Leeds United Profile
|Major Honours||First Division/Premier League (3), FA Cup (1), League Cup (1), Fairs Cup (2)|
Leeds United currently play in the Premier League and previously won the competition three times, when it was named the First Division.
Leeds are famously unpopular among rival supporters due largely to their uncompromising, physical style of play during their success under Don Revie in the 1960s and 1970s. They are still widely referred to as "Dirty Leeds" to this day.
Nevertheless, the club has also been represented by several highly popular figures in global football. Among them are former Leeds and South Africa captain Lucas Radebe, who Nelson Mandela described as his "hero".
The club currently ply their trade in the Premier League, having returned to the top flight in 2020 following a 16-year absence under cult hero Marcelo Bielsa.
However, after a torrid second season in the league, they narrowly avoided relegation back to the Championship on the last day of the 2021/22 season under Jesse Marsch who had replaced Bielsa.
Marsch was sacked as Leeds head coach after seven games without a Premier League victory in February 2023. He was replaced by former Watford manager Javi Gracia.
The formation and early history of Leeds United
Leeds City was founded in 1904 and played at Elland Road, the stadium in which Leeds United currently play. Under the guidance of Herbert Chapman, who later became a legendary manager at Arsenal, City drew sizeable crowds to Elland Road.
However, in response to allegations of illegal payments to players during the First World War, Leeds City were disbanded by the Football League and forced to sell all of their players.
This paved the way for the rise of Leeds United, who were founded the same year and initially entered the Midland League, replacing Leeds City reserves. Hilton Crowther, then chairman of Huddersfield Town, loaned Leeds United £35,000 to be repaid upon promotion to Division One.
Leeds United were elected to the Football League in 1920 and won promotion to Division One after winning the First Division in 1924.
With their Huddersfield connection in their early years, Leeds opted to play in the same colours as their near neighbors - blue and white stripes. They would go on to play in blue and yellow, before Don Revie changed their colours to all-white to match what is worn by Real Madrid.
Up until the arrival of former player Revie as manager in March 1961, Leeds were a yo-yo club who bounced between the divisions without much noteworthy success.
The Don Revie era (1961-1974)
Leeds enjoyed the most successful period in the club's history under their iconic manager, Don Revie. He rescued the club from financial troubles, prioritising youth development and winning promotion to the First Division in 1963/64.
Throughout much of the 1960s, Leeds were perennial nearly men, coming close to winning silverware but missing out by the skin of their teeth. Revie was a revolutionary in a number of ways for the club, making fundamental changes to the club's infrastructure to enable them to compete for trophies on a regular basis.
He changed the focus of the club's recruitment to prioritise bringing youth into the squad, implementing an identity and style of play on the pitch that would ultimately bring continued success to Elland Road.
The club was on an upward trajectory in the early years of Revie's leadership and their quest for major trophies bore fruit when, in 1967/68, they won the League Cup with Terry Cooper scoring in a 1-0 final win over Arsenal.
Leeds also won the 1967/68 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, beating Ferencvarosi 1-0 on aggregate in the final. Leeds won the league title in 1968/69 after several near misses, securing it with a 0-0 draw at Anfield against title challengers Liverpool.
In 1969/70, Leeds lost an infamously hot-tempered FA Cup final to Chelsea after a replay in a tie which exacerbated the fierce rivalry between the clubs. They also lost to Celtic in the semi-finals of the European Cup.
The 1970/71 and '71/72 seasons saw Leeds narrowly miss out on the league title, but they managed to win the '70/71 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final against Juventus and the '71/72 FA Cup final against Arsenal.
After a European Cup Winners' Cup final defeat to AC Milan in 1973 marred by controversial refereeing from Christos Michas, who was later banned for fixing other matches, Leeds won the 1973/74 league title. Revie left after that season to become England manager.
No player personified the Revie era more than captain Billy Bremner, who played for Leeds from 1960 to 1976 after coming through their youth setup.
A statue of Bremner outside Elland Road was erected in 1999 following his death in 1997. The majority of the players from the Revie era are still idolised as heroes in the terraces at Elland Road to this day, with the manager setting the foundations for Leeds to become one of the superpowers of the English game.
Brian Clough's 44 days in charge
Revie was replaced by Brian Clough following his departure. This was a surprising appointment given the former Derby County and Brighton & Hove Albion manager's past scathing criticism of Leeds United and Revie.
Clough had taken issue with Leeds' playing style under his adversary and subsequently tried to implement his own playing style on the squad in his short spell in charge.
Clough only lasted 44 days with the club before he was sacked after reportedly alienating key players such as Johnny Giles, Norman Hunter and Bremner. In one training session, he reportedly said: "You can all throw your medals in the bin because they were not won fairly."
Clough infamously appeared alongside Revie on Yorkshire Television's Calendar following his sacking. The atmosphere in the studio was notably tense as the two managerial foes openly argued.
The 44 days of Clough's stewardship at Elland Road saw him win just one of eight matches in charge, with Leeds' start in the First Division being their worst for 15 years. Until Darko Milanic led Leeds to six defeats before his sacking in the mid-2010s, Clough had suffered the ignominy of being the least successful permanent Leeds United manager.
After his departure from Elland Road, Clough took the reins at Nottingham Forest a few months later, where he would manage for the next 18 years.
The Howard Wilkinson years
Former England captain Jimmy Armfield replaced Clough and steered Leeds to the final of the 1974/75 European Cup, where they lost to Bayern Munich in another match marred by controversial refereeing.
After Armfield's sacking in 1978, the club went through a host of managers, but none was able to arrest Leeds' slide until the arrival of Howard Wilkinson in October 1988. At the time of his appointment, the team sat 21st in the Second Division.
Wilkinson steered Leeds to safety in 1988/89 and signed Gordon Strachan from Manchester United in March 1989, appointing the Scotsman as captain. In 1989/90, Leeds won the Second Division and were promoted back to the top flight.
They finished fourth in 1990/91 and then sensationally won the First Division in 1991/92. This was the last with the division in this format before it became the Premier League. Wilkinson is also the last English manager to be a champion of England.
Despite his league title and impressive work in developing the Leeds academy, Wilkinson was sacked after a 4-0 defeat to Manchester United early in 1996/97. Leeds had struggled to compete with the Premier League's top dogs, most notably fierce rivals Man Utd.
A return to Europe, financial crisis and relegation
Following a period of heavy spending, Leeds United enjoyed plenty of success in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Captained by Lucas Radebe, the team enjoyed a stellar period under George Graham and then David O'Leary, who was assisted by club icon Eddie Gray. In that time, Leeds made the semi-finals of both the UEFA Cup and UEFA Champions League.
Under chairman Peter Ridsdale, Leeds borrowed large amounts of money, which the club hoped to repay through TV rights money and sponsorship revenue from the UEFA Champions League.
However, after failing to qualify for Europe's top competition on successive occasions, Leeds were left in financial trouble.
Rio Ferdinand, who had replaced Radebe as captain, was sold to Manchester United for around £30million.
This sparked a fallout between O'Leary and Ridsdale. O'Leary was then sacked and replaced by Terry Venables, but he was unable to arrest Leeds' slide. After reportedly promising Venables that Jonathan Woodgate would not be sold, Ridsdale reneged on this and Venables was sacked and replaced by Peter Reid. Eventually, Ridsdale resigned from the Leeds board.
The club's freefall continued throughout the early 2000s and Leeds were eventually relegated from the Premier League in 2003/04.
In May 2007, Leeds entered administration and were relegated to League One, the third tier of English football.
Leeds were promoted back to the Championship in 2009/10, where they lingered for the next decade. After a string of owners including former Chelsea owner Ken Bates, Andrea Radrizzani bought the club from Massimo Cellino in 2017 and they entered a period of success.
Marcelo Bielsa and returning to the Premier League
Marcelo Bielsa was appointed Leeds United manager on 15 June 2018, but although they were on course for promotion for much of the 2018/19 season, they lost to Derby County in the play-off semi-finals.
Leeds were promoted to the Premier League the following season, winning the Championship under Bielsa's guidance and ending a 16-year hiatus from the top flight.
Bielsa has been held in the highest regard by Leeds United supporters since his arrival, revolutionising their style of play and pushing his players to new heights of footballing ability and fitness, and he continues to be one of the most respected figures even after his departure.
The Argentine is a principled and enigmatic character and he raised eyebrows throughout the footballing world for two standout moments in his first season as Leeds boss.
First, the infamous 'Spygate' scandal whereby Bielsa admitted he had sent a member of staff to 'spy' on Derby County at their training ground prior to the teams meeting in a Championship match.
While this caused consternation in the footballing community, Bielsa accepted full responsibility for his actions and then hosted an extraordinary press conference which lasted over an hour, in which he detailed the astounding depth of research he undertakes to prepare for matches, without a training ground 'spy'.
In a complete reversal of the 'Spygate' situation, Bielsa was then heralded after Leeds scored a goal during a vital game against promotion rivals Aston Villa, with a Villa player down injured and requiring treatment.
A mass brawl broke out after the Villa team were incensed by the circumstances behind Leeds' goal, so Bielsa ordered his team to allow their opponents to score unchallenged straight afterwards.
The club were given the FIFA Fair Play award in 2019 for this act of sportsmanship, especially due to the negative implications the decision had on Leeds' push for a Premier League return - ruling out their chances of automatic promotion in 2018/19.
However, after missing out on promotion in the 2018/19 season, in 2019/20 Bielsa led Leeds back to the Premier League, gaining promotion as champions, returning to the top flight for the first time in 16 years.
Leeds United finished in an astonishing ninth place in their first season back in the Premier League, gaining 59 points.
However their second season in the top flight didn't follow suit, and the Whites find themselves battling relegation. After a torrid run of form over January and February that saw them pick up just one point in eight games, the revered Bielsa was sacked from his position.
The decision wasn't well received by the Leeds fanbase, and just two days after Bielsa's sacking, American coach Jesse Marsch was appointed manager.
Marsching on together
Following Bielsa's sacking, Leeds moved quickly to replace him with the 48-year-old Marsch.
The American coach has previously spent time managing Montreal Impact, New York Red Bulls, RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig.
Marsch picked up four wins in 12 games and managed to guide Leeds to safety on the final day of the season with a 2-1 win over Brentford.
But Leeds continued to struggle in the 2022/23 season, and Marsch was sacked as head coach after seven games without a Premier League victory.
Marsch lost his job a day after a 1-0 defeat at Nottingham Forest in early February 2023, leaving with the club sitting in 17th place in the table, above the relegation zone only on goal difference.
He won 11 of the 37 games for which he was in charge and eight of 32 in the league and found himself a target for angry fans following the defeat at the City Ground.
The Whites' biggest rivals
Sheffield Wednesday and Sheffield United are among Leeds United's Yorkshire rivals. The rivalry with Wednesday was exacerbated by the fact that Wilkinson crossed over from Wednesday to Leeds United in 1988.
He had been successful as Owls manager, but saw more potential in Leeds and was proved right by their 1991/92 league title win.
Leeds' return to the Premier League has enabled several of their biggest rivalries to resurface, with animosity between the Whites and Chelsea and Manchester United also being particularly fierce.
In an interview with ESPN, Radebe admitted that former Leeds striker Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink's move to Chelsea in 2000 had heightened the rivalry between the two clubs, while he said that the animosity between Leeds and Manchester United spilled over from the terraces into the dressing rooms.
Due to the history of "Dirty Leeds" and the club's elevated status during their time in the Championship as the best-supported club in the division, other teams in the second tier often saw the Whites as a bigger target to beat than most of their opponents.
The passionate fanbase
Peter Reid paid tribute to Leeds supporters during his stint as manager, which came at a difficult time as Leeds were in freefall in the early 2000s: "In 30 years I've never seen support like I did at the Leeds/Arsenal game a couple of weeks ago. The fans at Leeds are fantastic," he said.
The club's iconic song "Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!" - which is more commonly known as "Marching On Together" - is played before every home match at Elland Road, stirring up a passionate fanbase prior to kickoff on matchdays, with Leeds fans also having their own salute with each other.
Manchester United's legendary former manager Sir Alex Ferguson has also paid tribute to the Elland Road faithful, saying that they create one of the most intimidating atmospheres in Europe.
The global reach of Leeds United is such that support for the club spreads to dozens of countries around the world - with recent pre-season tours of Asia and Australia attracting thousands of fans to friendly matches.
An LGBT Leeds fan group was formed in 2017 to sit on the Supporters' Advisory Group at the club, while famous fans include the likes of Hollywood actor Russell Crowe, who also narrated Take Us Home, the fly-on-the-wall documentary series following Leeds' promotion back to the Premier League.
Leeds United and finances
Leeds posted a pre-tax profit of £26million for the Covid-hit 2020/21 season - only their second annual profit in the past 10 years - helped by TV income on the back of promotion to the Premier League in 2020.
Leeds' annual turnover leapt from £54million to £171million.
The financial picture at Leeds has settled in recent years under the ownership of Andrea Radrizzani, after the previous issues that saw the club relegated and the difficult period under Massimo Cellino.