Leeds United’s recent rise back to the top league in English football is, to many people, expected. Any long-term fans of the club will tell you that the Premier League is likely to be just another stop in the road for the team. After all, they were already winning trophies and leagues before ‘top-flight’ even existed.
Known equally for having one of the hardest football firms around as well as its incredible trophy cabinet, Leeds is a team that many people underestimate. They’ve won nine trophies in total so far, including victories at the FA Cup and League Cup over the years. However, what’s most memorable about United is, of course, the fact that they were the last team to win the Old First Division before the Premiership came in.
Let’s take a look at how that came to pass.
Anyone who remembers English football in the 90s will tell you how frantic the whole period was. For Leeds, it started with pretty much the ultimate glory – being crowned the top team in England.
Even more remarkable is the fact that Leeds’ 91/92 season title arose in just their second spell in the top division. Of course, the Premier League would roll out for 92/93, but to clinch the First Division title on your second attempt is nothing short of inspiring. Even Leeds naysayers have to agree.
Leeds’ 91/92 campaign was a masterclass. Their relentless title pursuit was aided by their lack of goals against. In the whole season, the team only allowed four goals to get past their defences. Manchester United may have conceded just two more, but the figures start drifting out from third-place Sheffield Wednesday downwards.
Many people will likely call the 91/92 season triumph the work of coach Howard Wilkinson’s magic. However, we really need to look closely at the teamwork on offer here.
This was the season that Leeds – for the briefest of periods – played host to Eric Cantona. Cantona would only be a part of the squad from February through to conclusion that season. However, you don’t take on one of the greatest forwards of all time without scoring a few triumphs.
However, we also need to consider the world-class midfield section. Gordon Strachan – who is probably better known now for trying to get Scotland’s national team on the world stage – was an integral fixture. So too, were the likes of internationals Gary McAllister and Gary Speed.
You’ve also got to give an incredible amount of credit to John Lukic – with the cleanest sheet in the league for the whole season, and still one of the cleanest keeping records of the past 30 years.
Anyone looking back on the Leeds story will also find it’s a real rags to riches encounter. While the players definitely made the magic happen, it was the dynamic duo of Wilkinson and Bill Fotherby behind the scenes who got the club moving in the right direction.
Specifically, it was Wilkinson and Fotherby’s relentless pursuit of the perfect team that reaped rewards. After all, Leeds was still a fledgeling unit running into their second season of top-flight. The big bucks didn’t roll in for United just yet, but they got by – creatively, it would seem.
So – can Leeds learn a thing or two about their 91/92 season? Absolutely. Still regarded as their shining moment – amongst many big wins – we’ll have to wait and see if the team pulls together to replicate this season on their return into the Premiership. By the end of 2021, we might have seen an incredible renaissance.