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Ridsdale and I Part 1- Red Tops & Howards Way
Thursday, 18th Mar 2021 21:36 by Mark Monk

A new series springs to life on toellandback as I look back at the years 1989-2004 following Leeds United through my very own eyes. This was of course the Ridsdale era and eventually I got to meet him, but first my reaction to the news that Howard Wilkinson had been appointed as manager of our great club.

Back in 1988 we didn't have social media and the net to satisfy our football gossip cravings, our sources were mainly from Red Top newspapers like the Sun, Mirror and Daily Star.

Back then I was 16, not long left-school, I found a job in a garage/main dealership I didn’t particularly enjoy it. I lived at home with my parents in Ashby-de-la-Zouch, Leicestershire- well it was a pub actually and my Dad is still there. So it wasn’t that bad. The job was a means to an end, £42 a week, I had a girlfriend too so I had enough income to treat her now and then to a bag of chips, a bottle of L’Jardine perfume or even a cinema ticket if she was really lucky.

Like the billions of Manchester United fans on the planet, I’d not seen my team live in the flesh, at the time that is. Leeds United were in the old Second Division back then. The football coverage on the TV, ITV’s Big Match on focused entirely on the First Division, Liverpool, Everton, Spurs, Arsenal and Manchester United. Manchester City, like us, were in the second-tier. We had obviously been on TV for the heartbreaking 1987 FA Cup semi final against Coventry City but if my memory serves me right, for whatever reason it was screened "as live" with a slight delay.

So my diet of Leeds-fixation came from the red-topped sports-pages, Ceefax, Teletext, Clubcall - a premium rate 0898 telephone service (and no I wasn't the bill-payer nor did I seek their permission) and haranguing passing drivers at work who came from Leeds. A couple of months earlier, one such victim was signing for his fuel and I noticed his company was based up in Leeds. “Do you think Bremner will get us up this season?” I asked. He just laughed.

It was no laughing matter when the Leeds United board dispensed with the services of Billy Bremner, the third successive Leeds-legend who’d tried and failed to restore First Division football to Elland Road, where he and his predecessors Eddie Gray and Allan Clarke amongst others, inspired by Don Revie had become one of the best and most-feared sides in the country.

The papers predicted that Leeds would go big and some said our man in waiting was Howard Kendall. The legendary ex-Everton boss, with two-titles to his name, was Bremner’s anointed successor after Billy was relieved of his duties following a 2-1 win at Peterborough in the League Cup. Peter Gunby was put in temporary charge whilst, if the papers were to be believed, Bill Fotherby and Leslie Silver were off to Bilbao for talks with Kendall, who’d taken over at Atletico Bilbao the previous summer.

Hamstrung by the ban on English-clubs participating in Europe, Kendall had gone to the Basque-Country for a taste of the continental action but was left frustrated by the clubs signing policy, which mirrored Yorkshire Cricket Club’s own at the time, where they would only sign players born in the county.

I honesty believed Kendall might have given us a second-glance, even though we were in Division Two. Although Billy Bremner’s transfer budget had been minute, just £190,000 spent on winger Vince Hilaire from Portsmouth - the other summer signings being "frees", the suspicion was that there was money to spend at Elland Road even if it involved cashing in on our prized-asset John Sheridan; ironically linked with Everton quite often.

Those who speculated on Howard Kendall did get one thing right, the first-name of our new-manager! It was Howard Wilkinson not Kendall! Leeds turning to Sheffield instead of Spain. Nowadays it would seem unthinkable, a mid table Premiership manager being picked-off by a club struggling at the bottom of the Championship, particularly given Wilkinson's Hillsborough heritage.

He was an Owl's fan as a child who both played for and had managed the club having managed them since June '83 succeeding Jack Charlton. Prior to his appointment at Hillsborough, Wilkinson had served his time managing Boston United and Notts County.

Although Sergeant Wilko, as he soon became christened in a nod to the Phil Silvers show, wasn't renown as being the most charismatic of communicators (unlike Ron Atkinson who succeeded him at Wednesday), I could not wait to get up there and see his team in action. As Tom Schofield, the half-time DJ at Leeds would say "we are going places...." we were, slowly and steadily.

And if you can’t wait for the next episode to appear on toellandback, you can sneak a peek at my blog by clicking on this link.

Photo: Action Images

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