Whites took a 2-0 lead into the half-time break and Strachan bagged his and United’s third just five minutes after the restart.
This time the midfielder raced into the box via a darting run from the right and thumped a fierce effort into the bottom right corner after a lovely one-two and back heel from Forrester.
A rampant Whites added their fourth in the 67th minute as Strachan turned provider, picking out Wallace with a wonderful looping through ball.
Wallace took one touch to take himself into the area before clipping a neat finish past Mimms. Rovers hit back just five minutes later as Kevin Gallacher brilliantly beat Lukic with a diving header to convert a Le Saux cross.
Lukic was then beaten by another header with five minutes left as Mark Atkins flicked home an inswinging corner from Sherwood.
But Strachan and Leeds had already laid the platform for victory and capped a five-star attacking display as Chapman netted with one minute left.
Typically, Strachan was heavily involved again, the Scot’s precise through ball playing in Forester whose shot was parried away by Mimms but only in the path of Chapman who had a simple task of tucking into an empty net from close range.
Assessing the club's youngsters at the time, Whites boss Wilkinson said: "I think from around about October of this season, it's become increasingly aware that some of the kids here were doing well and watching some of their games and watching them train, you start to nurture that little warm feeling perhaps that maybe you have got one or two half decent players coming along.
"But you never know, all you can judge is what you are seeing at the time and then try and work out whether they are going to get bigger, whether they are going to get stronger or whether they are going to get more nature and fortunately most of them done that so during the past 12 months we have started off with a useful bunch and they have developed into a more then useful bunch.
"We keep our fingers crossed and we keep doing the things that we have done up to now and one hopes that they will go on to make a living."
The win, though, proved United’s last win of the season as the final six games for Wilko’s defending champions yielded just four draws and two defeats. At least there was beating Man U in the FA Youth Cup.