It is always a thankless task selecting the “Greatest” anything, as people are influenced, sometimes by favouritism from a popularity point of view. Sometimes it’s simply by the fact that the players were from an era before a person started supporting the club and in many cases before they were even born. However, while selecting our greatest Leeds United midfielders ever, we took into consideration various factors, to make the list as accurate as possible.
Taking into account, fan surveys, online polls, expert opinions and the impact they had on the club, here are the 6 greatest Leeds United midfielders ever.
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6. David Batty
Batty has a reputation as a tough-tackling, short-pass making hardman but his 42 England caps testify that there’s more to this former Leeds City Boys start than simply winning the ball and laying it off. Batty was a crucial part of the Howard Wilkinson/title-winning era.
A superb ball-winner and passer he gained 14 of his 42 full England caps with Leeds before a surprise £2.75m transfer to Blackburn Rovers in 1993. He was their Player of the Year and added a further Championship medal to the one already won at Leeds in 1992. Batty joined Newcastle United for £3.75m in 1996 where he narrowly missed out on third title. He returned home for £4.4m in 1998 for another 6 year stint at the club.
His one fault however was the lack of goals he scored. Over the course of his two spells at Leeds United, Batty made over 300 league appearances, finding the back of the net just four times. In his second spell with the club, his lack of goals led to chants of ‘shoot’ from the Elland Road faithful every time he picked up the ball, regardless of how far away from goal he may have been. But David Batty was also a master of pinpoint passing and was often the catalyst for many Leeds United goals.
5. Gary McAllister
Born Motherwell in 1964, Gary McAllister proved to be the most consistent Leeds player in his six seasons at Elland Road, and was as articulate off the field as on it. One of the greatest Leeds United midfielders ever, Scottish international ‘Macca’ sprayed the ball around like an Italian, was deadly at set pieces and packed a powerful shot — which brought him a higher than average number of goals from midfield.
After winning the Second Division championship, Howard Wilkinson sought to add skill to United’s muscular approach and beat off a challenge from Brian Clough to land the rising Leicester City star for £1m. McAllister dovetailed perfectly with Strachan, Batty and Speed to form an all-star international midfield, who were magnificent, as Leeds won the 1991-92 title.
Captain of Leeds and Scotland, he won most of his 50+ caps while at Leeds where he played 293 games, scoring 45 times. He left for Coventry for £3m in 1996 and also played for Liverpool before returning to Coventry as player/manager.
4. Gordon Strachan
After a successful career with Manchester United, Scottish international Gordon Strachan fell out with the manager, Alex Ferguson. Howard Wilkinson brought Gordon Strachan to Elland Road in 1989, where the £200,000 transfer fee was soon justified as the hard-working, red headed Scot helped Leeds United to promotion in his first full season with the club.
Gordon Strachan remained a big influence the following year as Leeds United finished fourth and the Scottish midfielder was voted The Football Writers Player of the Season 1991. He would go on to appear with Leeds 311 times from 1988 to 1996, scoring 57 goals.
But Leeds United fans fondest memories of Gordon Strachan will be his performances that helped Leeds beat former club Manchester United to be crowned First Division Champions in 1992. The hard-working Scot formed part of a formidable Leeds United midfield, largely recognised as the key to Howard Wilkinson’s success.
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3. John Giles
Diminutive, fleet footed and quick-thinking, Giles was the unsung hero of Revie’s Leeds, diligently probing the midfield, snuffing out opposition attacks and building moves. He joined the club from rivals Manchester United in 1963 for a fee of £33,000 and went on to become one of the finest signings in English football history.
His slight physique belied a combative streak which allowed Revie to transform him into a central midfielder having spent much of his early career out on the wing. Next to Bremner, Giles would go on to patrol Leeds’ midfield throughout the 1960s and ‘70s.
Winning Division One, FA Cup, Fairs Cup and League Cup winner’s medals, Giles was a prolific penalty taker, converting 44 spot-kicks among his 115 goals. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest Leeds United midfielders ever.
2. Eddie Gray
A winger blessed with dazzling trickery, Eddie Gray’s elegant runs were the most aesthetically pleasing feature of Revie’s Leeds side. Tall, skinny and playing with a slight hunch, the Scottish left-footer’s looks deceived, as countless beaten opponents could testify to.
Technically refined and perfectly balanced, Gray brought a sophisticated touch to a team built primarily on practicality and efficiency.
In the late 60’s and early 70’s, he punished the best defenders in Europe, scoring 68 goals in his 19 years as a Leeds player. But none of them was better than his brace against Burnley at Elland Road, his amazing dribble around 7 defenders before scoring. The Leeds fans were struck dumb by the majesty of what they’d just seen!
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1. Billy Bremner
As midfield warriors go, none come close to ‘the captain of the crew’ Billy Bremner. Voted the Greatest Leeds United Player Ever and with a statue outside Elland Road, the Leeds United fans appreciation of Bremner is clear.
His combative style however did lead to individual and team criticism from the press and neutrals. Few were willing to accept Bremner was a highly skilled, hard-working and tireless player whose combative style was more a necessary approach that was indicative of most players in his day and age. Football back then, was as much a battle of physical endurance and strength as it was skill and finesse. Luckily, Bremner had both.
Bremner’s Leeds career suggests some kind of destiny — had he been taller he might have played for Arsenal or Chelsea (who both rejected him). Had he not had a manager like Don Revie he might have left Leeds, homesick for Scotland, to play for Hibernian (who couldn’t afford the then-exorbitant £45,000 fee Revie put on him). And had Bobby Collins not been injured in Torino, he might never have been made captain — and instead drifted eventually to Celtic (where he was also idolised).
But everything steered Bremner to Leeds. After 586 punishing games for Leeds, he moved to Hull in 1976 for a paltry £275,000. Returned to Leeds as manager in 1985, but was sacked 3 years later for not gaining promotion. A heart attack on Dec 7th 1997, sadly robbed the football world of one of its true legends…honoured by a statue outside the Elland Road ground, which has become a shrine for Leeds fans worldwide.