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Summer Dreams - 1994

After just missing out the previous year, Leeds players were hoping for a trip to Europe at the end of the season, but not just for a fortnight.

Leeds celebrate

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 an improved season from Leeds, thoughts turned to the new season and the possibility of qualifying for Europe. After narrowly missing out last term it seemed that the squad didn't need too many additions to push Leeds across the line.

Heading out of the Elland Road doors was another title winner and someone who will be remembered for one specific goal. John Newsome was a member of the 1992 title-winning team and scored a crucial goal at Bramall Lane on a dramatic afternoon with a back post diving header. He featured in only ten games that season but that was enough to earn him a winners medal. Newsome would be with Leeds for three seasons in total, scoring three goals before making a £1m move to Norwich City, a record signing for the Canaries until the 2005 signing of Dean Ashton.

Also departing were Frank Standli and Ray Wallace. Strandli would have a successful career in his native Norway but his time at Leeds wasn't as fruitful. A debut goal gave fans hope that he would prove to be a big signing but he found chances few and far between. Ray Wallace was signed as part of the deal for his brother Rod. Both moving from Southampton, their time at Leeds couldn't have been any more different, with Rod becoming a fan favourite, Ray hardly featuring. In three years he would make just a handful of appearances before joining Stoke.

Howard Wilkinson was always a very pragmatic man. He believed that if 1 in 3 transfers worked out that you had done well. This goes a long way to explaining why so many of his signings came from his former club Sheffield Wednesday. Carlton Palmer and Nigel Worthington were the first two players joining the squad, with Palmer being given the number 4 shirt. Comparisons were instantly made to David Batty but Palmer was keen to disparage such talk. Palmer was an England international under Graham Taylor and, in one of my favourite ever football facts, has as many caps than Stan Collymore and Andy Cole combined. Let that sink in for a moment.

Nigel Worthington had spent some time playing under Sgt Wilko at Wednesday. He was seen as a reliable signing who could fill in at left back or left midfield. With Leeds having players like Gary Speed and Tony Dorigo amongst the ranks, fans weren't too interested in seeing someone who looked like he should have retired already trudging up and down the left.

Wilkinson looked further than South Yorkshire for his next two signings, but he did stick to the South, South Africa in fact. First in was Phil Masinga, a striker from Mamelodi Sundowns. Racking up a near goal-a-game record in over 100 matches, Masinga was seen as competition for Deane and Wallace as a tall, strong and pacey forward.

The second of the South African signings would come in to try and help Masinga settle quicker. Lucas Radebe joined from Kaizer Chiefs having spent time playing for them as both a goalkeeper and a central midfielder. Just three years before, Radebe had been shot but fortunately, as fortunate as you can be whilst being shot, managed to avoid any of his organs. He would join a squad that had plenty of midfield options and would find chances in the side limited.

The first half of Leeds' season would prove to be the definition of inconsistent. Within the first month, Leeds had beaten both Manchester United and Arsenal and yet were knocked out of the League Cup in the first round over two legs by Mansfield Town and taken to a replay in the FA Cup against Walsall, a game which was settled by an extra-time hat-trick from Phil Masinga.

January would see the signing of another player from Africa, although this time plying his trade closer to Leeds, in Germany, for Eintracht Frankfurt. Ghanaian striker Tony Yeboah arrived after a falling out with manager Jupp Heynckes. Leeds were short on goals and Yeboah would supply plenty in the 18 games he featured in. Scoring 12, his arrival coincided with Leeds going on an excellent run, losing just two league games between January and the end of the season.

One big departure was another title winner and a key member of Wilkinson's vision when he arrived at Leeds. Gordon Strachan had featured regularly in midfield alongside Batty, Speed, and McAllister over a number of years but he made very few appearances in the 94/95 season. He was given a chance to make a start in management at Coventry City, brought in as player/assistant manager under Ron Atkinson. Strachan was another fan favourite for his tireless work in midfield and the fact he fell out with Alex Ferguson. Joining when already in his thirties, Strachan played with the energy of a man ten years his junior and he would win the Football Writers Association Footballer of the Year for the 90/91 season. He has managed Coventry, Middlesbrough, Southampton, and Celtic and is currently managing the Scottish National side. He's also regularly a pundit and is well known these days for his interesting press conferences.

Leeds' second-half form would be good enough to see them qualify for the UEFA Cup, narrowly beating Newcastle United to the final spot. After two positive seasons, it looked as if the club were pushing towards bigger things, but few could predict what was to come the next season.

DEANE LEEDS

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.