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.
The summer of 1992 must have been a wonderful time for Leeds fans. Coming off the back of winning the First Division, the final season before the start of the Premier League, you would have great reason to be optimistic. As was the case in those days, the starting eleven would pretty much pick itself. Leeds had assembled a team that in the space of only a couple of years had gone from winning the Second Division to winning the First. Only Leicester City have managed such an achievement in recent times, and they nearly got relegated in their first season back.
There was little transfer activity to speak of during that summer, with only two players departing. Glynn Snodin would head north to Hearts after spending spells out on loan during the previous couple of season. Making just short of 100 appearences, Snodin would find first team opportunities very limited once Tony Dorigo arrived.
Bobby Davison would also leave, joining Leicester for £50,000. Signed by Billy Bremner from Derby in his attempt to rebuild the side. He was a big part of the 1990 promotion winning side but was soon out of the first team picture with Lee Chapman and Rod Wallace proving to be a formidable partnership. He would go on to make a number of substitute appearences, grabbing a few goals but once Cantona arrived the writing was truly on the wall. Interestingly both Davison and Snodin would return to the club in coaching capacities.
Only two players signed-up during the summer, the first of those being Scott Sellars. He started his career with Leeds and featured regularly between 1983 and 1986 before being sold to Blackburn. He would make over 200 appearences for Rovers before returning to Leeds.
The second recruit was David Rocastle, joining for £2m, a club record fee at the time, leaving Arsenal to move up north. Initially seen as a replacement for Gordon Strachan, Rocastle joined after a falling out with then-Arsenal manager George Graham. A popular figure at Highbury, fans were upset with the club for letting him go after a strong season and spending a decade with the club.
Leeds fans could not have imagined how their season as defending champions would go. Of course to assume that you would be champions again would be optimistic, but no one would have dreamt that the side would not win a single away game that season and would almost be relegated.
Sellars and Rocastle would make sporadic appearances throughout the season, Sellars would even leave before the end of the season to join Newcastle. Worse would be the departure of enigmatic Frenchman Eric Cantona. A cult hero amongst Leeds fans despite not even playing 30 games for the club, Cantona would join arch rivals Manchester United for a bargain £1.2m after Howard Wilkinson had called to inquire about the availability of Dennis Irwin. Figure that one out.
The only bright spark during a dark season would be the Youth Cup success in 1993 coming against the Salford team. With a team featuring players such as Beckham, Scholes, Butt and the Neville brothers, United would triumph over two legs with a 4-1 aggregate victory. The home leg drew a crowd of over 30,000, the game which saw Leeds win the trophy.
Fortunately their league performance was not a sign of things to come, and Leeds would show a lot more the next year.
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.