Leeds United’s proud history is packed full of the kind of moments that truly make football the beautiful game. Paul Robinson has picked out half-a-dozen of the greatest goals scored by the lads in those famous white shirts.
TONY YEBOAH VS LIVERPOOL, 1995
There was a split-second of silent disbelief at Elland Road then pandemonium. Had Tony Yeboah really done that? And, more to the point, how had he done that? A ball upfield from Tony Dorigo, a headed flick-on from Rod Wallace and – bang – Yeboah smashed a 25-yard volley against the underside of the bar and into the Liverpool net. Explosive doesn’t quite do justice to a winner that, remarkably, was a right-foot effort from a Ghanaian striker who was nominally left-footed. “I should have saved it,” Liverpool keeper David James later told the media. Yeboah, deadpan as well as deadly, replied: “So why didn’t you, then?”
ALAN SMITH VS ANDERLECHT, 2001
The free-flowing football played by United on their Champions League run of 2000-01 was exemplified by Alan Smith’s second goal in a 4-1 win at Belgian side Anderlecht. A slick passing movement involving Olivier Dacourt and Mark Viduka gave David Batty the chance to send Smith in on goal. The Leeds-born striker – then just 20 years old, remember – held his nerve and chipped the ball into the net over the advancing keeper. Smith jogged away in almost nonchalant celebration, most definitely living the dream. Clinical? Undoubtedly. Cocky? Ever so slightly. Thrilling? Oh yes.
EDDIE GRAY VS BURNLEY, 1970
He was immortalised in song as Eddie ‘The Last Waltz’ Gray and never was the nickname more appropriate than for this goal, which saw the Scottish winger firing home in front of Elland Road’s old Scratching Shed after beating six defenders with a dazzling display of the art of dribbling. TV commentator John Motson called it one of the “most glittering moments” of the club’s all-conquering Don Revie era and he wasn’t far wrong. The same game was illuminated by another audacious goal from Gray, a pinpoint chip over Burnley’s keeper from 35 yards.
JERMAINE BECKFORD VS BRISTOL ROVERS, 2010
Proof that not all great goals have to be things of beauty, Jermaine Beckford’s poached finish clinched a dramatic return to the Championship for United after three seasons languishing in English football’s third tier. Leeds’s automatic promotion dream was slipping away until Jonathan Howson equalised just before the hour. Four minutes later, with Elland Road rocking, Bradley Johnson seized on a weak throw from the Rovers keeper before the ball fortuitously found its way to Beckford. Six yards out and off balance, he bundled the ball over the line. Bedlam ensued.
GORDON STRACHAN VS LEICESTER CITY, 1990
It was roughly 4.40pm on a frenzied April afternoon when the ball fell to Gordon Strachan just outside the box at Elland Road’s South Stand end. His impossibly sweet first-time strike into the Leicester net took Leeds to the brink of promotion back to the top-flight after eight long years away and prompted TV commentator John Helm to ask: “Have you ever seen a better goal? And have you ever seen one better timed?” None of the 32,000 United fans there that day have ever had to think twice about their answers to those particular questions.
ALLAN CLARKE VS ARSENAL, 1972
“Clarke! One nil!” David Coleman’s commentary echoes down the decades in much the same way as the goal that gave Leeds their only FA Cup triumph to date, with Allan Clarke’s full-length diving header from a Mick Jones cross early in the second half settling the competition’s Centenary final at Wembley. Looking back on the magic moment, the man known to United fans everywhere as Sniffer told Leeds, Leeds, Leeds magazine: “When Mick Jones crossed the ball I was going to volley it, but it dipped when it was about 10 yards from me, so in a split second I decided to launch myself at it and the rest is history.”