Everyone I speak to has an opinion on Leeds United. Here, I posed questions to a former player, as well as fans from different generations.
Lee, my brother, is 5 years my elder. Like me, he got the Leeds United bug through our dad and has followed Leeds around England and beyond while winning uncounted trophies on Football Manager.
My son Lewis is 12 and has seen just under 200 games at Elland Road. He’s also a keen footballer, representing Beeston Juniors currently.
Ben Parker played for Leeds United from 2005-2012 and then AFC Guiseley between 2013-2016. He now works for United’s media outlet, LUTV.
What is the happiest moment you’ve had watching Leeds?
Ben: It’s a tie between pipping Manchester United to the league in 1992 and beating Bristol Rovers to secure promotion from League One.
Lee: I should probably say winning promotion in 1990 or winning the title in 1992, but actually I think Lee Bowyer’s winner in the berserk 4-3 over Derby County in 1997 was the most delirious I’ve been.
Lewis: When we beat Derby County 1-0 in the play-offs last season and beating Derby and West Brom at home on Friday nights last season.
Ben P: During the Champions’ League semi-final run. The games at Elland Road were special nights.
What are the first memories you have of watching Leeds?
Ben S: Hearing ‘Eye of the Tiger’ play under the old, massive floodlights and the sense of anticipation and the noise that can be generated inside Elland Road.
Lee: Being cold. I don’t remember the game – it’ll have been in the very early 80s – but it was under the old floodlights and I was chilly! I was with my dad and it was big and noisy.
Lewis: The 2011/12 season.
Ben P: My first memory was going to my first game. It was against Norwich in 1992 and I think it finished 0-0.
What hopes do you have for the club this season?
Ben S: Keep playing football the classy way we do and that it gets us promoted.
Lee: Ah, it’s the hope that kills you… But, like all fans, I want us up – 1st or 2nd doesn’t matter, just please gods not the play-offs.
Lewis: Automatic promotion.
Ben P: My hopes are like everyone’s who are connected with Leeds…promotion!!!
What’s your saddest moment as a Leeds fan?
Ben S: Losing big games at Wembley in the League Cup final and the play-off final, plus the defeats in the play-off semis hurt, but the passing of two Leeds fans prior to the semi-final of the UEFA Cup in Turkey was a tragedy.
Lee: What came to mind first is when we sacked Howard Wilkinson. It was probably the right decision, but it definitely felt sad. Losing matches and relegations make you angry, but seeing Sgt Wilko looking shell-shocked was horrible.
Lewis: Losing 4-2 to Derby in the play-offs.
Ben P: By far it has to be the 2 relegations and what impact that has had on fans and people who work at the Club.
At what place in football do you feel it’s realistic for Leeds United to be competing?
Ben S: The top 6 of the Premier League.
Lee: That depends what you mean by compete. There’s no reason Leeds couldn’t be among the 15 also-rans in the Premiership, but without the odious amounts of money thrown at the top 5, you can’t truly compete.
Lewis: Mid-table of the Premier League.
Ben P: Realistically, I still believe we are one of the biggest clubs in the country, so therefore right at the top of the Premier League. There is a long way to go to be able to do that, but the potential is there.
What things haven’t you seen Leeds United achieve that you’d love to see happen?
Ben S: Win at Wembley and win a European trophy.
Lee: Win at Wembley. Heck, even score at Wembley.
Lewis: Leeds to win any piece of silverware.
Ben P: I was just a bit too young to remember us winning the old Division 1, so I’d love to see us win the top-flight title one day, pipping Man Utd on the last day!
What is your dream 11 from the Leeds players you’ve seen play?
Ben S: (Playing 4-4-2) Nigel Martyn; Mel Sterland, Jonathan Woodgate, Chris Fairclough, Ian Harte; Gordon Strachan, Lee Bowyer, Gary McAllister, Gary Speed; Tony Yeboah, Michael Bridges.
Lee: (Playing 4-5-1) Nigel Martyn; Gary Kelly, Lucas Radebe, Rio Ferdinand, Ian Harte; Gordon Strachan, David Batty, Lee Bowyer, Gary McAllister, Gary Speed; Tony Yeboah.
Lewis: (Playing 4-5-1) Kiko Casilla; Stuart Dallas, Ben White, Gaetano Berardi, Ezgjan Alioski; Kalvin Phillips, Adam Forshaw, Mateusz Klich, Pablo Hernandez, Jack Harrison; Patrick Bamford.
Ben P: (Playing 4-4-2) Nigel Martyn; Gary Kelly, Lucas Radebe, Rio Ferdinand, Ian Harte; Lee Bowyer, David Batty, Olivier Dacourt, Harry Kewell; Mark Viduka, Alan Smith.
When the sad day arrives and Bielsa leaves, who and why would you like to see take over his role?
Ben S: Carlos Corberan, or whoever Bielsa suggests.
Lee: There are too many variables. If he goes of his own accord after a couple of successful seasons and the supposed plan of Carlos Corberan taking over happens, cool. If he ends up going sooner, then we will obviously tear the whole thing down again and replace him with someone who “knows the league” and the cycle of failure will begin anew.
Lewis: Anyone with as much experience and humility.
Ben P: That’s a difficult one to answer because I would like to see Bielsa in charge for a very long time!
Would you like to work in football media and/or football coaching?
Ben S: Yes, on both fronts.
Lee: No, not really.
Lewis: Coaching, because I think that would be the better role for me.
How far in football media and or football coaching do you want to go?
Ben P: I just want to do the best as I possibly can and where that takes me, who knows?
After Leeds, which other team/s’ results do you look out for ?
Ben S: Local sides like Guiseley, and further afield Hearts and Real Madrid.
Lee: AC Milan, as I fell for them in the 90s when Channel 4 followed Gazza to Italy. Sadly, like Leeds, they’ve been having it rough for a while now too.
Lewis: I look out for Manchester City to see if this is their treble-winning season as that will upset the Reds in Manchester, and also Guiseley.
Ben P: I naturally look out for the teams who I have played for and teams who I have mates playing for.
Your proudest moment as a Leeds player?
Ben P: As a player it was making my debut. As a fan, the way the Club has dealt with adversity.
What are your 3 best memories of playing for Leeds?
Ben P: Making my debut; promotion to the Championship; the first game I played at Elland Road.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming footballers?
Ben P: To always give your all and to enjoy it.
Who is the toughest or most gifted player you played against?
Ben P: I had some good battles against an old teammate, Max Gradel, when he was at Leicester.
Why do you think it’s important for the City of Leeds to have a successful football team?
Ben S: As it’s a massive city with only one team, the income it could generate for the City in hotels, bars, restaurants and so on is vital.
Lee: For the City, it has benefits to the economy, and to the population. The growth of Manchester as a city is obviously as a result of many factors, but two, huge, globally famous teams cannot have hurt.
Lewis: Because the City needs sporting heroes and we are one of the biggest cities in the UK.
Ben P: Because everyone is so passionate about the Club and it creates such a buzz around the City when the team are doing well.
As the club celebrates its centenary, which of its achievements over the 100 years are you most proud of?
Ben S: Winning the FA cup in its centenary year and being the first team to reach the final of the old 3 European club competitions – the European Cup (now Champion’s League), the UEFA Cup (then the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, now the Europa League) and the Cup-Winner’s Cup. Also, 23 years after Howard Wilkinson set it up, our academy still churns out Premier League quality players. I’m also proud that people from outside the City like Andy Hughes, Dom Matteo and Nigel Martyn have become fans of the Club.
Lee: John Pemberton’s x-rated tackle on Rufus Brevett 😉.
Lewis: Leeds United making it so far and creating as many fans. They have always had loyal fans through the ups and downs.
Ben P: I’m proud of the fact that after a century, we are still regarded all over the world as a big club, with the best support.
The reflections on the past, together with the hopes expressed by these Leeds United devotees, go some considerable way towards illustrating the passion fans have for the game and, in our case, for Leeds United in particular.
Photograph by Ben Scott.