Pontus Jansson is the only Leeds United representative at this summer’s World Cup in Russia, but in the past, the Elland Road club has had many stars feature on the world stage. There have also been quite a few players to have worn both the Leeds badge and the Three Lions of England. With expectations fairly low this time out with regards to Gareth Southgate’s squad, Leeds supporters may find it interesting to think which players would be on the plane if the manager could only pick Leeds legends from days gone by. With that in mind, here is a potential starting eleven of players to have worn the white shirt for club and country.

Goalkeeper and Defence

It’s perhaps due to England’s current lack of defensive stalwarts that Southgate’s men are at 20/1 to go all the way, and aren’t considered among the favourites to lift the trophy this summer. According to Oddschecker the best odds available for the side are 20/1 and this could be because the most experienced defenders on the plane to Russia are Gary Cahill and Ashley Young, while many of the others are brand new to the England fold. There is also some worry surrounding the manager’s plans to deploy a back three who haven’t had time to get to know one another well. If Southgate could call upon some of the great Leeds United defenders of old, the chances of keeping multiple clean sheets this summer would be extremely high.

For this collection of iconic Elland Road stars, Nigel Martyn lines up in goal with a back four of Terry Cooper, Rio Ferdinand, Jack Charlton, and Norman Hunter in front of him. Martyn played 207 times for Leeds and earned 23 caps for the national team. The St Austell-born shot-stopper who was forced into early retirement with an injury in 2006 is considered to be the best Leeds goalkeeper of all time. Paul Robinson won more caps for England, but including Martyn for his status as an all-time hero at Elland Road in this line-up was a no-brainer.

While Charlton and Hunter made a formidable centre-back pairing during their playing days, it seemed appropriate to also shoehorn Ferdinand into the heart of defence. The 39-year-old only played 54 games for the Whites between 2000 and 2002, but was a legend for England with 81 caps. Charlton, Hunter, and Cooper were pivotal figures in United’s glory days under Don Revie, and the former two were also World Cup winners in 1966. Between them, these hard-tackling defensive stalwarts would be likely to shut out most of the attacking players who will be in attendance at this summer’s tournament with ease.

Midfield

There weren’t too many Leeds and England midfielders to choose from, so this starting XI consists of a trio in the centre of the park. However, all three of them are former Elland Road crowd favourites. The midfield trident consists of David Batty, James Milner, and Lee Bowyer.

Batty came up through the Leeds youth system and made his debut for the Whites at the age of 18 under the management of Billy Bremner. He swiftly drew comparisons with the former Leeds captain due to his fiercely competitive and combative nature in the centre of the park. The Leeds-born player quickly became a key cog in Howard Wilkinson’s promotion-winning side in 1989-90, which also featured Gary Speed, Gary McAllister, and Gordon Strachan in midfield. Just two years after getting back into the top flight, those players won the First Division in 1991-92. Batty earned 42 caps for the national team and featured in the 1998 World Cup in France. He did, however, miss a penalty in the round of 16 which prevented England from advancing to the latter stages of the competition.

James Milner was playing for the England youth teams during his time at Leeds and later went on to become a regular for the country. The Wortley-born midfielder retired from international duty in 2016 but, prior to that, made 61 appearances for the Three Lions. After breaking on to the scene in 2002 with Leeds at the age of 16, Milner quickly attracted the attention of other teams in the Premier League. When United were relegated to the Championship and the financial crisis occurred, they were forced to sell the versatile midfielder to Newcastle United. Milner has since won the top flight twice with Manchester City, along with the FA Cup and the League Cup in 2010-11 and 2013-14 respectively. The in-form all-rounder has had an excellent season with Liverpool this term, and, if he hadn’t already stepped down from the England squad, he surely would have been selected for the tournament in Russia.

The final component of the midfield is Bowyer, who was only capped for England on one occasion in 2002. At the time, he was one of the best midfielders in England and had scored crucial goals against AC Milan, Barcelona, and Anderlecht during Leeds’ Champions League run in the 2000-01 season. He was also voted Player of the Year by supporters in 1998-99 and 2000-01. There is no doubt that Bowyer would have been a regular for the national team if it hadn’t been for his off-field behaviour which led to long-running court cases.

Strikers

Up front we have Robbie Fowler, Alan Smith, and Allan Clarke forming a deadly attacking trident capable of scoring goals aplenty.

Fowler made 30 appearances at Leeds between 2001 and 2003 and put away 14 goals for the club. The Liverpool-born player is far from being an Elland Road icon due to his short stint with the Whites, but he was one of the most prolific forwards the Premier League has ever seen. In fact, with 162 top flight goals, he is the sixth-highest scorer in the history of the league. His strike rate with Liverpool was slightly better than a goal every other game, with 120 scored in 236 appearances during his first stint at Anfield. Fowler played for England 26 times and scored 7 goals for his country. He featured in three major tournaments; Euro 96, Euro 2000, and the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.

Smith will always be remembered for going over to the dark side and joining Manchester United in 2004. But prior to that treachery, the Rothwell-born Leeds Academy product was a legend on the terraces at Elland Road. The forward won the Supporters’ Player of the Year award two seasons running in 2003 and 2004, which was a first in the club’s history. In 172 appearances for the Whites, Smith scored 38 goals. This was far from a prolific tally, but it was his hunger and willingness to do anything for the team which placed him firmly in the hearts of the Elland Road faithful. Smith played for England 19 times and scored once.

The final component of this devastating attack is another legend of the Revie era. The hugely successful manager signed Clarke for £165,000 in 1969, and the striker soon earned the nickname “Sniffer” due to his predatory prowess in front of goal. The fearsome forward played 273 games for Leeds and scored 110 times. He also had a strong record for England, putting away ten goals in 19 games. With these three up front, England would be sure to score numerous goals in this summer’s tournament.

With all things considered, this team of Leeds United legends would clearly have a strong chance of easily sweeping aside the likes of Germany and Brazil at this summer’s tournament. It’s a shame it’s only fantasy.

How would your Leeds legends England line-up look? Try making your own with the squad builder below:

7 Responses

  1. TSS

    I’m thinking Woodgate over Rio.

    Ferdinand went on to win a lot of caps and Woodgate faded a bit due to injuries, but there’s no doubt in my mind Woodgate was the better defender.

    Reply
  2. Colin

    My team would be as follows
    1) Nigel Martyn
    2) Terry Cooper
    3) Paul Reaney
    4) Paul Madeley
    5)Jack Charlton
    6)Norman Hunter
    7) Tony Currie
    8) David Batty
    9)Mick Jones
    10) Allan Clarke
    11) Lee Bowyer
    Subs Robinson, Dorigo, Smith, Fowler, Rocastle, Hodge, Sterland
    That team would win the World Cup

    Reply
  3. Irving 08

    Martin, Reaney, Charlton. Hunter, Cooper; Bowyer, Currie, Batty, Madeley; Jones, Clarke. Subs:Bridges, Dorigo, Woodgate, Chapman, Lukic

    Reply
    • Irving 08

      I appear to have two fewer substitutes than Colin. So, I shall add Delph and O’Grady to my list of subs. Tough on Jimmy Grrenhoff, though.

      Reply
  4. Paul dolby

    I totally agree with Colin I am from that time and remember these players well they would beat any of the teams in Russia 2018 with ease and as for Paul’s comment he clearly knows nothing

    PAUL Grimsby White.

    Reply
  5. Colin

    Further to my list , I forgot I could add as subs Ferdinand, Milner , Duncan Mckenzie, J.Greenhoff, R.Wallace, Chapman.
    Boy did we have some players

    Reply

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