Leeds United in the 1980s and 1990s
From Wilderness Years to Wilko
- Dave Tomlinson
15th October 2023
For Leeds United fans of a certain age, the 80s are the Dark Ages, the Wilderness Years between the collapse of the team that Don Revie built and the Rebirth brought to Elland Road by Howard Wilkinson in the 90s when Leeds United were for a time once again the best team in the country. That was before Wilkinson sold Eric Cantona to the hated Manchester United and then lost his way and his job. Success came too early and quickly for Wilkinson’s own good and when the Caspian Group bought out the club in 1996 they had eyes only for George Graham and gave him the chance to redeem himself from his ‘bung’ controversy. When George Graham high-tailed it off back to London, David O’Leary succeeded him and built a brand new and very exciting new team around his ‘Babies’.
The 80s were grim and grey days when Margaret Thatcher held sway and Leeds imploded before Wilkinson came over the hill like a dour knight in shining armour to lead the club back to the Promised Land and a completely unexpected league championship triumph in 1992. And oh how we partied when Wilko delivered the holy grail.
This is the tale of how Don Revie’s Paradise was lost, how Leeds collapsed into the Second Division, almost made it the FA Cup final and promotion in 1987 before Billy Bremner was sacked and chairman Leslie Silver recruited Howard Wilkinson from Sheffield Wednesday to develop a new legacy. These are the years when the First Division gave way to the Premiership, when money and television changed everything and football became a business rather than the People’s Game.
This book covers the period from 1980 to 2000 when Leeds crashed and burned and rose from the ashes to become the last English First Division champions.