Leeds United have had many greats to play for the all-whites club. Here’s a look at the 10 greatest players in their illustrious and proud history.
Leeds United are one of the most historic and followed clubs in England. They have had three distinct noteworthy eras of differing lengths and levels of greatness.
Don Revie’s iconic side of the 1960s and ‘70s that won consistently during their golden years are undoubtedly the finest team the club has ever produced. Howard Wilkinson’s Leeds of the early 1990s won a championship and got promoted to the newly formed Premier League, while David O’Leary’s side of the late 90s and early 2000s threatened to achieve big things without ever really fulfilling their potential.
Across these three eras, and, before, after and in-between these eras, over the course of the club’s history, which stretches over a decade now, many great players have graced the all-whites jersey at Elland Road. While we may miss some of your favourites in the list, here’s a genuine attempt to put down the Top 10 players to have ever played for “The Peacocks”.
10. Paul Reaney (1962-1978)
Paul Reaney made nearly 750 appearances during his time at Elland Road that lasted around 17 years. He won the league title and Fairs Cup twice each, the FA Cup and League Cup on one occasion and helped the Whites reach a European Cup final.
Reaney was the finest fullback of his time with his pinpoint crossing to the Leeds attack one minute matching his ability to pop up and clear off the Leeds goal line the next. He was a fiercely competitive, disciplined defender, capable of closing out the most talented of attackers, with even the great George Best rating Reaney as one of the two best defenders he played against. He was one of the reasons why United enjoyed plenty of success during that period.
9. Nigel Martyn (1996-2003)
The only goalkeeper in this list, Nigel Martyn is officially the greatest shot-stopper Leeds United has ever had, beating off competition from the likes of Gary Sprake and John Lukic to take the crown.
Nigel Martyn joined Leeds United for £2.25 million in the summer of 1996, then a record for a goalkeeper and made 273 appearances from 1996 to 2003 for The Whites. He played a significant role in the team that went all the way to the last 4 of the UEFA Champions League, eliminating FC Barcelona and S.S. Lazio in the process. Martyn is arguably one of the most popular ever Leeds United players, and uniquely valued in being voted as the only non-Revie era player to be included in the club’s greatest-ever eleven in the history of the club.
8. Norman Hunter (1962-1976)
Nicknamed “Bites Yer Legs”, Norman Hunter was a rough and tough yet skillful left half. A bone-crunching tackling defender who was much admired by the Leeds United faithfuls.
Playing from 1961 to 1976, in his 15 years at the club he made 724 appearances and scored 21 goals for Leeds. He was a consistent performer, playing 50 or more games for nine seasons in a row. He helped Leeds United win the league title, League Cup, FA Cup and Fairs Cup twice during his first decade with the club. Playing at Elland Road, he was the first-ever winner of the PFA Players’ Player of the Year award in 1973-74.
7. Jack Charlton (1952-1973)
A World Cup Winner in 1966, he was certainly one of the most talented defenders of his generation, if not of all-time. A Leeds legend, Jack Charlton is in the fabric of Leeds United and Elland Road for eternity.
A part of the club’s DNA who will forever bring loyalty, commitment and fighting spirit, Charlton represents the glue which held everything together during his playing career forming the core of Don Revie’s defence. He was a product of Leeds United and played all his career for them making 773 appearances and scoring 95 goals in a career which spanned for more than 2 decades.
6. Allan Clarke (1969-1978)
“Sniffer” as he was famously called, Allan Clarke is arguably the greatest natural striker the Whites have ever had. His nickname came from his impressive ability to find goal-scoring opportunities from unpromising situations. In Don Revie’s attempt to build on Leeds’ maiden First Division title the previous season, Allan Clarke arrived at Elland Road from Leicester City in 1969 for a then-record £165,000.
What looked like an overpriced signing at the start soon proved to be a value for money deal as Clarke scored some of the most important goals in Leeds history. He appeared 366 times for Leeds United across all competitions between 1969 and 1978 and scored a total of 151 goals, including the goals that won Leeds the 1972 F.A. Cup and the Fairs Cup.
5. Johnny Giles (1963-1975)
An FA Cup winner with Busby Babes, Johnny Giles’ move to Elland Road was a fairly controversial one. A central figure during the Don Revie golden years, Johnny Giles made 525 appearances for Leeds United from 1963 to 1975 and scored 114 goals. Giles evolved into one of the finest central midfielders in England during his tenure for the All-Whites.
His creative partnership with “King Billy” Bremner was pure magic and their pairing helped yield several major trophies in the most successful era in Leeds’ history. They were Xavi – Iniesta of their era even before Xavi – Iniesta themselves!
4. Peter Lorimer (1962-1978, 1984-1985)
No man has scored more goals in a Leeds United shirt than Peter Lorimer. Nicknamed “Lash” by Leeds fans, Lorimer was an attacking midfielder with a legendary hard shot. Peter Lorimer played for Leeds from 1962 to 1978 and from 1984 to 1985, with a total of 703 appearances, scoring 238 goals.
He is the second footballer after Johnny Giles and Billy Bremner on the list of Top 10 players in the history of Leeds United to have won the most number of club trophies with Leeds United, 7 to be precise. He even holds the record as the club’s youngest ever player and record goalscorer till date!
3. Eddie Gray (1965-1984)
A product of Leeds United, Eddie Gray spent his entire playing career at Elland Road, making his debut in 1966. He made 577 appearances for Leeds, playing from 1965 to 1984, and scoring 68 goals. Gray was perhaps the most talented footballer Leeds United ever had with the highlight of his Leeds career being his legendary goal against Burnley when he flicked and backheeled his way past numerous opposing players to get into a scoring position, before putting the ball in the back of the net.
To describe his talent Don Revie even went on to say that “when he plays on snow, he doesn’t leave any footprints.” A popular figure among the fans, in 2000, Eddie Gray was voted as the third Greatest Leeds United player of all time, surpassed only by his club captain, Billy Bremner and John Charles. He was also voted into the Greatest Leeds United team of all time.
2. John Charles (1947-1957, 1964)
Charles was undoubtedly the figure that put Leeds United on the map. Without the foundation he laid, Revie’s master plan to make Leeds United a European force would have been laughed out of town as a reckless swipe of groundless delusion. He is one of the legendary Leeds United players ever. But why? Why is he considered as one of Leeds United legends of all time? Because he was world-class in two different positions, as a center forward and as a center back he was equally great; a rarity in the history of football.
Nicknamed the ‘Gentle Giant’, John Charles appeared 327 times, wearing the Leeds shirt from 1947 to 1957, plus a short spell in 1962 scoring 157 goals in total.
1. Billy Bremner (1959-1976)
Who else was it really going to be? “King Billy” Bremner is undoubtedly the greatest Leeds United player of all time. He was arguably one of the greatest all-round footballers the game has ever known. He was the main reason why Leeds United enjoyed so much success while he was wearing the armband. An excellent defender, one of the fiercest competitors with an unmatched technical ability and fierceness, he appeared 771 times for the club from 1959 to 1976 and scored 115 goals.
And although there are certainly more skillful players in my top 10, there is no one who has played with the same amount of pride and passion for his team as the “King Billy” Bremner. He’s honoured by a commemorative statue outside the Elland Road ground, which has become a shrine for Leeds fans worldwide. Billy Bremner was far more than just a footballer for Leeds United and will always remain as a benchmark for how they assess standards and manage expectations, and probably always will!
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