Leeds United's greatest midfield warriors TSS March 14, 2011 Top fives 37 Comments It’s been said time and time again, that every successful Leeds United team has had it’s midfield warrior at the heart. The last time we found ourselves fighting our way back into the top flight, the second greatest fiery red-headed Scot in the history of Leeds United football club played a pivotal part in that success. Almost two decades on a new breed of Leeds United stars often feels like it misses the combative central midfielder. The box-to-box, win at all costs presence, whose determination and endeavour, hard work and no-nonsense tackling kept the oppositions counterparts awake at night. Here we look at five of the best; 5. David Batty The first of two inclusions from the Howard Wilkinson side that won promotion in 1990 and went on to win the top flight in 1992, David Batty’s reputation alone was enough to make the opposition think twice before trying to run with the ball through the centre of Leeds United’s midfield. Batty was in many ways, the complete midfielder. His tough-tackling and tireless approach to the game were no doubt his defining attributes, but David Batty was also a master of pinpoint passing and was often the catalyst for many a Leeds United goal. 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. 4. Bobby Collins Despite his poorly timed run – trophy-wise that is – in Don Revie’s Leeds United team (1962-1967), Bobby Collins played just as big a part in the Don’s success as those that followed. In many ways, Collins helped lay the foundations for Bremner, Clarke, Gray et al to go on and make their mark on history, whilst the man himself became a somewhat forgotten side-note. In his first year at the club, the diminutive yet hard-as-old-boots midfielder helped Don Revie guide Leeds clear of relegation to the third division. In 1964, the ageing Scot was also pivotal in the Leeds United side that won promotion to the First Division (now re-branded as The Premier League). Leeds’ first season back in the top flight saw them miss out on the league title by goal difference to Manchester United and lose in the FA Cup final to Liverpool. Nevertheless, Collins’ influence didn’t go unnoticed and he was duly named the 1965 Footballer of The Year. His Leeds career would ultimately be cut short by injury as the now 35 year old Collins suffered a horrific injury during a European match in 1966. Age and failure to recapture previous form meant his days at Leeds United ended before he could see rewards of his hard labour. Nevertheless, those of a certain age will never let his work go unappreciated at Elland Road, ensuring the legacy of the man is passed down from generation to generation – and deservedly so. 3. Peter Lorimer Less warrior, more cultured some may argue, but Peter Lorimer was never a man to shy away from a tackle. Renowned for his ‘ninety miles an hour’ free-kicks, Hotshot was a rare breed of midfielder who could not only get stuck in and help Leeds in a defensive manner, but also offered an attacking threat few teams could contain. Starting his career for Leeds at just 15 years of age, Peter Lorimer was such an attacking threat that to this day, he still tops the list of all-time top goal scorers for Leeds United with 238 – some 81 clear of second placed John Charles. His goalscoring legacy is testimony not only to the strength of his shot, but the amount of appearances he made for Leeds United, 726 in total. Since retiring from football, Peter Lorimer has continued to play an active part in the club and to this day serves on the board of directors at Elland Road. He also runs a pub in Holbeck called The Commercial and has remained in Leeds since his retirement. 2. Gordon Strachan After losing his first team place at Manchester United, 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. 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. 1. Billy Bremner Perhaps every great Leeds United team needs a fiery, red-headed Scottish player to pull the strings in central midfield? Judging by the top two places on this list, and the success both of these players contributed to whilst at Elland Road, it’s not the most difficult argument to make. Maybe that’s why Simon Grayson brought Barry Bannan in on loan? (diminutive, red hair, Scottish…) 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. There was the odd journalist who avoided the old Leeds Scum stereotype however, and I’ll leave you with one of the best Bremner quotes I’ve ever read from John Arlott of The Guardian; ‘If every manager in Britain were given his choice of any one player to add to his team some, no doubt, would toy with the idea of George Best; but the realists, to a man, would have Bremner.’ Lowfields Got to have “Iron Man” Wilf Copping in there…. Leeds and League legend. Irving08 Absolutely – I was brought up by a father who thought he was Wilf Copping reincarnate: he used to rub his stubble into my face when we played blow football. ‘Wilf Copping did that’, was his justification. Lowfields It’s one of the misconceptions that I’d love to devote more time to debunking: that Leeds were a “nothing” club until John Charles and, later, the arrival of the Don. In the 1930s, the likes of England regulars Copping, Willis Edwards and Ernie Hart, plus the Milburn brothers, Charlie Keetley and Bert Sproston, meant we challenged for the league a few times… finishing fifth in 1930, beating Herbert Chapman’s Arsenal at Highbury and setting attendance records in FA Cup ties at Brammall Lane. We didn’t win anything, and suffered one baffling relegation…. but, then, that sounds rather like the last 15 years. Lowfields And no Bowyer…? TSS He was sort of on the fringes. Was trying to go for a mix of eras, but found it hard to justify his inclusion at the expense of anyone else. Lowfields But the title is “warriors”, and you’ve got one aging winger and someone who was effectively a third forward…. TSS I assume you’re talking Lorimer with ‘third forward?’ I think he played his part in a lot of battles too to his credit. Don’s early days was a Leeds team that scrapped it out and won a lot of matches 1-0 – hardly the free-scoring approach witnessed later in his career as Leeds were taking the Saints apart 7-0. How would you have listed it? The Reaper 08 No place for the imperious Sean Gregan ? Lowfields Well, if you’re saying “hard men”, i.e. central midfield ball winners/generals, then you have to have the archetypal No.4s. I’d have Bremner, Collins, Vinny, Batty, Bowyer (although he eventually drifted wider), Dacourt and, in the 1950s, Eric Kerfoot, and the likes of Wilf Copping and Willis Edwards pre-war. I’d leave Kevin Nicholls out, though. TSS Not necessarily central players, just real battlers. Even as an RM, Bowyer still did a hell of lot of work at both ends of the field so his later shift out wide doesn’t exclude him. He just narrowly missed out at the hands of others, like Jones did too for example. daz im 26, in my lifetime as a leeds fan Lee Bowyer was by far the best, consistently top performing midfielder that i saw. For about four years it was like watching Steven Gerrard play for us every week. Absolute Hero. TSS Nicholls and Gregan were tough choices by the way (rolls eyes) Lowfields There’s even an argument for the mighty Carlton Palmer… helped us get to Wembley after all. Kernow Bowyer over Batty any day of the week. Has been a shadow of himself since leaving ER, but during those few seasons when anything seemed possible, I’ll agree Bowyer was Gerrard like. Nasty Jim In my time..strachan, batty and bowyer..best of all time billy bremner. Richard I’d have to put Johnny Giles in there. Just too good to leave out. J.C.Harrold John Giles was one of the greatest midfield warriors ever. He should be high on the list. number1inyorkshire Bowyer was fantastic and if i remember was top scorer in the champions league when we were there . one of my favorites was Olivier d’acourt maybe not a warrior but what a player for leeds . one of the greatest midfielders we never had was ALAN SMITH .His time at leeds in the records would say he was a goals scoring striker ,but someone should and could of had the foresight to grab him and turn him to a scoring midfielder because he was never gonna be prolific as a striker but would have been as a midfielder . I KNOW ,I KNOW ,I KNOW two words ERIC CANTONA again maybe not a warrior but easily the best midfielder to grace English footy in recent years certainly the last year of league 1 and all premier league years ,GIVE IT TO ME !!!!! lufcboy Yes shoot me too – I liked Cantona at Leeds. Also thought D’acourt was a great player for us. number1inyorkshire forgot to mention gary speed Tim Campbell Gary McAllister was also a great buy for us, but I loved batty for his no frills combative approach. He won so much possesion for us and made the job for our defence so much easier. On a side issue I am following the QPR ‘issue’ with great interest. As we have found out to our cost in the past the Football League can be brutal in some of the fines they hand out, and this one could possibly open the promotion race even further!! me re strachan 92. Did Leeds replace MU as champions? Woody Anyone old enough to remember Paul Madeley? He was used as a utility player and played in every position but goalkeeper at one time or another during the Revie era. His best position was just in front of the back four. He often came in when Bremner or Giles couln’t play and he never let the side down. Lowfields Yorath hasn’t had a mention… or Brian Flynn. Both internationals, both energetic, uncompromising midfielders… Irving08 Buying Flynn rather than Souness was the start of our decline. With Currie and Souness we’d have stayed at the top (and even Mrs C. would have put up with living up here rather nag TC to return south). Lowfields Was there a genuine link to Souness at the time…? With TC and Arthur G, that would have been an extremely useful midfield. Perhaps not enough goals, though… Irving08 No, probably not: but we could have got him for he was going begging and a few of us said so at the time. Flynn was the more manageable option – can you imagine ARmfield being able to control both Currie and Souness ?! I am serious in saying that our decline began when we failed to find someone good enough to partner Currie. Old Hawley and ‘Hanks would have scored bucketfulls with both Souness and TC behind them. As it was TC created umpteen goals for the pair of them. (Younger fans need to know just how good TC was. Different class to your Brookings and Keegans – whom I am sure kept him out of the English team for fear of being shown up.) They might well have eclipsed even Billy and Gilesey in our Hall of Fame (and infamy !). Lowfields That’s interesting…. I remember a learned Leeds fan whose first games date back to Jim Storrie’s time explaining how much better a player Gary McAllister was to TC – whom I’m just too young to remember. I loved Macca, and think he is underrated when it comes to our “greats”…. but that seemed a step too far! lorimerhotshot peter lorimer was my boyhood hero (not that you’d have guessed it) but I was mighty surprised to see him on this list. He was certainly hard in more than his shot (quiet at the back) but this article was introduced with the term ‘midfield warriors at the heart’ of the team. To me that implies the tough end to end, tackling passing role of a classic hard-running central midfielder. Lorimer was a wide midfield/attacker. To some extent you could say the same about wee Gordon. How could he fit the description of ‘midfield warrior’ more than John Giles or, stepping down a class or two, Lee Bowyer? My list would like yours and anyone else’s certainly have BB at top, then Bobbly Collins and Jonhnny Giles and David Batty. From reputation apparently Wilf Copping has a case but I never saw him. Always liked the underrated Dacourt but not a ‘warrior’ in same way as less classy Bowyer who’d have to have 5th place. Mark R TSS, I have agree 100% with Lorimerhotshot. For me as well Lorimer & Eddie Gray were my heroes as a kid, and I’m pretty certin they were a striker/attacker and winger respectively. Never considered Lorimer a midfielder. Strachan had a massive influence on matches as I’m sure you’ve witnessed, but for me was more dynamic and creative than a hard man / warrior. Hard men : Billy B,Johhny G – though both skillfull as well, Batty, Bowyer & Bobby Collins. Top 5 Leeds midfielders of all time : Billy B, Johnny G, Tony Currie, Gordon Strachan & Gary McCallister. MOT TSS Totally appreciate your points, but I always feel Lorimer doesn’t get the credit he deserves for the tackles he stuck in. Every time I watch 70’s Leeds, I’m amazed by even the most attacking players give the opposition no room for manoeuvre and Lorimer is right up there for me. But the fact this has caused such a debate is the reason why I started the Top Fives category to begin with. It’s all subjective, and all very disagreeable, which is the beauty of football. In hindsight, my one mistake is perhaps how high I place him. I’d always have him on my list, but maybe putting him 3rd makes the case for including Giles and others a little easier to make. Bowyer and Vinnie were close contenders too. Howard Bartle No1 Bremner No2 Giles No3 Collins No4 Strachan No5 Perm any 1 from Lorimer, Gray thats Eddie, MacAllister, Batty I could go on and on Richard What about Trevor Cherry and if you do a top five Psycho list Vinnie Jones Martin Lazialle I don´t see Peter Lorimer like a “midfield warrioir”. My list 1ºBilly Bremner 2ºGordon Strachan 3ºJ. Giles 4ºDavid Batty 5ºBobby Collins I think Yorath, Jones and Madeley could be in the list too… Martin a Leeds fan from argentina. matt Paul okon? Benjamin Newsome Peter Sweeney? HAHA. You know what, I can see Snoddy making that list if we manage to keep him. Irving08 The term warrior would exclude Lorimer and probably Madeley – who when he moved to midfield in 1973-74 enabled Leeds to play their best football ever. Also Currie – my favourite United player ever save only for the warrior supreme – Billy, folowed closely by Bobby Collins, then Wilf Copping, Lee Bowyer and Gilesey. Batty just misses out.