So far on the site, we have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the rich history of football related chaos in England from the 1970s to the 1990s. One side that will pop up more than once in this era, both for player and supporter malfeasance, is Leeds and starting now we shall be seeing more of them. For previous entries in this fan-focused series, including some UEFA Cup ties and a Scottish trip to Switzerland, click here.
Leeds United’s golden age began around 1964, when the team were promoted from the Second Division and the following season finished second to Manchester United. They would win two league titles in the following nine years while finishing runners-up a further four times, as well as FA Cup, League Cup and Inter City Fairs Cup x2 victories (the last ever holders in the case of the latter).
Renowned for their hardmen players and style of play, the nickname “Dirty Leeds” was as apt for the the team as it was for the swathes of the support who, like clubs the country over, were playing their own new game on the terraces. Leeds’ hooligan element first made a name for itself internationally at the 1975 UEFA Cup final in Paris against Bayern Munich, throwing ripped chairs after dubious ref calls, clashing with police and invading the pitch.
As a results, Leeds were granted the honour of being the first English club to be banned from European competition, with a four year sentence later reduced to two. The ban would turn out to be inconsequential, however, as the golden age on the pitch ended, ultimately resulting in the team’s relegation at the end of the 81/82 season.
Throughout the club’s 80s run in the second flight, supporters incidents around the country continued to haunt Leeds’s public relations department and terrify regular opposition fans and unfortunate third party onlookers alike. Their firm, the Leeds United Service Crew (formed the same year as the trouble in Paris), became so feared by 1987 that tiny Telford United understandably refused to host an FA Cup 3rd round fixture against the Yorkshire club, with the game moved 30 miles from Shropshire to West Brom’s Hawthorns.
In order to contain the likes of the LUSC, most grounds around the country (a noticeable exception being Highbury) had menacing, but often ineffectual, fencing around the pitch to keep wayward rouges in the stands. The aftermath of the disaster at Hillsborough in 1989 would see the end of fences and terracing in the top leagues, but it would take a few more years for the full transition.
After years of upper-mid table mediocrity, the 89/90 season set the scene for Leeds to finally make it back to the First Division. A great start to the season was followed by a new year dip in form, with only one win in six going into what had become a must-win game away at Oxford in March.
- Oxford United vs Leeds United
- Football League Division Two, 89/90
- Manor Ground (Oxford)
- 8397 spectators
With the away fans filling the steep terrace behind the goal to the left, the main thing of note is the imposing fence in appropriate Leeds blue and yellow, also the colours of their hosts Oxford. It is a striking visual for a post-Hillsborough world:
While we don’t have much footage of the home supporters, there are one group of standing “lads” in the corner adjacent to away end. Although these could very well be a group of Leeds:
And we can see that the main stand opposite the camera is divided into at least three roofed parts at this time in the Manor Ground:
In the first half, the main traveling contingent can only watch on silently as the home team score twice, their side’s bad run looking set to continue:
Shooting towards their own fans in the second half though, Leeds pull one back to reignite the terrace:
Buoyed, the smell of a comeback is in the air:
Soon after (we don’t have exact times, hence the vagueness) the equaliser comes, queuing cascading chaos behind the goal:
The visiting supporters are now collectively purring like kittens as they suckle from the mother cat that is Leeds United:
Next comes the most epic moment, as the Oxford ‘keeper can do nothing about a beautiful looping header that makes it 2-3 Leeds. The result: pure, high grade terrace carnage, including one fan who ungracefully launches himself through the air in joyful abandon:
Feeling a euphoria like no other in life, more that a few bruises and cuts will have been sustained among the “lunatic” Leeds faithful (they won’t mind us calling them that) in the orgy of triumph, not least for our flying Yorkshireman.
But the wounds wouldn’t be stopping there as a while later as a fourth goes in to confirm the comeback victory. More mayhem and climbing of the fence ensues as the Leeds support erupt, while goal scorer Lee Chapman admirably attempts to elevate himself up towards the fans on an advertising board, but the hoarding proves weaker than first thought forcing Chapman to celebrate with his teammates:
Wild celebrations continue as more fan avalanches are triggered. With the impending transformation of English stadiums, it is a scene that would soon be obsolete:
The jubilation that day in Oxford was not in vein as Leeds United went on to win the Second Division title, with a huge invasion of Bournemouth on the last day of the season (a toxic affair that we will come back to). Following promotion, it would only be two seasons before another league championship as Leeds won the last English First Division before it became the Sky-backed Premiership, making them the final winners of an irrelevant competition in many modern eyes for the second time in their history.
Credit to the YouTube uploaded: Oxford vs Leeds, 1990