“The greatest Leeds United team of my lifetime”.
A topic with literally tons of varying answers, from the players during the fear inducing team of the Don Revie era to the League 1 promotion winning team of late (with a lot of class in between). Since supporting Leeds, from 2002 onwards, it is fair to say I have missed out on some of the greatest players to ever grace Elland Road, still, there are a few gems I am able to pick from. My greatest Leeds team includes both players with an undeniable level of talent, and some I just enjoyed watching. I have of course included a seven-man bench too. This was really hard to do, by the way.
Goalkeeper. Paul Robinson.
Of course you are wondering why I haven’t selected Nigel Martyn. Yes he was a far better keeper, but unfortunately he didn’t play during my time supporting Leeds and therefore Robinson is my man between the sticks. The 2003 Leeds United Supporter’s club player of the year and an equalising goal against Swindon has meant he has earned a place in my team.
Right-Back. Gary Kelly.
The one club man. 531 appearances during his 16 seasons at Leeds. Former captain and Vice-captain. A passionate player with Leeds in his heart. Great defender too, which helps. Close between him and Mills for me, but Gary just pips it.
Centre-back. Lucas Radebe.
The Chief. Captain during a successful period for Leeds. Surely a part of most Leeds fans greatest ever team. The silencer of many opposition strikers, even if he was only signed as ‘Masinga’s mate’. I know he didn’t really play much when I was watching but who could leave him out?!
Centre-back. Jonathan Woodgate.
The first of a few that I was only able to witness for a short period of time. A very solid defender, arguably one of the best in the country at the time. Shame we couldn’t hold onto him, could have been the core of a magnificent defence for us. Had the potential to become world-class.
Left-Back. Ian Harte.
Going to get a fair bit of hate, but name many better left-backs we have had since 2002. For that reason alone he has to make the squad. Good at free-kicks though, to be fair. Deflection or not, his goal against Arsenal will always be one of my favourites.
Right-Midfield. James Milner.
The once dubbed “Future of Leeds”. A boyhood supporter of Leeds. A spectacular young talent for us, making his debut at the age of 16. He played with a sense of experience at such a young age, scoring a few brilliant goals for us. I’m glad to see he has grown to be a fantastic and consistent player.
Centre-Midfield. Lee Bowyer.
Thankfully, Lee is the first of my two centre mids that I was lucky enough to watch, even if it was only for a short period of time. A real box-to-box midfielder, Bowyer was class. The intensity he brought to the pitch was second to none. What I would do to have an inform Bowyer back at Leeds right now.
Centre-Midfield. Olivier Dacourt.
Again, was only able to witness him for a short period, but wow, what a player he was. Superb footballer, minus a few areas of his game. Almost forgot to include him, what a mistake that would have been. I also saw him compared to Bianchi the other day. Let that sink in.
Left-Midfield. Harry Kewell.
I will probably get a lot of hate for including him, and I myself despise the man for the way he left us and the career choices he made after. However, there is no denying the ability he possessed. Deadly on the wing and in front of goal. A real talent, unfortunately. I hate him, but he is the best player I’ve seen play on the left for us, and that includes Luke Varney.
Forward. Mark Viduka.
My first Leeds Hero. Wow. He won us games single-handedly at times, especially against Liverpool. A great finisher and all-round top player. It was unfortunate to see us relegated with someone of his class in the team. He will always go down as a hero in my eyes though.
Forward. Jermaine Beckford.
The promotion winner. The scum slayer. Although he isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I can’t help but love the man. Scored plenty of goals for us, important ones too. His goals won us promotion in the 2009-10 season. He is Leeds through and through and I’d have him back in a heartbeat (along with Becchio). He also won player of the year for 2008 and 2009. Yes, I fully expect people to mention Alan Smith here.
Sub 1. Kasper Schmeichel. Son of a scum legend, still like him though. He was a good, young goalkeeper at Leeds. Not much else to pick from though, really. Just beat Sullivan to a place purely due to the fact that he was decent for us at a much younger and less experienced age.
Sub 2. Danny Mills. He possessed the Leeds spirit, albeit a dirty one. I only saw Mills for a season but from what I can remember, he was a good player. Tough in the tackle, something we haven’t seen at the back since Byram broke into the first team.
Sub 3. Patrick Kisnorbo. There are more able defenders, Dominic Matteo being one, but Paddy has been picked more on the basis of showing the spirit it takes to be a Leeds player. Refusing surgery for a head injury in order to continue playing for us. Scoring his first goal against Millwall. A ruthless and respectable player (ignoring his claims about Ken Bates).
Sub 4. Shaun Derry. A bit of a surprise for some of you I would imagine. Derry was passionate on the field and an experienced head in our midfield. He was key to our promotion push back 2005-06. Vice-captain to Kevin Nicholls (I’m not sure what Wise was thinking either). A good footballing brain, something we need as of late.
Sub 5. Fabian Delph. Arguably the most gifted player to grace Elland Road in the last 6 or 7 years. If I had started watching a year or two later, Delph would have walked into my starting eleven. A strong tackler and great passer of the ball, deserving of a premier league place.
Sub 6. Max Gradel. Lightning quick. Skilful. Highly temperamental. Maxi was a delight to watch at times. A great winger (I know, I had to google what one was too). Most of us would jump at the opportunity to witness him pull on a Leeds shirt again. We can dream, can’t we?
Sub 7. Luciano Becchio. Technically dire and skilfully woeful. The Argentinian holds a special place in the hearts of 95% of Leeds fans. His long golden hair and dreadful finishes made him a fan favourite and he will forever remain one. Miss you Luciano. Again you may be asking, where is Alan Smith? Well unfortunately he can do one.