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Were They Fit To Wear The Shirt? - Da Costa to Derry

The quest to find the worst player to play for Leeds United over the last 20 years continues with a look at the first batch of D's. They range from a Portuguese YouTube sensation to a true cult hero of our first spell in the Championship. Stephen Clark takes his latest trip down Memory Lane.

Shaun Derry - Secretly wishing he was alongside Bradley Johnson in the Leeds midfield.
Shaun Derry - Secretly wishing he was alongside Bradley Johnson in the Leeds midfield.
Dan Istitene

Tony Capaldi was the last entrant to the Hall of Shame that we here at TIAT are drawing up, yet another left back joining the list of dross to have filled that position since the supreme Tony Dorigo. We will look at the former England international next time but with no neat split historically in the list of D's, this time we go in straight alphabetical order to identify our latest piece of dross. First up is a a player who "graced" Elland Road briefly in our League One days.


A Portuguese midfielder signing for a club in the third tier of English football looked like being a coup for Leeds United as they prepared for their first season in League One. Da Costa was one of the first "YouTube" signings, as pretty much no one had heard of him prior to his arrival. We liked what we saw, with his highlight reel showing why he had been one of the most highly rated players in the Greek 1st Division.

He signed for Leeds in September and after a brief period of assimilation was drafted into the first team squad. His appearances though were sporadic as Leeds started the season like a house on fire. My first sighting was as a substitute in a 4-2 win over Millwall, and he appeared again the following week as Leeds crashed to their first defeat of the season at Carlisle.

Finally given a chance in the starting line up in the JPT against Bury, the twinkle toed midfielder looked quite decent but disaster struck as the first half drew to a close. Under a challenge form a Bury player in midfield, Da Costa appeared to stamp on his opponent and was sent off. Leeds went on to lose the match and Da Costa was made the scapegoat.

A trial at Falkirk followed before he was released by Gary McAllister as the season drew to a close. His career petered out in the Balkans, the very area where he appeared to kick that Bury player on that fateful night in November 2007.


With Leeds United having qualified for the Champions League, the signing of Olivier Dacourt was a clear sign that the Whites were moving up in class. At £7.2M from Lens, Dacourt became the clubs most expensive player. With experience of the English game following a season at Everton, he was seen as the attacking foil to David Batty's defensive solidity, but would prove to be gritty himself.

His debut was in the Champions League qualifier, with the Whites handed a tricky task against Bundesliga side TSV 1860 Munich. Immediately it was clear that Dacourt was going to be a driving force in the middle of the park, although he fell foul of a terrible Cypriot referee who somehow gave him two yellow cards, one for diving, which saw him sent off in a 2-1 win.

The Frenchman became the fulcrum of the midfield as Batty missed the early months of the campaign. He netted a superb winner in a 1-0 win over Arsenal, a day when his most expensive signing tag was wiped out, Rio Ferdinand paraded to the crowd before the match.

A virtual ever present under David O'Leary things began to go wrong when Terry Venables arrived. When Paul Okon came in and was preferred to the Frenchman in the centre of the park, there was a very public falling out, with Venables famously saying "he would drive" Dacourt to Rome during negotiations to move the player out on loan.

Venables certainly drove Dacourt out of the club, and it was United's loss. Dacourt went on to enjoy success with AS Roma and Inter, briefly returning to Elland Road for Lucas Radebe's testimonial.

He ended his career with an injury hit spell at Fulham, a sad end to one of the best midfielders to have played at Elland Road.


One of those youngsters that never quite made it at Elland Road, Darville was a defender who wound up having his career ruined by injury.

The one and only time I saw him in first team action was in a pre-season friendly at York City in July 2009, one of a raft of youngsters who played the second half of a 3-3 draw.

After failing to make the grade at Leeds and an injury hit loan spell at Rotherham, Darville was released ending up back at York where he finally commenced his professional career. However it would be a short lived moment in the sun, released at the end of the season. Failing to make it at Harrogate Town, Darville has drifted out of the game, a salutary lesson to those young player who think they have the world at their feet when they sign for a professional club.


It's hard to believe that Mervyn Day was one of those players who became a star of the game at an early age, particularly for those that remember him between the posts at Elland Road, the archetypal silver fox, with his grey hair as he enjoyed an Indian Summer at Leeds United.

Back in 1975, Day became the youngest keeper to play in a Wembley FA Cup final as at 19 he capped a season when he was named Young Player of the Year by keeping a clean sheet as West Ham beat Fulham 2-0.

The following season he appeared in a European Final, as the Hammers lost 4-2 to Anderlecht in the Cup Winners Cup and the world seemed to be at his feet, widely tipped as a future England international.

Within three years he was relatively on the scrap heap at the age of 23. Injuries and a loss of form had seen him displaced by Phil Parkes at West Ham and he was sold to lowly Orient. Four years at Brisbane Road were followed by a spell back in the big time as back up keeper at Aston Villa before Eddie Gray signed him for the Whites in 1985.

At Leeds he would rediscover the form of his youth. He played over 200 games for the club, including an FA Cup semi-final and a play-off final under Billy Bremner.

Howard Wilkinson retained him as first choice when he took over the club and under Wilkinson, Day would have his final moment of glory. The promotion season of 1989/90 saw Day as a crucial part of the squad which won the 2nd Division title and finally returned the Whites to their rightful place at the peak of the game.

This was my first season watching the Whites regularly and the great Day memories come to mind so easily. A superb save against Newcastle to keep the game goalless just before Ian Baird scored the winner, a penalty save at home to bottom club Stoke to spur the Whites on to a 2-0 win are just two that stick out.

In the penultimate home game, Day made an horrific error, misjudging a through ball, colliding with the centre back and allowing Barnsley an equaliser which set up our only home defeat of the season. Yet in the next game, that classic against Leicester City and having just conceded an equaliser to Gary McAllister, Day produced a superb save from the same player to keep Leeds level, a save without which, Gordon Strachan's wonder goal would have meant nothing.

Despite his heroics, Day was victim to Wilkinson's lack of sentiment. Within days of the promotion which Day had worked so hard for, Wilko had bought John Lukic for £1M and Day became the reserve keeper. He did achieve his aim of playing for the Whites in the top flight the year after we won the title, however it was in a 4-0 thrashing at Maine Road.

At the end of the 92/93 season Day moved on to Carlisle United, ending his playing career before starting life in management at the same club. He did return as Chief Scout in 2010, but left last March and is currently at Brighton.


Dutch striker De Vries joined the Whites on a short term loan in October 2007 as cover for Jermaine Beckford and Tresor Kandol, both of whom had been sent-off in a draw at Gillingham. He joined from Leicester City with Wayne Andrews (our first Hall of Shame entrant!) and debuted alongside him in a 1-0 win at Oldham.

At Elland Road the following week with Leeds struggling to break down Yeovil in an attempt to maintain the incredible start to the season, De Vries came on as a late substitute, as Dennis Wise threw four strikers forward in a bid to snatch a win. With the clock ticking into stoppage time, the giant striker met the ball at the far post and looped a header over the keeper for the winning goal.

He made just one more appearance as a sub against Bury in the JPT, and despite his short time at the club, he will always have that memorable slow motion winner to cling to.


The summer of 1993 saw Leeds looking for a new spearhead, with Lee Chapman's career coming to a close. For much of the summer Howard Wilkinson's main target was Duncan Ferguson, and a lot of time was spent listening to Clubcall in the hope of actually hearing some news regarding his signing. However the big Scotsman moved to Rangers, Leeds unwilling to pay the £4m Dundee United were seeking, so attention turned to South Yorkshire.

Brian Deane had impressed in the colours of Sheffield United, helping the Blades to promotion at the same time as Leeds and was a big reason in the red side of Sheffield maintaining a three year stay in the top flight, actually finishing above Leeds the previous season.

A Chapeltown lad, Deane had been let go by Leeds as a youngster but jumped at the chance to return to his home town club. He scored on his debut, a late equaliser at Maine Road, but struggled to find the net on a regular basis. He did open the scoring in the clubs first away win in over a year at Southampton, but didn't score at Elland Road until November.

The following season saw the emergence of Noel Whelan, forcing Deane to take station out wide, and it was in this position that he would spend most of his time at Elland Road. He famously scored in our first win over the Scum since the return to the top flight, and netted the goal at White Hart Lane on the last day which secured European football for the Whites.

Under George Graham, Deane continued on the flanks as Leeds struggled to score at all in 1996/97. He found the net six times in his final season, scoring the last goal of the campaign to send Middlesbrough down on the final day.

He returned to the Blades at the end of the season, before a shock move to Portuguese giants Benfica. After less than a season he returned to England with Middlesbrough. When Leeds were relegated to the Championship in 2004, Deane returned to Elland Road, memorably scoring four in a 6-1 thrashing of QPR.

Deane was never as big a success as we would have wished, but will always be fondly remembered by Leeds fans, as most local boys are. We wish him the best of luck as he starts his managerial career in Norway with Sarpsborg.


In the 2008/09 season a young midfielder shot to prominence in a Leeds United side which, in my opinion, played some of the best football seen at Elland Road since the glory days of the Premier League. In a side which played an exciting attacking passing game, no one shone brighter in the team than Fabian Delph.

At just 18 years old, Delph had just a couple of substitute appearances under his belt when he was given a start in a pre-season friendly at Barnet. On his first start, he ran the show and as the season started Gary McAllister had decided he was ready to step into a key role in his team.

One match against Crewe Alexandra in September that year stands out. On an afternoon where Leeds barely misplaced a pass, Delph was simply magnificent, netting his first goal with a 25 yard screamer, as Leeds cruised into a 5-0 lead, two goals in stoppage time for the visitors spoiling an almost perfect performance.

Spectacular goals became the norm, two stunners against Walsall at Elland Road were just the start. With Simon Grayson at the helm, he scored a sublime chip to cement the first win of the Grayson era before running the full length of the field to seal a win at Brighton.

His displays saw Premier League clubs flock for his signature, and earned him an England U-21 call up. As Leeds missed out on promotion, the race for his signature hotted up. Despite claims that he did not need to be sold, the alleged £7m offered by Aston Villa proved too much for Ken Bates to resist and in August 09, after just one full season in the Leeds first team, he was sold.

Injuries have blighted his career since, and when he returned on loan last season, as a sop to the fans following the sale of Jonny Howson, he was a different player. Gone was the dynamic box to box midfielder, instead Delph was a holding midfielder, a shadow of his former self.

He is a regular in the Villa side struggling at the wrong end of the Premier League this season, and could feasibly be playing against us in the Championship next season. A classic example of the player perhaps stepping up a level too soon, he remains one that got away, the cream cladded East Stand which he paid for a sad reminder of what Leeds United have become since he left.


Another cult hero in the midfield, Derry arrived at Elland Road in the final knockings of the first season back in the Championship, quickly following Rob Hulse as Leeds looked to improve the squad under new owner Ken Bates. (I can't believe I have just written that sentence!) Derry was an instant hero, scoring the winner on his debut in a 2-1 win over West Ham, earning extra kudos for revealing his prematch meal of beans on toast in Leeds market.

The following season as Leeds pushed for promotion, Derry was the beating heart of the midfield. His all action displays married with a streak of nastiness made him one of those players that the fans identify with. After the heartbreak of defeat in Cardiff, Derry pledged his future to the club by signing a new contract.

However at the start of the season, his straggly long hair had gone, replaced with a crew cut. Like Samson his strength had disappeared and his performances were patchy to say the least. Whether this was down to the rest of the team also performing like clowns is open to question. Dennis Wise made Derry vice captain when he took charge, but injuries soon ruled him out of the season.

Whether he was the Elland Road "mole" who told his former club Crystal Palace the team before the two sides met in Feb 2007 will probably never be known. However he never played for the club again, moving to Palace on loan before making the move permanent.

Neil Warnock took Derry to QPR with him from Palace and he was a key figure in the Hoops promotion back to the Premier League. He has been constantly linked with a return to Elland Road, but recently signed a new contract at Loftus Road and a return seems highly unlikely.

So that ends this week's collection, and compared to other weeks this bunch seem quite decent, so it will be interesting to see how the vote goes. As always, please take the time to vote and feel free to add your opinions, either in the comments box below or via Twitter @TIAT_LUFC or @clarkyboy72.