Leeds United are one of the most followed clubs in England. Over the course of its history, the club have gone through many highs and lows. Many great players played for the club during their history. In this article, let us have a look at some of the greatest Leeds United players of all time.
Here are the 10 greatest Leeds United players of all time.
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10. Paul Reaney [1962-1978]
Reaney was one of the first fullbacks to assume an “overlapping wing technique”. His pinpoint crossing to the Leeds attack one minute was matched by his ability to pop up and clear off the Leeds goal line the next. He quickly earned a reputation as a fiercely competitive, disciplined defender, capable of closing out the most talented of attackers. George Best rated Reaney as one of the two best defenders he played against.
Reaney made nearly 750 appearances during a spell at Elland Road that lasted around 17 years. In that time he would help United win the league title and Fairs Cup twice each, the FA Cup and League Cup on one occasion and help the Whites reach a European Cup final.
His ability to deal with some of the finest wingers the game has ever seen, including Best, with minimal fuss that made him such a key man in Leeds’ side. He was one of the reasons why United enjoyed plenty of success during that period.
9. Nigel Martyn [1996-2003]
Martyn became the country’s first £1 million goalkeeper when joining Crystal Palace from Bristol Rovers in 1989, having made over 100 appearances for the West Country club. Leeds paid £2.25 million for him in the summer of 1996, then a record for a goalkeeper.
One of the greatest Leeds United players of all time, Nigel Martyn, made 273 appearances from 1996 to 2003 and played a significant role in the team that went all the way to the last 4 of the UEFA Champions League, eliminating FC Barcelona and S.S. Lazio in the process.
Martyn played as Leeds’ first-choice goalkeeper for six seasons and was very consistent. He was named officially as United’s greatest ever goalkeeper, beating off competition from the likes of Gary Sprake and John Lukic – men who both won championship medals at Elland Road.
8. Norman Hunter [1962-1976]
Norman Hunter was a hard but skilful left half, nicknamed “Bites Yer Legs”. He daunted opposition players at home and across Europe, with his bone crunching tackling. Despite playing second fiddle to the favoured Bobby Moore, he was still capped 28 times for England.
In his 15 years at Leeds, he made 724 appearances, scoring 21 goals before moving on to Bristol City in 1976. He was admired by the Leeds United fans and other players for his playing skills as well as his impressive defensive abilities. He helped United win the league title, League Cup, FA Cup and Fairs Cup twice during his first decade with the club.
7. Johnny Giles [1963-1975]
Johnny Giles is well remembered for his time as a midfielder with Leeds United in the 1960s and 1970s. He was signed from Manchester United in 1963, and became one of greatest Leeds United players of all time.
A penalty expert, his creative partnership with “King Billy” Bremner was pure magic. In 12 seasons wearing the No.10 shirt at Leeds, he scored 115 goals in 525 matches. In his career as a player, he won 59 caps and scored 5 times for Ireland.
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6. Allan Clarke [1969-1978]
Allan Clarke is arguably the greatest natural striker the Whites have ever had. The forward arrived at Elland Road from Leicester City in 1969 as Don Revie attempted to build on the side’s maiden First Division title the previous season. And Clarke made an immediate impact, scoring 17 times in 29 league games in his first campaign.
Clarke’s positioning ability made him the perfect partner for the more energetic Mick Jones, and together the pair gave opposition defences so many nightmares. He scored 151 goals in 364 appearances for the Whites, including the goals that won Leeds the 1972 F.A. Cup and the Fairs Cup.
5. Eddie Gray [1966-1983]
Eddie Gray was perhaps the most talented footballer Leeds United ever had. The winger spent his entire playing career at Elland Road, making his debut in 1966.
The highlight of his Leeds career was his legendary goal against Burnley, when he flicked and backheeled his way past numerous opposing players to get into a scoring position, before putting the ball in the back of the net.
In 2000, Gray was voted as the third Greatest Leeds United player of all time, surpassed only by his club captain, Billy Bremner and John Charles. He was also voted into the Greatest Leeds United team of all time.
4. Jack Charlton [1952–1973]
Charlton was part of the England team that won the 1966 World Cup. He is the elder brother of former Manchester United player Bobby Charlton, who was also a teammate in England’s World Cup final victory. He spent his entire club career with Leeds United from 1950 to 1973.
Jack was certainly one of the most talented defenders of his generation, if not of all-time. He was an integral part of the Leeds side that climbed the mountain from the Second Division and remained at the summit for several years.
His height was used to great advantage at Leeds corner kicks and his surprisingly agile defensive ability kept out even the greatest strikers of his day. His 629 league and 762 total competitive appearances are club records. In 2006, Leeds United supporters voted Charlton into the club’s greatest ever XI.
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3. John Charles [1947-1957 & 1962]
The Gentle Giant, as he was known, began life at Elland Road as a centre-half. He quickly established himself as one of the best defenders the game had due to the way he married his technical ability with his physical presence.
At the start of the 1952-53 season however, Charles was given a new role in the team as he was asked to play up front. He adapted just as quickly as he had done when he broke into the first-team as a defender in 1949. He proceeded to score 108 league goals over the next four seasons, including 42 in just 39 games in the 1953-54 campaign.
As a centre half no one could beat him in the air and as a centre forward he was lethal. His form brought him to the attention of Italian giants Juventus who paid a British record fee for him in 1957. After five successful years in Turin – he returned to Leeds, who were then being managed by Don Revie.
John Charles was voted the greatest ever foreign player to play for Juventus. He won 3 Italian league medals with the club. Charles holds the scoring record in a season for Leeds United with 42 league goals in 1953-54. He made 327 league and cup appearances for Leeds scoring 157 goals.
2. Peter Lorimer [1962–1978 & 1983-1985]
Lorimer was an attacking midfielder, generally regarded as having one of the hardest shots in football. From 1984 to 1985 he was club captain of Leeds and holds the record as the club’s youngest ever player and record goalscorer. He was voted into the Greatest Leeds United team of all time.
His shooting aside, he was a superb right winger and his crosses to the Leeds forwards were deadly accurate. However, he will be remembered for his blistering shooting skills in his two periods with Leeds, which resulted in 238 goals in a total of 676 games. Capped 21 times for Scotland Peter also played in Canada, South Africa and Israel, before finally hanging up his scorched boots in the mid 80’s.
1. Billy Bremner [1959–1976]
Billy Bremner was arguably one of the greatest all-round footballers the game has ever known. His technical ability matched with his fighting spirit made him one of the fiercest competitors. He was the main reason why Leeds United enjoyed so much success while he was wearing the armband.
An excellent defender and passer of the ball, he always knew where every one of his team mates were, at any point of the match and played the ball right to their feet. No slouch in front of goal either, he scored 114 times in his 16 years at Leeds.
Scotland recognised his skills in 1965 and made him captain in 1968 and he played 54 times for them. Football League Player of the Year in 1970, he was idolised by the Leeds fans and given grudging respect by everyone in football.
Bremner would remain an important player in Leeds’ squad even heading into the twilight of his career as he made 34 league appearances in his final full season with the club before his departure for Hull. A heart attack on Dec 7th 1997, sadly robbed the football world of one of its true legends. He’s honoured by a commemorative statue outside the Elland Road ground, which has become a shrine for Leeds fans worldwide.