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Thursday, 11 March 2010

Five Great Leeds United Comebacks...

As Leeds prepare for a huge game at St Mary's this weekend its hard not to cast our minds back to November 2005 when Kevin Blackwell's team completed one of football's greatest ever comebacks. For me this is one of the greatest footballing turnarounds ever but there have been others involving The Mighty Whites; (I'm sure there are more than this but these are some I can remember)

16.09.1992 - Leeds United 4-1 Vfb Stuttgart (European Cup)
It wasn't so much the game that was turned around, but the tie. Trailing 3-0 from the first leg in Germany, Leeds returned to to England with a mountain to climb. A relatively small crowd of 20,457 generated what is widely recognised as one of the greatest atmospheres Elland Road has seen (at 9 years old I was lucky to be part of it). The team responded to the crowd and took an early lead through Gary Speed but all seemed lost when John Lukic was beaten by a speculative effort from outside the box and Leeds need another 4 goals! A fantastic performance from Howard Wilkinson's side overwhelmed the Germans and goals from Gary McAliister, Eric Cantona and Lee Chapman left Leeds on the brink of mission impossible...disappointingly it wasn't to be, well at least not yet. The following day it emerged that Stuttgart had broken UEFA rules by fielding an ineligible player (a 4th foreign player, in the days when clubs were restricted to just 3 non-domestic players on the pitch at any one time) It was decided that a 'winner takes all' match would by played at a neutral ground to settle the tie. Leeds won the match at Barcelona's Nou Camp, courtesy of goals from Gordon Strachan and Carl Shutt.

The match is available for viewing on Youtube

10.11.1997 - Leeds United 4-3 Derby County (Premier League)
The first game I ever took my Mother to, naturally she was blamed for Leeds being 3-0 down inside the first half-hour. A dismay opening period in which Leeds were blown away by Derby was heading for a very depressing half-time interval when Rod Wallace pulled a goal back and a classy volley from a young Harry Kewell on the stroke of half time gave Leeds hope... Leeds dominated the 2nd half but struggled to find an equaliser until 8 minutes from time when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink confidently dragged Leeds level from the spot and as the game was seemingly playing out to an entertaining draw substitute Lee Bowyer smashed a 12 yard effort beyond Mart Poom into the top of the net from a cross into the box. Cue mass hysteria inside Elland Road.

08.01.1996 - Derby County 2-4 Leeds United (F.A.Cup 3rd Round)
You can't say Derby weren't warned! Leeds visited The Baseball Ground for a 'classic' F.A. Cup tie on what was a cold and sunny afternoon, if I remember correctly but the playing surface wouldn't have looked out of place in a World War II movie. The first half saw 2nd Division (The Championship) Derby reduced to 10 men after a foul on Brian Deane around the half way line was deemed a professional foul by the referee and it all seemed a formality from there... (Leeds' issues with matches that appear to be formalities isn't a new thing) 4 minutes into the 2nd half Leeds conceded 2 goals in as many minutes and were staring at the wrong end of an embarrassing cup giant-killing. As if to prove a point Leeds returned the favour on the hour mark when Gary Speed and Brian Deane scored in consecutive minutes to pull Leeds level. Derby sat deep and hoped for a replay at Elland Road, they came with seconds of achieving it. Gary McAllister won the game for Leeds in the 90th minute and as if to maintain the symmetry of the match Tony Yeboah added fourth a minute later.

16.05.2008 - Carlisle United 0-2 Leeds United (League 1 Play-off Semi-Final Second Leg)
Trailing 2-1 from the first leg where a 96th minute Dougie Freedman goal was about the only constructive bit of play Leeds managed, Gary McAllister's men faced an up-hill task against a Carlisle side boasting the best home record in England. True to form, Leeds rose to the challenge and were level inside 10 minutes when Jonny Howson's scuffed volley found the far corner and the away end behind the goal sensed it was to be their night. The game swung from one end to the other and Leeds missed a few late opportunities but everyone seemed resigned to extra time and maybe penalties. "But hang on a minute, here's Howson" were Ian Darke's now famous (relatively) words as Jonny Howson received a cushioned pass from Dougie Freedman on the edge of the Carlisle penalty area... another mis-hit shot skidded across the surface and into the bottom corner! Mass celebrations ensued and my Dad still bears the scars on his shins to this day!

19.11.05 - Southampton 3-4 Leeds United (Coca Cola Championship)
A game that I had a ticket for but decided it was a long way and Leeds were without a win in five so I returned it to the club, in the days when you were allowed to do so. I spent the afternoon in the local pub with a keen eye on Gillette Soccer Saturday, whilst my mates watched the 'Scum' on some Arabian channel. At half-time it seemed like an excellent decision, Leeds were 3-0 down and I'd saved the time and expense of a 500 mile round-trip. I remember specifically ordering another pint as news of Nigel Quashie's 45th minute penalty appeared on screen and I was coming to terms with another weekend ruined by Leeds United. After that I decided to just ignore it completely and only when my phone buzzed to inform me of a 71st minute consolation goal from Paul Butler did I show an ounce of interest. This was the start of one of the most incredible 15 minute spells in Leeds United history, further goals from Robbie Blake, David Healy and Liam Miller had The Whites in front with 4 minutes remaining! Leeds saw the game out and completed an incredible comeback, Oh to have been there that day! Unfortunately the only recorded commentary track of the game was for a highlights package and obviously recorded after the event, thus losing the shock and hysteria somewhat, although I think there might be a BBC Radio Leeds commentary on the internet somewhere. Looking back now, an incredible victory is made even sweeter as the Southampton team that day contained a certain Denis Wise...

Hopefully this Saturday's game is a little more straight forward and Leeds can keep on track for the biggest comeback ever... A return to The Premiership!

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  1. I new this was going to come up this weekend with our trip to St Marys,i continue to get loads of stick about that incredible match.Myself and 3 friends travelled over from Ulster (direct flights from Belfast to Southampton) to watch this game, at half time i was totally pissed of Leeds were crap the saints were marauding through our midfield and tearing the defence to pieces the only surprise was it was only the three. The second half started in much the same vain and after 15 mins i decided Leeds were never going to win this match and duly left (OMG I HEAR YOU SAY)my mates were undecided but stayed (alcohol played a big part in this decision)and witnessed one of the greatest comebacks ever. I managed to find a taxi and made my way to wetherspoons (thank f--- there is a spoons everywhere you go cos i didn't know any were else) were i found 3 other (stupid b-------)Leeds supporters at the bar, we were discussed how s--- we were when a text message came through 3-1 consolation happy days text message 3-2 surely not. I was getting a bad feeling but a look at the clock 10 to 5 must be nearly over text message 3-3 didn't know whether to laugh or cry, just about to order a jug of vodka and redbull (I'm small enough to drown in this) text message 3-4 i tried to muster a cheer and was promptly told by spoons staff to knock it on the head. We decided that Leeds only won the match because we had left (they were truly awful but you have to quantify it somehow0 cue more vodka and redbull, but i could not get rid of that sinking feeling. This fixture does not bring back happy memories for me but my mates, oh how they enjoyed it and i will never be allowed to forget it Would happily take the same result tomorrow (and know I'm not going) On and On Trevor

  2. As a southern Leeds supporter, my wife decided to buy me tickets to see Leeds play, on my birthday. We thought it was a shame they weren't at home that day, but hey, let's make a weekend trip of it. She had never been to a football match before, and what a match it was! I had to tell her that not all football matches are like that, but she had never seen me so low and then so happy in such a short amount of time!
    I don't get to see Leeds much, so for it to have been that one!


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