Club History

Last updated : 05 February 2015 By .




Leeds United came into being in 1919 following the demise of the old Leeds City Football Club and joined the Midland League, playing their first game in that competition in November 1919.

Through the decades - 1920s It was on May 31, 1920 that Leeds United were elected to the Football League, polling 31 votes to step into the Second Division along with Cardiff City, who had polled 23 votes.

United's first ever fixture in the Second Division was against Port Vale, who, ironically, were the club who had taken over Leeds City's fixtures after their expulsion. United lost that opening fixture 2-0 and that was the start of a difficult league baptism for them.

Arthur Fairclough, a successful manager with Barnsley, had been appointed manager in succession to Dick Ray, who led the club in the Midland League, and they finished the 1920-21 season in 14th place in the Second Division.

But Fairclough needed only four seasons to take United into the First Division, and they went up as Champion with 54 points - three more than Bury who were runners-up. But it was a struggle in the top flight and after three seasons there, United were relegated.

United experienced an up and down existence in the 1920s and 30s. They went back into Division One 1928-29 but lasted only three seasons before making the drop but after just one season they were back in the top flight in 1932-33 and stayed there until the outbreak of war in 1939.

After the war, following one season in Division One, United had a nine-season run in Division Two, during which time the great John Charles made his debut, before being promoted in 1956-57. They were back down again in 1960-61.

1972 FA Cup Winners Success in cup competitions also eluded United and it was not until Don Revie took over in 1961 that real success came their way. He built a team around Billy Bremner and Jack Charlton that was feared both at home and abroad in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

He guided his side to two top-flight championships, the Second Division title, an FA Cup triumph in the competition's Centenary year, a League Cup Final win, a Charity Shield victory and a couple of European trophy successes before leaving in 1974 to manage England.

In the early 1980s, however, United's 17-year stay in the top division came to an end. They were relegated to Division Two and languished there for eight years, old boys Eddie Gray and Billy Bremner both taking up the reins at the club, before Howard Wilkinson brought United back to the top flight in 1990 as Second Division champions.

He also guided them to the First Division Championship in 1992 and to the League Cup final four years later, which Aston Villa won. The following season he was succeeded by George Graham and two years later Graham left for Tottenham and United appointed David O'Leary to succeed him.

The Irishman did a remarkable job in a relatively short period as the 19th manager since United's formation. It was during his tenure that exciting young players from the Academy were given a real chance to shine, Jonathan Woodgate, Harry Kewell, Stephen McPhail, Ian Harte and Alan Smith all coming through to make an impact.

During O'Leary's tenure as manager United made their mark again in the UEFA Cup and also qualified for the Champions League, holding their own with such European giants as Barcelona, AC Milan, Lazio, Anderlecht and Deportivo La Coruna to reach the semi-finals where they lost out to Valencia.

Leeds spent big in the transfer market but O'Leary's reign came to an abrupt end in 2002 when he was succeed by Terry Venables. United were hitting financial problems on a large scale at that time and Venables didn't last long before United turned to Peter Reid on a temporary basis.

Although he earned a full contract after saving United's Premier League status, Eddie Gray replaced him on a temporary basis, but after less than a season in charge, he gave way for Kevin Blackwell to become manager in 2003.

Blackwell guided United through some stormy waters but United made a poor start to the 2006-2007 season he was sacked and replaced by Dennis Wise in October 2006. Wise took over the reins, but was unable to halt a first ever slide into the third tier of the English game.

The new manager re-shuffled his pack in January 2007 and while March and early April gave hope of a great escape relegation was confirmed on April 28 when Ipswich Town's Alan Lee scored a late leveller to deny United the win needed to keep hopes alive until the final day.

Within six days, the club slipped into administration and relegation was confirmed by the mandatory 10-point deduction imposed on clubs who enter administration.

Dennis Wise A summer of torment began at Elland Road. After gaining creditor approval to bring the club out of administration the new owners (Leeds United 2007 Ltd) - led by chairman Ken Bates - were almost thwarted when the Inland Revenue objected to the CVA. 

The club's administrators KMPG put the club for sale for a second time, and once again, Leeds United 2007 were successful in buying the club.

However, without an approved CVA - the Inland Revnue's objection nullified the CVA - the Football League insisted upon on 15-point sanction before returning the "Golden Share" (Membership of the League). That proposal was supported by the majority of Football League chairmen, who voted in favour of a points sanction on the  basis that the club emerged from administration without a valid CVA, despite the fact a valid CVA was unachieveable.

And so it was that the club began the 2007/08 season 15 points adrift at the foot of League One. In a remarkable campaign, Dennis Wise's men won their opening seven games and went on to hit top spot, albeit briefly, on Boxing Day.

Wise left the club - favouring a role at Newcastle United - and former club captain Gary McAllister returned to take over the reins. McAllister slowly got the season back on track and after beating Carlisle United in the Play-Off semi-finals, he became the first former captain to lead the manager out at Wembley in a competitive game when United took on Doncaster Rovers in the Play-Off final.

That game ended in disappointment with United losing 1-0 and missing out on what would have been the most remarkable promotion in the game.

With a first pre-season behind him as United manager, his charges quickly rose to second in the table. September saw the team record six straight victories, and with no sign of a Play-Off 'hangover', United were among the pace-setters in the division.

But Leeds failed to live up to that early season form and McAllister paid the price for a run a of five successive defeats - including a 1-0 FA Cup second round reverse at non-league Histon - when he parted company with the club in December.

McAllister was replaced by former Blackpool manager Simon Grayson, who proceeded to lead the club on a tremendous unbeaten streak in the second half of the season. After losing at Hereford in February - when fans vented their frustrations after seemingly seeing their side reach a new low - United embarked on a run of 11 games without defeat and only lost one of the final 14 league games.

Striker Jermaine Beckford became the first Leeds striker for over 30 years to score 30 goals in a season, and the campaign eventually ended with Play-Off heartache yet again after Millwall progressed 2-1 on aggregate in the semi-final, following a 1-1 draw at Elland Road.

Undeterred, Grayson and his squad recovered from the set-back to start the 2009/10 season with a club record eight straight wins in all competitions, and a 13-game unbeaten start to the league season gave United a platform in the top two. By Christmas, Leeds were nine points clear in the promotion places, and when 2010 started with an FA Cup third round win at Manchester United - the club's first win at Old Trafford for 29 years - the season was shaping up to be a memorable one.

But, despite gaining a 2-2 draw at Tottenham in the fourth round of the FA Cup, the league form took a dive. United were also knocked out of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy Area Final on penalties at Carlisle and when Swindon won at Elland Road in April, Leeds slipped out of the promotion spots for the first time in eight months.

But Grayson's men summoned up one final push and promotion back to the Championship was secured on the final afternoon of the season, following a 2-1 win against Bristol Rovers in front of a full-house at Elland Road.

That success secured a return to football's second tier and Grayson's side went on to establish the highest league finish since 2006 after enjoying an impressive season back in the Championship.

The season was a roller-coaster with some great performances against the likes of Millwall, Coventry, Burnley, and eventual league winners QPR being mingled in with some heavy defeats. Preston became the first side ever to score six in a league game at Elland Road and goals conceded was the biggest frustration.

But Leeds did score 81 league goals - four players scored more than 10 for the first time in over 20 years - and Grayson's men would have secured a top-six finish at the first time of asking had it not been for a disappointing end to the season. In the end, United missed out on the final day despite beating newly crowned champions QPR at Loftus Road.

Grayson became the club's longest serving manager since O'Leary during the 2011/12 season, but there was a parting of the ways in January 2012 with the team sitting outside of the Play-Off places. Neil Warnock was appointed as the club's 27th manager at the end of February as the club went on to finish in mid-table in the Championship.

Hopes were high in summer 2012 as the experienced Warnock prepared to take charge of his first full season at the club. An unbeaten pre-season - which involved a positive trip to Cornwall - brought a sense of optimism, while a host of new faces - including the likes of Jason Pearce, Paul Green, Luke Varney, Lee Peltier and Rodolph Austin - gave United a new look as sights were set on mounting a promotion push.

Things started on the right foot, beating recently-relegated Wolves 1-0 on the opening day thanks to Luciano Becchio's diving header, but the team struggled to find any kind of consistency in the midst of off-field issues once again. Entering the Christmas period, five wins out of six and GFH Capital's protracted takeover of the club helped recover some of the optimism that had started to wane. 

However, just four wins from 15 games since the turn of the year saw United slide worryingly down the table and Warnock left his post following a 2-1 defeat at home to Derby County in April. Neil Redfearn again stepped in for the 2-1 loss at Charlton before former Reading boss Brian McDermott was appointed and helped avert any lingering fears of relegation with three wins from the final five games.

The likeable McDermott was an instant hit with the United faithful, even more so after his gesture of handing a 50 euro note to a travelling supporter during the pre-season tour of Slovenia. McDermott made four summer signings, bringing Matt Smith, Luke Murphy, Noel Hunt and Scott Wootton to the club and hopes were fairly high once again. Murphy, the club's first seven-figure signing for eight years, made a dream start to his career with a stoppage-time winner in the opening day win over Brighton in front of a sold out Elland Road crowd.

Things appeared to be ticking over relatively well heading into the Christmas period as United found themselves around the top six. But an FA Cup defeat against League Two side Rochdale followed by a 6-0 thrashing by Sheffield Wednesday the weekend after set alarm bells ringing.

January 2014 ended in turbulent fashion, with the club appearing to be for sale once again and Cagliari owner Massimo Cellino said to be on the verge of a deal. McDermott was absent for the 5-1 win over Huddersfield following reports he had been sacked the night before, but he returned to take training the following Monday and remained in charge for the rest of the season, finishing in 15th.

Following a successful appeal against the Football League's ruling of failing their Owners and Directors test, Cellino completed his takeover of the club in April 2014 as Eleonora Sport Limited purchased 75 per cent of the club's shares.

Summer 2014 saw the departure of McDermott and the appointment of former Forest Green boss David Hockaday as the club's head coach. 15 new players were brought in, including many from Italian football as the squad became almost unrecognisable from the previous year.

Hockaday's tenure was cut short following a 4-1 defeat away to Watford at the end of August and Redfearn stepped back in as caretaker and helped return the team to winning ways, collecting ten points from a possible 12. Slovenian coach Darko Milanic arrived from Austrian side Sturm Graz at the end of September, but was dismissed after six winless games and Redfearn took charge on a permanent basis from the start of November.

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