Every Leeds United fan young and old has their favourite Leeds players. For the older generation, it may be the likes of Clarke, Lorimer, Gray, Bremner, for the younger generation you could look as recent as Beckford, Becchio, Howson and Delph. For many, a Top Five will include players from multiple generations.
To kick off this new monthly feature, a new ‘guest highlight’ feature to 2900Miles.com, we’ll be looking at Leeds United fan Keir Taylor’s favourite five Leeds United players of all time, in his own words.
In descending order:
5. John Charles
I love John Charles, purely because I’m half Welsh and obviously a Leeds United fan. John Charles played for Juventus, Roma, Cardiff City, Hereford United and Leeds United… twice. Charles started his playing career at Leeds United at aged 17 in 1948 where he made 297 league appearances, scoring 150 goals playing famously as a centre back and centre forward (weird, I know).
The Gentle Giant left United in 1957 for the Italian titans Juventus where he cemented a place as a cult hero and a bit of a legend after making 150 appearances and scoring 93 goals over a five year period. After the five years were up at Juve, Charles returned to The Yorkshire club for a year, where he played 11 times and scored 3 times. Charles then had a second stint in Italy for another huge club, Roma, where he stayed for a year.
Charles then played for his first Welsh club, Cardiff City, making just under 70 appearances, scoring 18 goals. Then he signed for his last club, Hereford United, making 173 appearances and scoring 80 goals. Even though it’s boring to read stats, those stats are impressive due to the fact that 3 out of the 5 clubs he played for are absolutely massive and he did well at all of them. To me, when I think of the best Welsh players, I don’t think of Bale, Ramsey, Williams… Allen. I think of The Gentle Giant, John Charles. It just feels like he made a platform for Welsh players to go on, and he was just awesome.
He played for Leeds United AND Juventus? AND HE’S WELSH? Awesome man, awesome player. However, he sadly passed away in Wakefield in February 2004. Such a shame. The footballing world really did lose a true great.
4. Gary Speed
Speedo. A man loved by everyone, a man who played for many great clubs. Gary Speed, another Welshman in this list. Speedo won Division One with Leeds United and is described as one of the greatest midfielders of the modern era. What a player he was.
Gary Andrew Speed was born in Flintshire, Wales on the 8th September 1969. At the age of 15, he moved to Leeds to pursue his career as a footballer, and pursue that career he did. Speedo played for Leeds United, Everton, Newcastle United, Bolton Wanderers and Sheffield United – loved by every fan at every club he played at. Also made 85 appearances for Wales
During his time at Elland Road, Gary made 248 league appearances, scoring 48 goals and in that time he was a regular in the team that fought for the league title and won it. To me, he is up there with the greatest players to play at Leeds and arguably one of the greatest players to play for Leeds after the Bremner and Revie era.
This isn’t the longest explanation as to why I love Gary Speed as a player, mainly because I don’t need many reasons, he is just a pure legend. Again, sadly, Gary Speed took his own life at his family home in Chester in 2011. I miss Speedo as if I knew him, weirdly. Rest in Peace, Gary.
3. Mark Viduka
Whilst I’m here, anyone know where to get the 2001/2002 kit with Viduka on the back? Cheers… (Editor note: Check out TheGelderdEnd.com)
VIDUKAAAA! ITS FOUR! Mark Viduka!
I think it’s fair to say that Viduka was primarily known for his performance against Liverpool, which is a shame because he had many more special moments. But still, that game against Liverpool was special.
United signed Viduka for £6,000,000 in the 2000/2001 season from Celtic. The season before his move to Elland Road, Viduka scored 27 goals and claimed the Scottish Player of the Year award. It goes without saying that this prestigious award is given to the best individual in that particular league.
Viduka arrived in his first season at Elland Road with a bang, scoring 22 goals in his first season. Including a very impressive four against the might of Liverpool, a game which Viduka claimed his own by scoring all of United’s goals, pushing them to a 4-3 victory at home. So, you could say it didn’t take long for the Aussie to make his presence known.
The 2001/2002 season wasn’t very remarkable for Viduka, although he still didn’t underperform. In 42 games, Viduka scored 16 goals. Still though, not bad.
His tenure at Elland Road flowed into the third season. But by now, Leeds were in a ‘bit’ of trouble with money and were now battling to say alive in the Premiership. This season would be United’s penultimate season in the top flight. The 2002/2003 campaign would end in a dog fight for Leeds United, but the two games that were memorable for Viduka would be the 6-1 game against Charlton Athletic, where he claimed another Leeds United hat-trick. The second game would be the pick of the bunch at his time at Leeds United, the 3-2 game against Arsenal that saved United from relegation, Viduka scored in the 90th minute to save Leeds United’s hides at Highbury. What a game.
The next season is where the story of Mark Viduka with Leeds United gets a bit bleak… United were tipped to fail before the season even started. The financial situation at Elland Road forced United into the selling of key players, but again Viduka was the top scorer and fought to save Leeds from falling into the Football League. Despite fighting alongside Alan Smith, United were relegated after a 4-1 loss to Bolton Wanderers. That game would prove to be Viduka’s last, also isn’t good knowing that he was also sent off.
Leeds sold Viduka in the summer of 2004 to help with the financial crisis. Even though Viduka was here for only three seasons, he still managed to make his mark on English football and that’s why I love him. He’s like that cool friend you only see for an hour and then just drifts off. Still though, all poor jokes aside, I love Viduka purely based on the fact that he had so much passion in him playing for Leeds and he always gave his all, the proof in that statement is that he was here till the bitter end. It’s a cool fact to know that the last player to score a hat-trick for Leeds in the Premiership was Viduka.
2. Luciano Becchio
I have a huge amount of man love and respect for Becchio. When he isn’t going on about meat on Twitter or his family, he is replying to Leeds fans. Which, to me, shows that he still cares about us and we all do still care about him.
Becchio is now playing his football for Rotherham United, just ‘down the road’ from Leeds, it isn’t right. It is also a well-known fact that Luciano costs less than Berbatov and scores more goals.
Becchio started his Leeds United career in 2008. Becchio was offered a three year deal at Elland Road after impressing manager Gary McAllister, and as they say, the rest is history. Luciano Becchio played a massive part in the build up to the most recent good Leeds United team and he was one of the best in that squad.
The 2009/10 season will be the one season that most Leeds United fans will remember… The season we climbed a division AND beat bitter rivals, Manchester United (Scum, Scum, Scum!) at Old Trafford in the third round of the FA Cup, with Becchio playing a big part in both occasions. In that promotion season, Becchio scored a total of 17 goals.
I won’t talk too much about what he achieved, because his arrival and departure was fairly recent. You still see people talking about him, you still hear his name in The Peacock and we still sing his name when we see him. Say it quietly, but I think this man may be a bit of a Leeds United legend. It’s also worth mentioning that Becchio is in the list of top 10 league goal scorers for Leeds United, every goal he scored had more passion in his celebration than the last. What a man, what a player.
1. Billy Bremner
Dirty, dangerous and Leeds through and through.
As every Leeds United fan knows, Billy Bremner was a god amongst men, he is the personification of Leeds United. Essentially, he shows what it means to be Leeds. The captain, the warrior and the greatest.
Billy Bremner captained Leeds United in easily their greatest era, also having a father-and-son relationship with Don Revie, who is arguably one of the best managers that this country has ever seen and maybe even one of the best managers to have lived. With the partnership they had with each other and the whole squad, it was never destined to fail. Although, to me, for how good they were, that Leeds United team underachieved.
Billy Bremner made his first appearance for Leeds United in 1960 at the age of 16. 6 years later, at the age of 22, he was given the captains armband in the Fairs Cup against Torino due to the usual skipper Bobby Collins being injured, this would prove to be the start of something amazing for Billy Bremner and Leeds United.
Within three years after Bremner was awarded the captaincy, he led United to three trophies. One of them being the league title. That season, United lost only two games. Although Billy’s Leeds were a dominating force anywhere in Europe, this is where the underachievement came. In 1970, United were chasing the treble, but it never happened… Losing the league title to Everton, losing in the FA Cup final to Chelsea and being knocked out of the European cup by Celtic in the semi-finals. Although United don’t have the silverware to show how good that season was, they still came very close and that can never be erased.
A year later, Leeds again won another trophy. The Inter-Cities Fairs Cup was lifted by Bremner a second time. United also finished runners-up in the League.
In 1972 after the previous year’s successful season, Leeds won the FA Cup against Arsenal where a huge crowd of 100,000 fans were there to witness that final, and yet again, United were runners-up in the league. In 1973/74, United won the league for a second time and were runners up in the 1973 FA Cup final. And finally, as a last huge moment of that great Leeds United squad, Leeds battled to the European Cup final, where they would play the German giants, Bayern Munich. United ended up losing the final 2-0 in controversial fashion leading to allegations of match fixing and bribery. (Editor note: That’s one too many stars you have on your shirts, Bayern..)
Still though, when I say they underachieved, it’s only because that they were so great and it’s as if people forget about that… But, having said that, United were still dominate and absolutely amazing. It’s weird how one man like Billy Bremner pushed and pushed since 1966 to make Leeds United even more impressive than they already were. For the sake of Leeds United he would break himself in two. There is nobody greater than this genius. Legend.
So that’s my list of my 5 most favourite Leeds United players. Remember, it’s not based on skill or how immense they were, it’s how much I love them as footballers thinking about what they did for Leeds United, and if you look those 5 names, not one player is there without merit. They’ve all made their mark on the club and it’s history. To me, that’s what matters when you’re a Leeds United fan. History escapes football clubs, but it will never escape us… Mainly because we’re not very good these days.
You can follow Keir Taylor on Twitter: @KeirTBB
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