Ask any Leeds fan to answer honestly and they would probably admit that the start to this season and Marcelo Bielsa’s reign has them dreaming of Premier League football back at Elland Road. The Argentine manager’s high-tempo, high-pressing style has rocked the Championship, with the Whites storming the league and also squeezing past Bolton to reach the second round of the Carabao Cup.
However, Tuesday was the 23rd anniversary of perhaps the most famous goal ever scored in a Leeds shirt, and all it seems to highlight is how, during the 21 years since Ghanaian striker Tony Yeboah left in 1997, the club have lacked a player capable of taking a game by the scruff of the neck and making it turn in their favour just as he was able to do.
Yeboah’s barnstorming volley against Liverpool in the early stages of the 1995/96 Premier League season is an iconic goal for all the right reasons; Rod Wallace’s looping header back, the height the ball drops from, the connection from his supposed weaker foot, the underside of the crossbar – it all just works.
It wasn’t just the goal itself either. The game was 51 minutes old and still goalless when Yeboah decided to bring it to life, and it became the only goal of the game as Leeds ran out 1-0 winners. It also didn’t even win Match of the Day’s goal of the season award, as Yeboah beat himself to the honour with another banger against Wimbledon later in the season.
Yeboah had pace, power and what Alan Partridge would describe as a foot like a traction engine. During his time at Leeds he earned himself a reputation for regularly taking the net off with unstoppable strikes and recorded 27 goals in just 51 appearances.
After he left for the Bundesliga and Hamburger SV though, things started to go downhill fast for the West Yorkshire club. A spate of managers and huge financial problems saw them drop as far as League 1 in 2007, where they remained until securing promotion on the last day of the 2009/10 season.
During those years, Jermaine Beckford and Luciano Becchio were the strikers who perhaps came closest to replicating the ability of Yeboah to change games, but neither will live as long in the memory of Leeds fans as the Ghanaian.
The current Leeds squad does look to have some real quality in its ranks. Kemar Roofe has been on fire upfront and Luke Ayling seems as though he could comfortably play in the Premier League.
The stand-out talent though in terms of changing a game has to be Samuel Saiz, who when playing behind the striker has the talent to create a chance out of nothing and can get out of tight situations quicker than Harry Houdini.
Saiz is perhaps a more modern style of game-changer than Yeboah was, but there is no doubt that Leeds will need him to step up this season if they are to return to the top tier of English football for the first time since 2004.