Here, for the ninth month in a row on this Blog, and for what it’s worth, is a screenshot taken from the BBC website showing Leeds United top of the Championship, the second tier of English football.
I say “for what it’s worth” because it’s the same screenshot that was used in this piece from last month. The Championship table is unchanged since 8 March. There have been no games in any of the top four tiers of English football since 12 March.
As a Leeds fan I always note that today, 26 April, is the anniversary of the most significant date in the club’s history since the 1970s. It is 28 years to the day since Leeds were crowned English champions, the last winners of the old Football League before the arrival of the Premier League. I wrote about it four years ago, in this piece, when Leicester City were on the way to becoming champions.
During that season, as noted in that earlier piece, I watched plenty of Leicester games (on Sky Sports, in pubs here in West London) with a mate who supports them. (I also watched many games with him the following season: they lost every time.) Whenever Kasper Schmeichel made a save I would say, “Leeds Boy”, a habit I adopted many years ago when watching any former Leeds player who now plays for another team. I appreciate that it would be more accurate to call Schmeichel “Leicester Boy” (he has been with them since 2011) or even “Manchester Boy” (he was a trainee at Manchester City for three years, and on their books for a further four years, though most of that time he was out on loan). But that single season he spent at Leeds (2010-11) is enough for me to claim him as one of ours.
There are stronger claims for players who began their careers at Leeds, former trainees like James Milner, Aaron Lennon and Danny Rose who the left the club in (respectively) 2004, 2005 and 2007. They are all still playing in the Premier League, at Liverpool, Burnley and Newcastle United respectively. Along the way they have also played, between them, for Aston Villa, Manchester City, Liverpool, Spurs and Everton, and for Watford, Peterborough United, Bristol City and Sunderland on loan. Milner has been the most successful of them, winning the Premier League twice with Manchester City, and the Champions League last season with his current club Liverpool. Before all sporting fixtures were cancelled, he was on the verge of winning the Premier League again this season.
Over the years pretty much every team in the top two tiers of English football has featured former Leeds players at some point, from former trainee Alan Smith’s move to Manchester United in 2004 through to Jack Clarke’s move to Spurs last summer. Clarke is currently on loan at QPR, so when he came on for the last 15 minutes of the televised game at Loftus Road in January I couldn’t stop myself from muttering “Leeds Boy” in the general direction of the television, as usual.
If you have an interest in English football, and are at a loose end, you might want to take a look at every team in the top two divisions and see if any of them have had no links to former Leeds players over the last 16 seasons. That will cover all the years since the team was relegated from the top flight. I might do the same myself, but should warn you that my criteria for deeming someone a “Leeds Boy” can be a bit flimsy. I can be rather like the character played by Sanjeev Bhaskar in “Goodness Gracious Me” who claims that people in various walks of life, from Biblical times onwards, are, or were, Indian. Here’s his explanation for why everyone in the Royal Family is Indian (apart from Charles, who is African). And here he is explaining why Christianity is also Indian. My habit of saying “Leeds Boy” at every opportunity recalls his repeated use of the word “Indian”.
This was evident just before the football season was suspended. Eddie Nketiah, an Arsenal player who went on loan to Leeds last summer, returned to his home club after a few months because he wasn’t getting selected at Elland Road. Even so, when he scored an equalizer against Everton in their game on 23 February I was happy to refer to him in my time-honoured way: “Leeds Boy”.