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Summer Dreams - 1997: Fun Times Are Here Again!

Boring, boring Leeds? Not this season.

Gary Kelly of Leeds jumps for joy

For football fans, the summer is always a time for optimism. You're awaiting the first game of the season, a few new players have arrived and you've got a couple of pre-season friendlies under your belt. The signs point to it being your year this year. Unfortunately, as a Leeds fan, we have been brought back down to earth with a massive bump.

Player sales, lack of signings, a mad Italian man doing his best to upset absolutely everyone are just a few of the things that have prematurely ruined the summer for us. This year, however, there has been an increase in positivity from both the fans and the club itself. This got me thinking about previous years, about the ins and out, managerial changes, ownership structures, everything.

After turning Leeds' season around in the most boring of fashions, George Graham now set about making the Leeds United team his own. A number of the younger players were now stepping up to be part of the first team squad and things looked promising at Leeds. One of the highlights of the previous year had seen the Whites win the FA Youth Cup, beating Crystal Palace over two legs. Leeds had been disappointed that, of the team to win the Cup in 1993, only Noel Whelan had gone on to make a name for himself, and he had left two years after the Cup win. This time, there would be a much larger proportion that go on to play for Leeds regularly.

Two other players who had featured in the 1993 FA Youth Cup win would depart Leeds, with Mark Ford heading to Burnley and Andy Couzens to Carlisle. Both had featured several times for the club but failed to make any headway into the first team picture.

Ian Rush left after a solitary season in Yorkshire to join former teammate and manager Kenny Dalglish at Newcastle. A near ever-present the previous season, he only found the net three times in a team that was desperate for goals. He would only feature a handful of times for the Magpies before joining Sheffield United on loan. His next move would see him join Wrexham where he failed to score and then make a very brief move to amateur Australian side Sidney Olympic before hanging up his boots.

Brian Deane would head back to Sheffield United for £1.5m. His goalscoring for Leeds hadn't been what Howard Wilkinson had hoped for and although he earnt respect amongst the Leeds fans, that was down to his hard work and not his goals. He formed a strong partnership with Rod Wallace early on but would be moved out of his position after the arrival of Tony Yeboah.

Speaking of Yeboah, he would be heading back to Germany after a falling out with George Graham the previous year. Having made a comeback from injury, he played in a few games but couldn't find the back of the net, though it wasn't for lack of trying. In a game against Sunderland at Roker Park he did everything but score, including hitting the bar from around 35 yards. Playing at White Hart Lane and losing with around 20 minutes to go, Yeboah would be substituted, for Ian Harte of all people, and as he walked off he removed his shirt, threw it at Graham and headed straight down the tunnel. He would not feature in a white shirt again. He joined Hamburg where he would stay until 2001 when he moved to Qatar for a season. Since his retirement, he has run a hotel chain called Yegola and, in 2005, returned to Leeds to feature in Lucas Radebe's testimonial.

Tony Dorigo would leave for Italy after spending six years at Elland Road. Brought in by Wilkinson, he went straight in at left back and was a key part of the 1992 title-winning side. He would be Wilkinson's first choice for the position, only missing out on games through injury. Another player that is held in high esteem by Leeds fans, he was a move towards the modern day full-back, willing to get forward and help the attack. He made over 200 appearances for the Whites before making his move to Torino. He would just miss out on promotion with the Italians but would win their Player of the Year award. After Torino, he would have spells with Derby County and Stoke City before retiring in 2001.

Finally heading out was Carlton Palmer. The long-legged number four spent three years with Leeds but was never really embraced by the fans. He was seen as a much worse replacement for David Batty. After moving to Southampton he would go on a tour of the Football League, turning out for Nottingham Forest, Coventry, Watford, Sheffield Wednesday, Stockport County and Mansfield Town.

Joining on the same day were Dutchman Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Norwegian Alfe Inge Haaland. Hasselbaink was a forward joining from Portuguese side Boavista where he had scored 20 goals in his only season with the club. He would take the number 9 shirt as Brian Deane's replacement.

Haaland made the move from Nottingham Forest where he had been for since 1993. A central defender or central midfielder, Haaland was highly valued by Graham for his defensive qualities. He was already an international for Norway, having made his debut in 1994 and featuring in the World Cup in the USA.

Following just a few days later was Bruno Ribeiro from Vitoria. An under-21 international, Graham had spotted Ribeiro whilst scouting Hasselbaink and decided to add him to the ranks. A central midfielder with a strong left foot, he added some much-needed depth to the midfield. He would only spend two years at Leeds before a move to Sheffield United and then a return to Portugal. He would go into management with his first club, Vitoria, twice before a number of moves around the country before making a bizarre appearance as Port Vale manager.

David Hopkin was the final arrival, joining from newly promoted Crystal Palace. He was another midfielder coming in, this time a right winger, and he was made the captain of the team. He had spent time with Chelsea before joining Palace where he scored more than 20 goals in his two seasons with the club. He would be a regular under Graham but found opportunities limited after his departure. He played infrequently under David O'Leary and was sold to Bradford City in 2001. He would make a brief return to Crystal Palace and his first side Greenock Morton.

Leeds would have a remarkable season compared to the previous year. Graham would steer the whites to a 5th place finish and qualification for the UEFA Cup and a vast reduction in the number of 0-0 draws. Although a very defensively solid team, Leeds weren't afraid to attack and Hasselbaink would finish the season as the joint top goalscorer in the league. Alan Maybury, Matthew Jones, Stephen McPhail would all be in and around the first team squad whilst an unnamed Australian left winger would breakthrough into the starting line-up, scoring five goals.

With a strong squad in place and a number of young players on the verge of stepping up the 98/99 season promised to be an exciting year for Leeds United.

Christian is a member of the Mighty Whites Podcast and joins Jack and Connie to discuss all the latest happenings at Elland Road. You can listen to the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud, and YouTube.