Over the years there’s been many Leeds United players that have gone from hero to zero quicker than the referee can point to the spot when a Man United player falls over at Old Trafford, but for the benefit of this post I’m going to stick to the more recent collection of Judas filth.

This post could never be possible without the David O’Leary regime. From this era we start with Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer. The two players who many still blame for our demise to this day. An incident outside a well known Leeds nightclub in January 2000, left an Asian student with severe injuries. Almost two years, two trials and an untold amount of unrest after, Lee Bowyer was cleared of all charges whilst Jonathan Woodgate was convicted of affray and ordered to do community service. The incident undoubtedly brought unrest to the dressing room and Elland Road was swarmed with unwelcomed media attention.  

Next on the list is Harry Kewell. Few have mirrored the spectacular fall from grace that the Australian has managed. After our Champions League exit, when the financing of the club went so badly wrong, Harry Kewell dug in his nails and snatched for every last penny he could get from the club. As the squad was sold off, Kewell remained, but it wasn’t the Harry Kewell that had shown such flair and imagination as before. It was a second rate one who had seemingly lost the will to play for the club that had made him famous.

Kewell eventually left for Liverpool in 2003, where he would prove to be largely inconsistent and a fragment of his former self. On leaving Leeds United, Kewell gave an interview to the BBC, in which he accused the club that had nutured his development of “worsening his injuries.”

The final nail in Harry Kewell’s coffin came in 2008, when he signed for Turkish side, Galatasaray. Leeds fans were heavily critical of his move following the death of two of our fans in April 2000, at the hands of the Turkish supporters. Kewell released a statement claiming that he’d chosen the number 19 shirt as a nod to Leeds United (this was the shirt that he started his career at Leeds in), and that we shouldn’t blame Galatasaray, the club, for the events of that night. Anyone who was at that fixture will beg to differ.

The final player from David O’Leary’s squad is Alan Smith. Although there’s a few more that could have been included for their money grabbing antics (such as Robbie Fowler) none of them were loved as much as the Leeds-born striker. Alan Smith was Mr. Leeds United. He fought for every ball, gave 110% in every match, squared up to Jaap Stam and was loved by every Leeds United supporter throughout the world. When Leeds United were relegated, Alan Smith was brought to tears. He had said previously that should the worst case scenario happen and Leeds were relegated, he would like to stay and help them return to the Premier League.

However, Leeds United were desperate to offload every player with a decent salary, including Mr. Leeds United himself. The Leeds faithful were saddened by the news that Smith would be leaving, but accepting at the same time. Smith was an option for the England squad and playing outside the Premier League wouldn’t help his chances. Plus, Leeds needed the money to keep them afloat. The Leeds fans were realistic and knew Alan had to go. However, no Leeds United fan was ready for him to pack up and head across the Pennines to bitter rivals, Manchester United.

Smith himself will have known the consequences of leaving Leeds for their most bitterest of rivals. For Mr. Leeds United to play in a Manchester United shirt was the ultimate betrayal. Shirts were burnt, fans were in uproar and Smith’s parents were targetted in attacks by the hurting Leeds United fans. Alan had also previously stated that he would never play for Manchester United. Peter Lorimer has since revealed that Smith’s move to Old Trafford was forced by Leeds. Manu were the only team that could pay the money upfront and had they not done so, Leeds would have gone under a lot sooner than they did. Smith was told he had to move to save Leeds United. For some fans, this still isn’t enough. For them, he is unforgivable.

Finally, we come to the only player on the list that didn’t play under O’Leary, Kevin Nicholls. We signed Kevin for £700,000 in July 2006, only to see him injured before he could make his first appearence. He eventually made his debut in September, only to become injured again two weeks later. Despite his injury problems, the new manager (and hate-figure within his own right) Dennis Wise appointed the midfielder as his new captain.

When Nicholls’ second injury cleared up and he made his debut as captain, he was sent off in the dying minutes of a 1-0 defeat to Ipswich Town. He subsequently missed the next three matches, as the £700,000 fee started to look a little ridiculous. After just thirteen appearences in an inconsistent and largely disappointing year, Kevin Nicholls was dropped by Wise for the visit of Sheffield Wednesday. It later emerged that Kevin had put in a transfer request and wanted to return to his former club Luton Town. Despite being made captain of Leeds United and the club sticking by him through injuries and suspensions, Nicholls was clearly ungrateful. For me, he remains the most disgraced player to have worn the Leeds United shirt in recent years.

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