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 usually been brought back down to earth with a massive bump.
Player sales, a lack of signings, a mad Italian man doing his best to upset absolutely everyone, and Dave Hockaday 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 outs, the managerial changes, the ownership structures, everything.
After a disastrous title defence, Howard Wilkinson set about making changes to strengthen a team that would feature a number of younger players making the step up to the first team. A proponent of the academy system, Sergent Wilko would look to blood promising players ahead of some of his title winners from 1992.
The hero from the Nou Camp the previous season, Carl Shutt left to join Birmingham City. Joining Leeds to form a partnership with Lee Chapman, Shutt would score a debut hat-trick that would see him become an instant hit with the fans. After helping Leeds to promotion in 1990 Shutt would fall out of favour as Wallace and Chapman formed a successful partnership that within two seasons would fire Leeds to the title.
Speaking of Lee Chapman, he too would be on his way out. After reaching double figures in successive seasons, Chapman would be moved on, joining Portsmouth and dropping back down to the First Division. He would only feature for them six times before making a quick return to the Premier League with West Ham. Chapman would never reach the heights that he did with Leeds, making a number of moves between the leagues, including a two game loan spell back at Leeds in 1996, one of them ending with a red card for an elbow on former teammate Marc Rieper.
Chris Whyte was another title winner who would move on, joining Carl Shutt at Birmingham City. Having made more appearances than any other defender the previous season, it came as a surprise when Whyte moved away from Elland Road. Whyte had formed a strong partnership with Chris Fairclough and the two would the first choice partnership as Leeds won the old First Division. He would win the First Division with Birmingham the following season.
Long serving goalkeeper Mervyn Day would be allowed to move on having spent eight years with the club. Day would have a 20-year career making triple figure appearances for Leeds, West Ham, and Leyton Orient. Day would be a regular between the sticks for Leeds until the return of John Lukic from Arsenal. Day would play for just one more season before calling time on his career at Carlisle.
The two biggest signings that joined Leeds would become big names for the club in very different ways. David O'Leary would join from Arsenal as he was coming towards the end of his career. Wilkinson spoke of wanting an experienced central defender to partner David Weatherall to help him develop as he was becoming a regular in the starting line-up. Making over 700 appearances for Arsenal, he still holds the record for most first team appearances. O'Leary would only make 12 appearances for Leeds in three seasons before hanging up his boots. He would join up with George Graham as assistant manager in 1996 before taking over from him as manager when Graham departed for Tottenham. O'Leary would oversee Leeds' most successful period since winning the title, taking Leeds to the Champions League semi final in 2001 before being sacked the following season for failing to qualify for the Champions League for two consecutive seasons.
Brian Deane arrived at Elland Road for a club record fee £2.7m. Taking Chapman's number 9 shirt, Deane would become a firm favourite amongst the fans for his hard work. Never a prolific goalscorer, he would form a partnership with Rod Wallace and they would both hit double figures in their first season. He would play as a forward and sometimes on the wing, especially after the arrival of a certain Ghanaian the following. Deane would stay at Leeds until 1997 before moving back to Sheffield United and then a bizarre move to Benfica. He would return to Leeds in 2004 after relegation to the newly named Championship, scoring six times, with four of those coming in a 6-1 win at Elland Road against Queens Park Rangers.
There were two more notable departures during the season as David Rocastle would move on but the biggest talking point was the transfer of fan favourite David Batty to Blackburn Rovers. Wilkinson was told if he wanted to bring players in he would need to sell players, so was forced to accept the bid. David White would join from Manchester City and John Pemberton from Sheffield United. In January another fan favourite would retire as Mel Sterland succumbed to injury. Given the nickname Zico, Sterland was loved for his powerful runs down the right and his goals from set pieces. An Irish youngster named Gary Kelly would take his place and be ever-present that season.
The 93/94 campaign would be a successful one for Leeds, especially when compared with the previous season. The Whites would finish 5th in the league, missing out on a UEFA Cup spot. Gary Speed, Rod Wallace, and Brian Deane would each hit double figures and put Leeds in a strong position going into the 94/95 season.
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.