Saturday, February 16, 2013

OUR FRIENDS IN THE EAST



Leeds United, a welcome sight, a blast from the past.

Marsh and Yorath join battle in 1973
When the Lillywhites step out in their chosen away outfit for the day on Sunday, few will be the links to the golden era of wee Billy Bremner, Big Jack Charlton, to Don Revie and his dossiers, Les Cocker and his medicine bag. There will be no Johnny Giles prompting and digging, no hotshot Lorimer to larrup the ball home. The only constant, linking us all to the days of yore, is likely to be the phalanx of lively visitors from across the hills shouting about "loidsh" and "yerkshire" and otherworldly things that we simple folk can only guess at. 

Leeds represent something of a bulwark in our rose-tinted memories of past years. They strutted about in their all-white kit. They tinkered about with little number flags sticking out of their socks. They kept the ball for twenty minutes against Southampton that time on Match of the Day, enabling Barry Davies to go and make himself a cup of tea in the middle of his BBC commentary. They always seemed to be on the point of winning something, then messing up. It was a right royal soap opera, with The Don directing the traffic in his mac and lucky blue suit. There was Sniffer Clarke and Mick Jones with his cup final bandages. Paul Madeley, the "Rolls Royce" of English defenders and little Chic Bates. They won the league at a canter in 1974, then rocketed to the European Cup Final, where, after the referee decided to be on Bayern's side for the evening, the Leeds support gave us the other image that has lasted the test of time, that of rioting hooligans. A penalty not given; a goal mysteriously  disallowed. There were so many seats on the pitch that night at the Parc des Princes that the Leeds fans invented safe standing in extremis all by themselves. There was probably precious little else safe in Paris that night.    

The 3rd round FA Cup tie City played at Elland Road, Leeds in January 1978 was not only a classic of its kind but represented the end of that great Leeds era and also a microcosm of all that was seventies football: two star-studded sides, flowing football, flowing hair, heaving terraces, ill discipline amongst the players and considerable crowd trouble. 

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On 4th April 1992, City -flying in the top six of the table under the high octane stewardship of Peter Reid and Sam Ellis- were preparing for the visit of a Leeds United, who were one of only five teams ahead of them in the league. Leeds it was, under the schoolmasterly Howard Wilkinson, that were providing the main challenge to Manchester United in their seemingly never-ending quest for the league title.

The Yorkshiremen arrived at Maine Road in rich form and there seemed little to point towards the humbling experience that awaited them. By the end of the game, they had been handed a lesson in attacking football and clinical finishing, had had their title hopes severely dented and had ended up receiving what would remain their heaviest defeat of the season. It was one of two consecutive home 4-0 thrashings dealt out by City to their Yorkshire neighbours at this time.

A more recent cup tussle in 2000 reduced City to rubble, as a young attacking Leeds side took the Blues to the cleaners. Still we had the memory of a shot from Ian Bishop that for its beauty, accuracy and deadliness still takes some beating today.
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There have been many a tussle along the way and this year's reunion in the Cup will bring back great memories for many City and Leeds fans alike. Here are a few to whet the appetite before one of football's great rivalries is rejoined on the Etihad pitch on Sunday:

September 1981: Trevor Francis injures himself, a feature of his brief but exciting City career, but it doesn't derail City's impressive mauling of the visitors with two goals each for Kevin Reeves and Dennis Tueart.

August 1993: Opening day of the season. Flitcroft's late goal looks all the way the winner, but Brian Deane steps up and brings Leeds level at 1-1
April 1977: Brian Kidd nets one of his two goals in a 2-0 win at a packed Maine Road. Eddie Gray, Peter Hampton, Terry Yorath and Paul Reaney watch the ball fly in.
September 2000: Jeff Whitely and Mark Viduka struggle for possession in City's first away game of the season, a surprising 2-1 win for the Blues.
September 1979: A shot goes flying in during City's 2-1 Elland Road win. Goals from Paul Power and Kaziu Deyna sealed the victory that day.
January 2000: FA Cup action and a spread-eagled Nicky Weaver cannot prevent the ball entering the City net in the festival of goals that was Leeds 5-2 win at Maine Road. Goater and then Bishop with a tremendous curling volley had put City in front twice, before a multi-talented young Leeds side hit back in devastating fashion.
April 1992: the first of two consecutive 4-0 home routs of Leeds, this one almost derailing the visitors' hopes of winning the title in front of Manchester United
March 1993: Gary Flitcroft does battle with the late Gary Speed in a 1-0 win for Leeds at Elland Road.
March 1982: Kevin Reeves scores the crucial winner as both sides slip towards the wrong end of the table. Picture shows a tussle between Leeds hardman Kenny Burns and City utility player Aage Hareide.
January 2003: Robbie Fowler is about to swap Yorkshire dales for Lancashire moors, as Leeds are beaten by Shaun Goater and a wonder strike from Niklas Jensen. Goater doesn't care who he's paired with as long as he's fed properly.
September 2000: Steve Howey has just scored at Elland Road and is congratulated by ex-Leeds man Alf-Inge Haaland. City had just returned to the Premier league under Kevin Keegan and were setting out on what would be an eventful first season back with the big boys.

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Imbiber of Amantis 2005, cold water, black coffee. Victim of great Winona Ryder trouser theft; hapless dreamer, willing accomplice and crafty left sided midfielder.

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