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Does Anybody Remember Leeds United And Sheffield Wednesday?

Hillsbrough after floods in 2008

Wednesday were all at sea for years… 

Did you ever think that you would look at the Premier League table and see the Wigan in 7th, Hull take 20 points in the first 9 games and Fulham challenging for 6th?

If  that wasn’t strange enough, once Champions League semi-finalists Leeds United are currently sitting in the middle of the third tier following in similar footsteps to the once impressive Sheffield Wednesday. 

So what happened to the big boys who are nowhere to be seen in England’s top 20?

 Leeds United – Essentially, Leeds spent millions that they simply did not have under the guidance of then chairman, Peter Ridsdale (now at Cardiff City) . Ridsdale took out large loans to buy players in an effort to build on the success of previous high finishes. The club expected to pay these back with prize money and revenue from television rights obtained from progress in the UEFA Champions League. Of course Leeds then failed to qualify and this led to high profile player sales to try and keep the club afloat, most notably Rio Ferdinand to bitter rivals Manchester United. This transfer caused the dispute between Ridsdale and manager David O’ Leary, under whom they never finished lower than fifth. Terry Venables took over followed by Peter Reid and then Eddie Gray but alas after three years of financial meltdown the club was relegated.

United were then the subject of a succesful take over bid by a Ken Bates (the once controversial Chairman of Chelsea). The club nearly made a return at the second attempt under Kevin Blackwell, Leeds finished fourth and reached the play-off final only to lose to Watford. Blackwell was sacked early in the following season after a sluggish start and was replaced by Dennis Wise. Despite the change in regime wise couldn’t lift Leeds out of the bottom three. With relegation virtually assured, the club applied to go into administration immediately in an attempt to incurr the 10 point dedution penalty whilst in the Championship. The football league overruled this and after a lengthy court battle and dispute with Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, Leeds started life in League One, 10 points adrift. Amazingly they still reached the play off final and lost to Doncaster.

Leeds in 2009

They are currently seventh in League One and four points off the play-offs with a game in hand. Should Leeds achieve promotion, it will be an arduous task to keep them in the second tier. It will be a long, LONG time before Leeds compete for European football again.

Sheffield Wednesday – In the 1990/91 season Wednesday were relegated to the second tier having spent the previous six seasons in the top flight. Little did they know they were about to enter the club’s most succesful spell in the modern era. Promotion back to the top echelon of the English game was secured at the first attempt with the Owls finishing third. For all the joy that promotion brought the Hillsbrough faithful, this was eclipsed in some style by winning the League cup in the same season by defeating Manchester United 1-0 at Wembley to win the clubs first major trophy since 1935.

 The following season Trevor Francis took over the reigns in a player-manager role to fill the void left by Ron Atkinson’s departure to Aston Villa. Francis success was immediate, securing a third-place finish in their first season and Wednesday made four appearances at Wembley the following season. Defeating bitter rivals Sheffield United in the FA Cup semi final and losing the final after a replay to Arsenal. The Gunners had beaten Wedneday in the league cup final at the twin towers earlier in the season.

 It was the 1994/95 season where most Wedneday fans feel it started to go wrong. After achieving another seventh place finish, Trevor Francis was sacked after a disappointing start that led to club finishing 13th and was succeeded by David Pleat and the latter by Danny Wilson This signalled the start of a managerial merry-go-round at Hillbrough, nine managerial changes followed in a mere ten years from Francis’ departure

Wednesday’s financial problems were starting to be exposed,  the managers that followed Francis invested heavily in the squad with very little to show for it. Inflated transfer fees, high wages and badly negotiated contracts were the order of the day for the ailing club and they soon had to offload the high earners.

Wednesday started to capitulate and were relegation favourites for the 1999/2000 season, a disastrous campaign demonstrated by the 8-0 thrashing by Newcastle United. As a last ditch attempt at survival Wilson was replaced by Peter Shreeves who failed to keep the club in the top flight, Wednesday were relegated away to Arsenal despite a 3-3 draw on the last day.

After relegation Paul Jewell, Peter Shreeves (again), Chris Turner all braved the hot seat. The Owls suffering another relegation under Turner’s tenure at the club. 

Stability And The Future

 Paul Sturrock brought the club off its knees and Wednesday were promoted to the Championship in 2004 via the League One play offs and even kept the club in the Championship after the promotion. Wednesday however started the next season in poor fashion and the scot was replaced by currrent manager Brian Laws who guided the club to ninth in the league. Last season Wednesday survived the dogfight but with an ambitious new Chairman and a solid manager in Laws  who has performed well on a shoe-string budget, Wednesday may well return to Premier League in the coming years.

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  1. leeds

    March 19, 2009 at 4:08 pm

    you all love leeds, gives you prawn sandwich armchair supporters replica shirt wearers something to chat about,

    manu are scum,

  2. Jack B

    February 8, 2009 at 11:51 am

    Breakdown the attendances and fan bases – Leeds and Sheff Weds have a significantly higher % of fans from their own city and county than the likes of Liverpool or Man Utd. It would be interesting if one of these succesful clubs got relegated to see what their avereage attendance was after 10-15 years with no sucess. I suspect the fan base would shrink massively as the glory hunters found new teams to support. Full marks to Leeds & owls fans for sticking with their teams.

  3. Burt Reynolds

    February 6, 2009 at 5:29 pm

    Leeds also on the final first division title in 91-92 with a guy named Eric Cantona on their roster.

  4. FredtheRed

    February 6, 2009 at 9:47 am

    No we know they are, Leeds fans still think they're in the Premiership. get used to the third tier, cos you're not getting promoted any time soon.

  5. FredtheRed

    February 6, 2009 at 9:46 am

    I live in Wythenshaw, muppet. Had a season ticket on the stretford end 27 years. John Charles didn't paly in the 1970's team did he? Jack Charlton was also at the end of his career then too. Eddie Gray international class? You must be joking.

  6. FredtheRed

    February 6, 2009 at 9:44 am

    No he didn't. He owned Derby County, had his son as a puppet chairman at OXford and tried to get his other son to become chairman of Reading. He wanted to merge Oxford and reading to form the Thames Valley Royals.

  7. FredtheRed

    February 6, 2009 at 9:39 am

    Because delusional fans need putting im thier place. United have won nearly as many trophies in 2008 than Leeds have in their entire history. Now that should tell you all you need to know.

  8. MIKE

    February 6, 2009 at 9:33 am


  9. ls7

    February 6, 2009 at 8:54 am

    FourFourTwo ran a great article on the Maxwell-Oxford saga

  10. Burt Reynolds

    February 6, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Umm… no kidding. I was referring to teams on a downward spiral, and Forest have already been down

  11. Chris_Walker

    February 6, 2009 at 8:17 am

    fred has stirred my head a little there, a similar size to Leeds is Sheffield, add the attendance of both teams together in the top flight and you are looking at 65 to 70,000, not bad considering that the only trophy either club has lifted since the 30's is the league cup that Wednedsay won in 91, just a passing observation. Im sure there are other city's that could claim simliar statistics.

  12. Hardy

    February 6, 2009 at 6:57 am

    fred you took alot of time to write your tale about a club you dont remember

  13. Andy

    February 6, 2009 at 6:24 am

    Leeds United are a Third Division club for christ sake – – – – and here you are, fred the Red, debating with us like we are AC Milan. Ask yourself why ?
    Because we will return.

  14. glory hunter hater

    February 6, 2009 at 5:04 am

    fred the red………….. obvious bias and some riculous comments regarding Leeds United's history (ever heard of jacky Charlton, John Charles, Eddie Gray) luckily I am the only one stupid enough to rise to your bait, I have one more thing to add- “glory hunting red scum, bet you've never even been to your stadium, enjoy your replica shirt from soccer-sports… it doesnt make u a supporter u know… just another sheep. Baaaaahhhh!!!!”

  15. Chris_Walker

    February 6, 2009 at 4:36 am

    i did want to include Forest in the list but i did have trim out a lot of things in the article due to its sheer size, particularly about Wednesday's numerous changes in managers in more depth and where the players from Leeds champion league sqaud are plying their trade now.

    No doubt Forest are worthy of the list Whitefan, point taken.

  16. WhitesFan

    February 6, 2009 at 3:38 am

    Leeds were docked 15 points, in theory, for escaping administration in an unapproved way. If you actually read the judgement the reduction was in breach of the FL's own rules, which didn't give it the authority to allow a “special case” for Leeds to escape administration in that way AND dock points. But it was attached to an agreement by Leeds that they could not appeal. A subsequent appeal by Leeds, after the dust had settled, was quashed on the grounds of that clause. Arguably the reduction was contrary to English law, which doesn't permit such contracts to exist, but it has never been examined under English law, only under the FL appeals process (by the same person used by the EPL to run the original West Ham investigation).

    As for “big club” – Leeds is still, now, the third or fourth most visited club website in England, to give you an idea of the potential support. Leeds is, according to Encarta, the third biggest city in Britain after London and Birmingham (it depends how you measure it, Leeds is in the county of West Yorkshire, Manchester in the county of Greater Manchester, Manchester people are in the habit of claiming the county population as the size of the city, which is incorrect, but I suppose they depend on the subsidies). The statements on towns like Cardiff etc is plain wrong; Leeds gets higher crowds than most of the teams mentioned by “FredtheRed”, even now – and in the third division where Leeds now are, not only have they generated the five highest crowds of the season so far (despite not doing as well as, say, Leicester), they've also generated the highest home crowd for every team they've visited apart from Northampton, which I think was on TV.

    You should indeed include Nottingham Forest in the list. Re Oxford United, Maxwell killed them some time before his own demise. He somehow got himself into a position of owning (illegally) Oxford and Reading, and after a failed attempt to merge the clubs started raiding Oxford for players to shore up Reading. The Oxford manager – Mark Lawrenson – resigned and has never gone back into management, which is a pity as I can't stand him on television. But to be fair he was one of few people who did stand up to Maxwell – the league certainly didn't.

  17. FredtheRed

    February 6, 2009 at 3:08 am

    Now that is the funniest thing I've read in years. The only title you'll be challenging for is with the bin dippers of Liverpool for most violent travelling fan base.
    What was it? One European Cup final ever and you still lost it? I bet Bayern Munich don't even remember who they played that night.

  18. FredtheRed

    February 6, 2009 at 3:04 am

    Good Article, ignore the Leeds morons who seem, like Sheffield Wednesday, Southampton even bloody Coventry City that because they hung around the Premiership and got to a cup final in the last 20 years that they must be a TOP SIDE. You're a better writer than the dreadfully unfunny Richard Whittall, who's lack of knowledge about the beautiful game shines through his articles like a lighthouse on a stormy night.

    Leeds United? Nah, don't remember them at all. I do remember a small club, who got idea''s above their station and went bankrupt trying to recapture their only glory period when football in the UK was dreadful. A team of cloggers with a goal hanger upfront who wasn't international class. How many of theat Leeds side were exceptional international footballers? Bremner was the only one really but pretty standard at international level.
    The only shame is they're still in business. Leeds will never return to the top table at football, and to be honest, 10 good seasons in 90 years doesn't make a big club.
    How many trophies have they won?
    Last time they got to a major final?
    Big support base? You'd hope so in a large city with only one football club and no successful neighbouring side within 40 miles of them.
    Leeds United, like Newcastle are one of those dreadful teams that feels that because they've been in the Premiership for a while, are the only club in the City that they reside in, so they must be big. The top 4, Spurs, Everton, Aston Villa, Manchester City and Nottinghham Forest, are all bigger because they all pull 30k plus crowds in a minimum of two team cities. Cardiff, Plymouth Carlise and Hull City all have the potential to be bigger than Leeds and Newcastle because of the fan base around them. If Hull stay up, they can create a legacy for years to come.
    So Leeds and Newcastle Unites are not a big clubs, just a one team city sides that got lucky for 5 or 6 seasons Neither of them have history and the sooner Newcastle go back to their rightful place in The Championship.

  19. Chris_Walker

    February 6, 2009 at 2:46 am

    Leeds are a very big club and should be in and around the top 6 no doubt. I apologise if i made an error over the points deduction 'Rowley Birkin' i assure you it wasnt plain lazy journalism, but i will hold my hands up to the error. As for your point 'dioforce' i, like many other neutral fans who ive discussed the matter with can't see a fast route back for Leeds. The stewardship of Ken Bates will be an interesting one as he he bulit success at Chelsea. What people often forget though, is that he nearly ran the club into gorund in doing so and built up enough debts of his own. I don't doubt that Leeds will get there one day but i stand by the fact it will be hard for them to stay up. The current squad cannot even achieve automatic promotion form League One, a division that nobody can realistcally arugue is anything above a poor standard. If Leeds were to sneak up through the play offs this would no doubt swell the coffers but the money simply is not there to build a team to reach the top flight and stay there. And that is why Leeds won't play in Europe for a long time.

    Additionally Quej, the title was a tad tongue in cheek. They are two clubs with strong history and enormous fan bases. It is just unfortunate for the supporters of both teams that neither are likely to be where there were in the nineties for a long time.

  20. Andy

    February 6, 2009 at 2:37 am

    Leeds United – The Uncrowned Kings of the Continent.
    We have taken a jolt to our pride, but will return.
    Just enjoy the fun whilst you have the oppurtuntiy – Things change and those with long memories will cherish the day that Leeds return to upset the prima-donnas of the Premiership again.

  21. Quej

    February 6, 2009 at 2:00 am

    You ask if anyone remembers Leeds United? I could point you towards over a hundred stories/articles like this written about Leeds United every week by journalists/supporters of other clubs. On top of this, just check out the attendances at grounds that Leeds visit during the season. Every team records a full house as apposed to their usual 3-4 thousand. This is also why the Football League is doing everything in it's power to keep Leeds in the lower leagues, because of the extra revenue that Leeds generate for them. So in answer to your question, yes, EVERYONE still remembers Leeds United, EVERYONE !!!!

  22. henrymouni

    February 6, 2009 at 12:17 am

    What added dramatically to Leeds United's problems was the collapse of the transfer market at that time. Players that cost £10 million were suddenly worth £3 million!
    Ferdinand was the last high transfer fee until Abramovich arrived at Chelsea!!
    There are a great many clubs with horrific debts at the moment and this recession may well see the collapse of many!
    It is ironic that Leeds United are now in credit and one of the best run clubs in the UK!! Honours to Mr Bates who may well turn out to be the best Chairman in the clubs history!!
    The rich owners, who pay too much for players (including their obscene wages) will be the ruination of the Premier League.


  23. patrick

    February 5, 2009 at 9:06 pm

    How about Oxford United. When Mawell owned them , they where the next CFC/ Man City. Tons of money all promise.

    They ran up the ladder, almost ran it. Maxwell fell off a boat, died. and so did Oxford U.

    I guess in America the closest this is baseball, could you imagine the SF Giants droping to A ball.

  24. patrick

    February 5, 2009 at 9:01 pm


    Nottingham Forest is WAY above those teams.

  25. patrick

    February 5, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    in other words, thank goodness there is still a Leeds United.

    they will be back. someday.

  26. patrick

    February 5, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    Wigan, wigan wigan…

    bad fans, rugby stadium.


  27. kkfla737

    February 5, 2009 at 8:32 pm

    Good piece.

    Nottingham Forrest is also a club that has completely collapsed in my 15 years of following English football closely.

    I would argue however that Leeds is still one the biggest English clubs outside of England. I know more Leeds supporters in the states than fans of Wigan, Hull, Stoke, Pompey, Bolton, Blackburn, West Brom and Sunderland COMBINED!

    I've had some success convincing some of the Leeds fans to support City in the interim. When Leeds returns to the top flight they can drop City, but in order to maintain the connection to the PL I make the offer.

    It's really hard to believe. Leeds was such a constant in my mind as a top club for years until the O'Leary crash.

  28. AtlantaPompey

    February 5, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    …and I wanted to be the first one to point out that Southampton could follow the same route down to League One that Leeds did! Investments in players that did not play well, a new stadium that stretched the club's budget, and poor performance on the pitch resulted in relegation after more than 20 years in the top flight. Now they are mired deep in the relegation zone of the Championship.

    We may be following the same route. Cash strapped, overspent, poor performances, definitely deep in a relegation fight: Hopefully we haven't overspent ourselves quite as much as those other examples.


  29. dioforce

    February 5, 2009 at 6:24 pm

    Why would Leeds be unlikely to return to the top flight if they are promoted to the Championship? You ended your Leeds bit like this :

    “They are currently seventh in League One and four points off the play-offs with a game in hand. Should Leeds achieve promotion, it will be an arduous task to keep them in the second tier. It will be a long, LONG time before Leeds compete for European football again.”

    Lazy indeed…

  30. Chips Ahoy

    February 5, 2009 at 6:15 pm

    Correct. Surprising how many clubs survive in the Premiership at all with the comparatively meagre (as compared to Leeds) attendances they attract week after week though. Must be the guaranteed TV millions and the riches from the FA they receive every season.
    As for Leeds predicament they are now an attractive proposition for anyone wealthy and wanting to buy a big English football club for hardly any money-everything`s in place except for the team. And look at Manchester City. Not so long ago they were in Leeds` position in the third tier. Look at them now. Things change.

  31. hunslet38er

    February 5, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    What constitutes a long long time I wonder? The possible meltdown of english football could see that goal acheived much quicker than people imagine. A cheap buy and not far off debt free.. There are many worse options than buying into a single city, well supportedteam like LUFC and that could easily be within 3 or so years. Here's hoping anyway.. But to answer your question yes millions do..

  32. Burt Reynolds

    February 5, 2009 at 4:48 pm

    Then there's Southampton, Charlton Athletic and Norwich City… who are not far behind.

    • LUFC

      July 10, 2009 at 10:51 am

      How can you compare Southampton, Charlton and Norwhich with Leeds.
      Leeds are a miles bigger side none of the other clubs have ever been european super powers plus when southampton were at their peak we used to thrash them once even 7-0

  33. Rowley Birkin QC

    February 5, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Lazy journalism yet again. Leeds were deducted 10 points whilst in the Championship and a further 15 points at the start of the League 1 campaign.
    Please get some decent people to write for you.

  34. Andrew Trinder

    February 5, 2009 at 4:24 pm

    Regardless of what league they are playing in, Leeds United are still one of the Top 6 Clubs in British football, based on their fanbase and the number of hits they receive on football based internet sites. FACT. They might not have a good team at the moment, but their average attendance in the third tier still beats many Premier League Clubs.

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