Video of the Day: Fulham vs Leeds United, September 1982
The post-dated narrative of it all suggests that there was something inevitable about the relegation of Leeds United in 1982, that it was a symbol of the decline of a club that had, just seven years earlier, been contesting a European Cup final with Bayern Munich. The truth of the matter, however, is that things were complicated than that. Sure enough, the resignation of Don Revie in 1974 and the appointment of Brian Cough to replace him had been a misjudgement on the part of the club and the team would never hit height that Revie’s had until that sudden and unexpected league title win in 1992, but on the pitch Leeds remained a solid, mid-table First Division side in those post-Revie years, and even when they did slip through the trapdoor in 1982, four teams finished just two points above them in the first season of a win being worth three points.
None of this, however, could detract from the fact that there were clear structural issues within Leeds United by the summer of 1982. The club was £1.5m in debt, the wage bill was still too high, and attendances at Elland Road had been falling, even prior to relegation. A year and a half earlier, the club had replaced manager Jimmy Adamson with former striker Allan Clarke. It might, under different circumstances, have been a smooth accession. After all, Clarke had been appointed the player-manager of Barnsley in 1978 and had taken the club to promotion the following year. His appointment at Leeds in 1980 marked the return of a hero, and Clarke’s first season ended in a ninth placed finish in the First Division. The following season, however, ended in relegation and Clarke losing his job. His replacement was another former Leeds star, Eddie Gray.
Gray’s team started life in the Second Division with two draws, against Grimsby Town and Wolverhampton Wanderers, before three successive narrow wins took Leeds up to fifth place in the Second Division table in time for their trip to London to play Fulham at the end of September 1982. Fulham, managed by Malcolm MacDonald, had enjoyed a similarly unbeaten to start to the season and went into the game level points with their visitors but with a comfortably better goal difference. Commentary for this match comes from Brian Moore. For those of you that weren’t already aware, it would take until 1990 for Leeds United to reclaim its place back in the top flight of English football.
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