On this date 24 years ago (26 April 1992) Leeds United won the last Football League Championship before the arrival of the Premier League. I have followed the team since the 1960s, and this feels like a good day to copy my childhood memories about the club from my book “1000 Memories” to this Blog. You’ll find them here, going right back to why I began supporting them.
That League title was the last trophy won by the club. We stayed in the top division for a further 12 years and have now spent 12 years in lower divisions. We will spend at least another year in the second tier of English Football, The Championship as it is now called.
This date in 1992 was a Sunday. I remember it well. I was offered a ticket to the day’s big West London derby, Brentford v Fulham. They were both in the Third Division (which was the no-nonsense name for the third tier of English football back then, not “League One” as it now is). Brentford were on their way to winning the division and promotion to the Second Division (and Fulham were about to be relegated to the Fourth Division). It was a noon kick-off, as was the Leeds game, away at Sheffield United. There were far fewer televised games back then. The Leeds game was only on the radio, not on TV, but I wanted to stay home and listen. My weekends in the first six months of 1992 were usually spent renovating parts of the house. I was stripping wallpaper from the first floor bathroom while Brentford were heading to a 4-0 win against Fulham and Leeds won a tense game 3-2.
The result left Leeds four points clear of Manchester United with a game to play. Man U had two games left, starting with their match at Liverpool later that afternoon. The game was shown live on ITV, with extended highlights of the Leeds game beforehand. The arithmetic was simple. If Liverpool won, Leeds would win the League, and that’s what happened. Liverpool’s 2-0 win included Ian Rush’ first goal against Man U, in his 24th game against them.
I still have the VHS tape of that ITV show (“The Match” as it was called), the Leeds highlights followed by the whole of the Liverpool game. It still plays fine on our one remaining VCR. I recorded the show live, and stopped and re-started the recording either side of every ad break. I am interested to know what products were being advertised 24 years ago but my expertise with a video remote control means that there isn’t a single advert anywhere on the tape. Elton Welsby presented the show and commentary was by the late Brian Moore, with comments from Ian St John. Watching it after all these years you notice how the rules have changed: it was the last season when goalkeepers could handle back passes. Instinctively you think that the keeper is going to kick the ball every time it’s passed back to him but he always picks it up. (The back pass rule was introduced that summer to speed the game up, to make it more exciting.)
I stilI have other games on video from that season, including the wins at Sheffield Wednesday (6-1), Aston Villa (4-1) and at home to Coventry (2-0). Every now and then I look at them on the shelves and wonder whether I will ever watch them through again, or any of the few hundred other VHS tapes still taking up shelf space. (I used to have thousands of VHS tapes, many of them not even labelled, but have recycled at least 80% of them in the last five years.)
This year Leeds end their season mid-table in a lower division, again, but like many football watchers I have been enjoying Leicester City’s exploits in the Premier League. Watching their 4-0 win last Sunday with a Leicester-supporting mate (our third Sunday in a row in a local pub, watching his team on Sky Sports) reminded me of those Leeds games in 1992, counting down the remaining fixtures, doing the arithmetic. Our last five games that season consisted of four wins and a draw and Leicester’s last five results have been the same. After last night’s game (Spurs 1 West Brom 1) Leicester will win the title if they win just one of their last three games. If you’re into English football you probably know that already, but you might not remember the 1991-92 season quite as well as I do. As I noted last week in this piece about “University Challenge”, when you follow a team you have to enjoy the good times when they happen, if they happen. For me 26 April 1992 was a good time. I hope that Leicester City fans enjoy something similar very soon.