The arrival of Herbert Chapman
as manager of Leeds City in 1912 brought not only an
immediate return to the Football League by virtue of coming
top of the re-election poll, but also a distinct upturn in playing
fortunes as he led them to a
sixth place finish a year later. It was a renaissance that
gave City's long suffering followers genuine hopes that Chapman
could also deliver the promotion that they craved so passionately.
The signing of Jimmy Speirs in late 1912 from Bradford City brought
intelligence, direction and class to the City forward line, helping
centre-forward Billy McLeod to rediscover his most potent form.
He ended the 1912/13 season with 27 goals from 38 matches. In
the summer the attack was further enlivened by the arrival of
amateur winger and professional journalist Ivan Sharpe from Derby
It was a celebrated front five that included a Scottish international
(Speirs), the holder of an Olympic gold medal (Sharpe) and a player
pushing strongly for recognition by the selectors of the England
team (McLeod). There had also been some improvement in defence
with the arrival of John Hampson, signed by Chapman from his old
club, Northampton Town.
Interest in City's progress was such that season ticket sales
for 1913/14 were close to £2,000. The optimism looked well founded
as the Peacocks prepared for their Elland Road clash on November
29 against lowly Nottingham Forest. The East Midlanders were bottom
of the table and would still be there the following April. Going
into the match, City had returned 16 points out of a possible
24 and were amongst the front runners for the title. Speirs had
seven goals, McLeod 6 and Arthur Price 4 as the Citizens demonstrated
deadly accuracy in front of goal.
They were on a five game unbeaten run since a home defeat to
Hull City on 18 October. That had lifted them to fourth in the
Second Division table, three points behind leaders Notts County
but enjoying three games in hand on the table toppers.
All the signs pointed towards an easy City win and that was exactly
the way it turned out, with the side achieving the club's
best ever League victory.
All season, Speirs and Price had been operating at inside-left
and right respectively, but for this game Chapman switched their
positions. The only other change from the previous week's 2-2
draw at Blackpool saw young Simpson Bainbridge reinstated at outside-right
after missing three games through injury; Fred Croot made way
and Sharpe reverted to his favoured berth on the left wing.
Forest sprang a surprise of their own. Right-back Harry Jones
was thrown in at the deep end in a switch to centre-forward with
Walter Dudley restored at full-back after six weeks' injury absence.
The gamble was a clear demonstration of Forest's weakness in front
of goal; their top scorer that season was winger Jack Derrick
who managed just eight. The Jones experiment was a failure; he
had a couple of decent moments and bothered City keeper Tony Hogg
with a fine drive in the second half, but never really looked
like he could make a fist of the opportunity.
Price and Speirs, on the other hand, took to their new roles
like ducks to water. The Leeds Mercury was particularly taken
with the former's display, proclaiming, "Price was clever on the
ball, and played with considerable directness of purpose. Whenever
he saw an opportunity he dashed straight away for goal, but if
he saw his way barred to his objective, he passed with promptness
and decision. The play of the other forwards was characterised
by the same methods, but Price was the most conspicuous man in
City were in devastating form, quickly crushing any defiance
that Forest might have shown. The Mercury: "It was in the first
half that the home team laid the foundations for their excellent
victory. In just over half an hour they were three goals to the
good, and the match, to all intents and purposes, was all over
bar the shouting. They played against the wind, and even with
this handicap they always did well. When the forwards had the
ball they attacked with headlong impetuosity, and with no mean
back to top
In the opening exchanges Forest keeper Jack Hanna did well to
block a powerful drive from Price, but he could do nothing as
the alert McLeod pounced on the rebound to open the scoring. It
was no more than City deserved for some enterprising forward play.
The early advantage was built on rapidly as Price converted his
promising play into goals. He struck twice to make City's lead
at the break emphatic. The home forwards were all over the Forest
rearguard, never allowing them a minute's peace as they harassed
mercilessly in an attempt to force errors out of their opponents.
Nottingham's cause was not helped by the loss of left winger Banks
through injury in that opening half.
The 3-0 half time advantage left Forest in a tenuous position
and spirits in their dressing room were low with manager Bob Masters
unable to find many words of encouragement. Their tormenters pressed
on relentlessly after the break and continued to pick holes in
a helpless defence. Any remote hopes of a comeback were almost
immediately dispelled as Hampson headed a fourth goal from a corner
by Sharpe, before McLeod nabbed his second to make it 5-0.
Forest did what they could to rally; the Mercury noted that "there
were times when they played with spirit, and occasionally their
forwards exhibited good work in midfield, but they lacked the
necessary dash to carry them successfully through the home defence."
There was a brief moment of relief for the visitors as Mick Foley
fluffed his lines when presented with the perfect opportunity
to open his account for the season. Forest conceded a penalty
and the Irishman was nominated to take it, but he could not convert
the opportunity. The City supporters groaned their dismay, but
their favourites were quickly back, pushing for more goals.
Jimmy Speirs grabbed a sixth and the humiliation deepened as
McLeod really turned the screw, hitting two more goals to take
his tally to four in the match, and ten for the season.
The final score was thus an emphatic 8-0, but it could have been
an even more resounding victory. Apart from the missed penalty,
McLeod ruined his chance of a fifth goal by handling the ball
when he had only goalkeeper Hanna to beat.
The Mercury was gushing in its praise for the Peacocks. JRB wrote,
"Let it be said at once that the City deserved every one of their
goals, as throughout the game they worked hard and their forwards
... were great opportunists. The reason why the Forest were so
heavily beaten was because they were up against a team whose men
played clever football. The City forwards - especially McLeod
and Price - were a brilliant lot, who displayed fire and resolution
in all their attacks. They were supported by a trio of halves
who did their work excellently, while Copeland and Affleck were
a puissant pair of backs."
"This score, which was a record for the City team, only marks
the grand advance in form which the team have shown this season
... the hopes of their supporters will naturally dwell all the
more lovingly on promotion prospects," wrote the Yorkshire Evening
Post. "Speirs changed places with Price as the inside man to the
wonderment yet ultimate gratification of the club's numerous followers."
It wasn't quite a club record: in 1905, City had beaten junior
Morley 11-0 in an FA Cup preliminary round game with Fred
Hargraves grabbing four goals. David
Wilson also managed four in the 6-1 hammering of Clapton Orient
in March 1906. That had been the previous best in the League,
equalled against Stockport County in December of the same year.
McLeod had been on the score sheet that day, too, though his single
goal contribution was eclipsed by Jack
Lavery's hat trick and two from Bob
The City centre-forward was truly a master marksman. His record
in the League with City now stood at 112 goals in 226 appearances,
a country mile more than anyone else had managed for the club
on both accounts. Such form took him close to international honours
later in the campaign.
McLeod enjoyed an impressive season and his goalscoring exploits
caught the attention of the England selectors. He was watched
in the game against Barnsley on February 28, when he gave a decent
display, opening the scoring in a 3-0 win. He notched a hat trick
against Wolves on Valentine's Day and repeated the dose against
Huddersfield on March 14.
Such form led to his selection as non-playing reserve for the
Football League XI against the Southern League on February 9.
He was accorded the same honour when the League played their Scottish
counterparts on March 21 and was called up as reserve for the
England team that played Wales on March 16. Unfortunately, Harry
Hampton of Aston Villa, Middlesbrough's George Elliott and Notts
County's Jack Peart were all rated more highly at the time by
the selectors and McLeod saw not a moment's playing action from
the three games. He would never come close to representative honours
again, but nevertheless, it was a great honour for both McLeod
The crushing defeat of Forest was witnessed by a crowd of 14,000
excited spectators, with gate receipts amounting to £370. The
standing of the two clubs could not have been in greater contrast:
Forest's plight at the foot of the table was truly desperate,
with just 6 points taken from 15 games played; City had moved
up to a top three position and were the division's top scorers
with 33 goals from 13 matches. They were hotly fancied for the
promotion the club had been desperately pursuing since their formation
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