Even though the fact that Leeds have been out of the English top division for the past many years, they are still one of the biggest club in the country. The fan following of the club is massive. There have been some great Leeds’ side over the years.
The iconic Leeds side of the 1960s and ‘70s won consistently both at home and abroad under Don Revie are undoubtedly the finest team the club has ever produced. Howard Wilkinson’s Leeds of the early 1990s won one championship, while David O’Leary’s side of the late 90s and early 2000s threatened to achieve big things without ever really fulfilling their potential. In their rich history, many great players have played for the club. In this article, we will have a look at the greatest Leeds United XI of all time.
Considering the loyalty, legacy, impact, success and work rate, here’s the greatest Leeds United XI of all time.
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Perhaps one of the most underrated goalkeepers of the modern era, Nigel Martyn never quite got the recognition he perhaps deserved during his time with both Leeds and England.
But when he joined the club in 1996 for a British record fee of £2.25million for a goalkeeer, few would know how good he would be.
And, with sharp reflexes and agility, he remained the club’s first choice throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, playing a pivotal role in their UEFA Cup semi-final run in 2000 as well as their march to the Champions League semi-finals the following year. He deserves to be a part of the greatest Leeds United XI of all time.
Right Back : Paul Reaney
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 he deserves to be a part of the greatest Leeds United XI of all time.
Centre-back – Jack Charlton
Our first pick at centre-back is Jack Charlton, who was a real one-club man. He only played for Leeds United throughout his career and he made over 750 appearances for the Whites during his time there.
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.
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 greatest Leeds United XI of all time.
Centre-back – Norman Hunter
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. He was a brave, uncompromising and at times cynical central defender, his reputation as a hard man overshadowed his ability on the ball.
Hunter had sound technique and could build possession well from the back with his left foot, was fast and had a good understanding of the game, something which – when coupled with his firm approach to stopping opponents – made him a complete defender.
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.
Left-back – Terry Cooper
In 1961 a daring teenager turned up at Elland Road and asked, presumably with hope rather than expectation, for a trial. The teenager’s name was Terry Cooper, and he would not only earn a deal with Leeds, but would go on to become the club’s greatest ever left-back.
With his iconic white boots, we would dominate down the left-hand side with some blistering runs and he’s the man that some attribute the more modern-day attacking wing-back to.
Cooper also left a lasting legacy in a tactical sense; his forward raids down the left hand-side, both underlapping and overlapping, were a key part of Revie’s Leeds’ attacking arsenal and set a trend that future full-backs would follow. He deserves a place in the greatest Leeds United XI of all time.
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Right wing – Peter Lorimer
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.
Centre midfield – Billy Bremner
The first entry in the greatest Leeds United XI of all time, will always be Billy Bremner. Feisty, rugged and passionate, Billy Bremner was the ideal Leeds captain. He was Revie’s enforcer on the pitch, a commanding midfield conductor who performed fearlessly and acted as an inspiration during the club’s greatest era.
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.
Centre midfield – Johnny 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.
Johnny Giles was the man who commandeered the midfield alongside Billy Bremner during the 60’s and 70’s and it’s not a coincidence that they both find themselves in this squad together.
He was another combative player who switched from the wing to the middle through Revie’s guidance. A fantastic player and arguably one of the best we’ve ever seen in England.
Left wing – Eddie Gray
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 XI of all time.
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Centre forward – John Charles
Strong, fast, powerful and tall, standing at 6’2”, John Charles started out, perhaps unsurprisingly, as a centre-back after joining Leeds from Swansea as a teenager. However, following the rise to prominence of a young Jack Charlton in the early 1950s, Charles was used as a centre-forward.
His hulking presence, aerial ability, aggressive running and nose for goal made him one of the finest finishers in the world at the time and, after scoring 38 goals in 40 games in 1956-57, he moved on to Juventus, where he became known as ‘Il Gigante Buono’, or ‘The Gentle Giant’. He stands as Leeds’ all-time second-highest scorer, with his 157 total bettered only by Peter Lorimer.
Striker – Allan Clarke
Allan Clarke is best known for scoring arguably the most valuable goal in Leeds’ history: the winner in the 1972 FA Cup final against Arsenal. He was widely viewed as a crucial piece in Revie’s puzzle, bringing a genuine goal threat up front upon his signing from Leicester City for £165,000.
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.
Greatest Leeds United XI of all time –