After manager Herbert Chapman
led Leeds City to a fourth
place finish in the spring of 1914, there were genuine hopes
it would be a prelude to even better things, but the 1914/15 season
ushered in no golden dawn: each of the opening four League games
ended in defeat and the sixteen fixtures played by the middle
of December had yielded just four victories. That depressing record
left the Citizens firmly rooted in the bottom four of the Second
Division and in danger of having to apply for re-election for
the second time in three years. It was a sad fall from grace.
However, the visit of Leicester Fosse to Elland Road on 12 December
brought clear prospects of success. The East Midlanders were in
an even deeper trough than their hosts: two places below them
in the table, they had already suffered ten defeats and were without
a victory since the first week of November. On the 14th of that
month they plumbed new depths by conceding seven goals at Wolves.
The week before they faced Fosse, Leeds had shown enough backbone,
away to Nottingham Forest, to hint that they retained the underpinning
zest and ability of the previous campaign. Despite going down
by three goals to one, they had been the better side for lengthy
periods of the match. Yorkist reported for the Leeds Mercury,
"If they had exhibited a little more dash and fire in the second
half they would have won comfortably."
The only change in the City eleven that turned out against Leicester
was an enforced one, with Arthur Price recalled at inside-left
for Jimmy Speirs, ruled out of contention shortly before kick
off by an injury.
24-year-old Geordie Tony Hogg was established as first choice
goalkeeper after Irish international Billy
Scott returned to Merseyside to join Liverpool at the end
of the previous season; Jack
McQuillan, newly signed from Hull City, had started the campaign
as first choice left-back, but injury cost him his place and the
burly Scot, George Affleck, was recalled to partner Fred
Blackman in defence. George Law, Jack Hampson and Mick Foley
were an almost omnipresent half-back line, while Herbert Chapman
had settled for Simpson Bainbridge, John Jackson, Billy McLeod,
Speirs and Ivan Sharpe as his combination of choice up front.
Price, whom Chapman had signed from Worksop Town in December
1912, scored on his City debut, at home to Fulham that month,
and managed three goals in twelve games that first season. He
was a regular throughout the 1913/14
campaign and retained his place for the first four games of
the current season; the team's form had been shabby, however,
and when Billy McLeod recovered from illness and Ernie Goodwin
broke into the side on the left wing, Price was consigned to City's
Midland League side. The game against Leicester represented a
welcome opportunity for the 28-year-old Sheffield-born inside-forward
to stake a claim for a permanent first team berth. He seized the
opportunity with both hands.
Fosse also made a number of changes with Teddy King, normally
a right-half, leading the line, and Norman Whitfield coming in
at inside-left as replacement for regular selection George Hastie.
The match was staged in wretched conditions at a windswept and
rain-soaked Elland Road on a dismal winter afternoon. The crowd
barely touched 5,000, City's lowest gate thus far in the campaign.
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Attendances had been poor all season, with many people vehemently
opposed to the continuation of competitive football while War
raged in Europe. There were opposing views, as reported by the
Yorkshire Post at the beginning of September: "The question of
whether football should be abandoned during the War is being much
debated in sporting circles, and opinion appears to be divided
on the matter. While many people think it would be a disgrace
to this country to have thousands of able bodied players devoting
themselves to the game, and hundreds of thousands of men watching
them, when there is an urgent need for volunteers, others declare
that, like other amusements, football will provide a much needed
release for the large numbers who must be left at home and serve
to divert their attention."
Passionately championing the view that the country's priority
was manning the trenches rather than the football enclosure, Colonel
C F Grantham, commander of the so called Footballers' Battalion,
sprang an unpleasant surprise on delegates at a special meeting
of League clubs in London when he read aloud a letter which severely
indicted the attitude of professional players: "You are aware
that some little time ago there was much controversy in the papers
with regard to the manner in which the professional football player
had failed in his duty by not coming forward to serve his country
in its time of stress. The laxity of the football professionals
and their following amounted to almost a public scandal. Mr Joynson
Hicks MP, therefore raised the Football Battalion and public opinion
died down under the belief that most, if not all, of the available
professionals had joined the battalion.
"This is not the case, as only 122 professionals have joined.
"I understand that there are 40 League clubs, and 20 in the Southern
League, with an average of some 30 players fit to join the colours
- namely 1,800. These figures speak for themselves. I am also
aware, and have proof that in many cases directors and managers
of clubs have not only given no assistance in getting these men
to join, but have done their best by their actions to prevent
"I am taking the opportunity of your meeting on Monday to ask
you gentlemen if you and your clubs have done everything in your
power to point out to the men what their duty is. Your King and
Country call upon every man who is capable of bearing arms to
come forward; and upon those who are unable to use their best
endeavours to see that those that can do so.
"It is no use mincing words. If men who are fit and capable of
doing so will not join, they, and also those who try by their
words and actions to prevent them, will have to face the opinion
of their fellow men publicly.
"I will no longer be a party to shielding the want of patriotism
of these men by allowing the public to think they have joined
the Football Battalion."
Among the players numbered among Grantham's ranks were former
City skipper Evelyn Lintott
and future Leeds United manager, Frank Buckley, then a centre-half
at Bradford City, both England internationals.
The Yorkshire Post: "Respecting the Association League order
for the reduction of players' wages, the Leeds City players have
accepted the reduced scale, but they have declined to sign the
new engagement forms ordered by the Management Committee of the
League. Their object in adopting this attitude is to protect against
the compulsory deduction. In their opinion, the amount deducted
should be regarded as a voluntary contribution towards the wages
of players in less fortunate clubs. Their refusal to sign the
new agreement has been reported to the Management Committee of
Yorkist concluded in the Mercury, "There is not the least doubt
that the football authorities decided wisely by ordering the season's
programme to be started as arranged. The populace must have something
to distract their minds from the great crisis, and there can be
no denying that football arouses more interest than any other
sport during the winter months.
"There is an impression abroad that football will not go on for
many weeks; that pressure will be brought to bear on the Football
Association and the Football League authorities to discontinue
the game until the present crisis is less acute. If it could be
proved that the continuance of football will affect recruiting
to any great extent, there is not a single person but would agree
to the game being temporarily stopped. My own view is that the
discontinuance of football will not help recruiting much, but
will only add more to the general depression caused by the War.
"His Majesty has expressed the view that racing should be continued
as far as possible, and there is very little doubt that the King
will also be in favour of the continuance of football. Why should
racing go on and football be stopped?
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"We may assume that those people who are clamouring for the stopping
of all kinds of sport would also have our theatres, music halls
and other places of entertainment closed. They seem to forget
that there are hundreds of thousands of people
who must stay at home to carry on the ordinary business of the
country. Surely everything in reason should be done to relieve
the depression the War is creating everywhere."
In the week that Leeds hosted Leicester Fosse, the debate raged
on. Representatives of the four home Football Associations met
to discuss a suggestion by Scotland that international matches
should be abandoned for the season. The Scots also wanted Cup
competitions to be cancelled, but that was a step too far for
the others, who concluded that "there is no evidence in fact that
the playing of football has hindered, or is hindering recruiting.
On the contrary, there is good reason to conclude that football
has encouraged and assisted recruiting… Further, the meeting is
of the opinion that to deprive the working people of our country
of their Saturday afternoon recreation would be very unfair and
There was a major schism between the Scots and the other three
associations and it took some time for the scars to heal.
A conflict that many in the summer had boldly predicted would
be over within a matter of weeks was proving stubbornly resistant
to all attempts to bring it to a swift conclusion. On the day
Leeds played Leicester, the national newspapers reported on determined
attacks by the Germans on the Allied positions near Ypres in Belgium,
advances by the French in Alsace, fierce fighting in Poland and
the sinking of the German cruiser Friedrich Karl in the Baltic.
The opposing viewpoints were every bit as heated in Leeds as
in the rest of the country and there was little surprise on a
grey December day that the West Riding public should be less than
enthused by the
attraction of a grim re-election battle with Leicester.
City won the toss and chose to play with a strong wind in the
first half. It was clear from the way they began the game that
the Peacocks were determined to secure a conclusive victory and
they set about the visitors with great vigour. They were rewarded
for their aggression with the opening goal, registered ten minutes
into the engagement.
Ivan Sharpe, the England amateur, now restored to his favourite
role on the left wing after a number of outings on the opposite
flank, got the better of Fosse right-back Billy Troughear and
reached the byline before firing in a testing cross. The incisive
ball left the Fosse ranks in a state of confusion and sparked
an untidy scrimmage in the Leicester area. Young City outside-right
Simpson Bainbridge had intelligently backed up the movement and
he was quickest to react to the opportunity, driving a shot past
goalkeeper Barnett to give his team the lead.
City did not retain their advantage for long and inside-right
Billy Mills brought Leicester back onto terms with a long range
effort after a miskick by Peacocks full-back George Affleck. It
was a somewhat lucky score which Tony Hogg may well have saved
had he not slipped as he strove to get to the shot.
The goal did little to blunt Leeds' confidence and momentum,
and they were quick to press Fosse onto the back foot, swiftly
restoring their lead. Bainbridge was again the beneficiary, with
McLeod the provider this time, and the right winger coolly converted
the centre-forward's cross to notch his second goal.
Bainbridge returned the compliment shortly before half time,
sending over a centre which McLeod finished with some assurance,
sending Leeds in at the break with a 3-1 lead and in control of
The goals had bolstered the home men's brittle confidence and
they continued in the same vein after the break, outclassing their
opponents and forcing them onto almost constant defence. The Fosse
were not comfortable in their work and rarely looked capable of
denying City when they seriously threatened.
Leicester were hampered badly in the second half: Whitfield had
to retire with half an hour to go by virtue of a badly bruised
shin while right-back Troughear went off late in the game. Long
before these mishaps Leeds' stranglehold on the game was established,
though while numbers were equal Leicester fought hard to remain
It was only a matter of time before City increased their advantage
and Arthur Price took it upon himself to finish off the visitors
almost single handed in the second half. He helped himself to
a breathtaking hat trick, his first for the club after managing
braces on a couple of occasions in his two years at Elland Road.
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For a period in that second half it seemed that everything the
inside-forward touched turned to gold and he was here, there and
everywhere as his colleagues saw to it that he had a steady stream
of possession. Fosse could find no solutions to the problems created
by his intelligent probing.
The first of Price's trio came from an unselfish pass by McLeod;
the centre-forward repeated the service for Price's second and
his hat trick came after a telling cross by Bainbridge. It was
an astonishing return to form in a somewhat lacklustre season
the inside-forward, who was leading the Fosse rearguard a merry
dance with his incisive runs and clever footwork.
With the Peacocks now five goals to the good, it was understandable
that some of their urgency was diminished. Leicester managed to
pull a goal back following some good interplay between Mills and
right winger George Douglas. The latter took the honours with
a long dipping effort launched goalwards from the touchline. Hogg
got nowhere near saving the shot, which came as something of a
shock after all the one way traffic.
There was sufficient time remaining for City to add a seventh
score, providing the sheen their superiority merited. McLeod got
the reward for a hard working display, grabbing his second goal
after a pacy run and accurate centre by Sharpe.
High scores were a feature of games between the clubs: in January
1906 Fosse had triumphed 4-1 at Elland Road and in December 1908
had won 6-2 on their own enclosure. February 1913 saw Leeds pull
of a 5-1 victory on home soil, with Price helping himself to two
of the goals. The scores were reversed at Filbert Street a year
later and on 17 April 1915 the East Midlanders repeated that 5-1
victory when the Peacocks travelled to Leicester.
The local Press were unstinting in their praise for the way that
the Citizens had recovered their glittering form of the previous
The Yorkshire Post: "There had been for several weeks much feebleness
in the scoring attempts of the Leeds City forwards. But the necessity
either for a special effort at improvement, or for a drastic revision
in the constitution of the team, had become obvious. It is satisfactory,
therefore, to find that the players have restored confidence in
their abilities - and perhaps have renewed their own confidence
in themselves - by the way in which they forced goals against
"A week ago attention had to be drawn to the absence of success
in organised attacks by the City forwards. It is therefore satisfactory
to be able to note that the seven goals in Saturday's match were
all the direct result of what may be called frontal attacks. The
energy and good judgement of McLeod meant much to the forward
line, and the Leeds centre can be congratulated on having reproduced
the form which caused him to be placed in the running for international
honours last season.
"Excepting that Jackson persistently hung on to the ball too
long, all the Leeds forwards played well, and there was a good
level of merit to the other branches of the team."
JRB in the Leeds Mercury: "Considering the heavy state of the
ground, the game was as good as one could expect, but the home
players adapted themselves to the conditions far better than their
opponents. Their lusty kicking often carried them into the vicinity
of the Leicester goal, where the forwards missed very few chances.
The shooting of the home vanguard was admirable and Barnett had
more than one difficult shot to negotiate.
"All the City goals were the outcome of cool and clever forward
play, and it has been many a day since the City players scored
so prolifically, or shot so often as they did on Saturday. The
passing of the forwards was also good, while the wing men, Bainbridge
and Sharpe, made some very speedy runs. The inside-forwards also
played a capital game with the exception of Jackson, who was not
so quick on the ball as McLeod and Price, the latter being a fine
"The half-backs supported the forwards well, in addition to playing
a good game on the defence. The Leicester forwards were a mediocre
lot, the best of the five being Mills, although King was a hard
worker. The halves, too, played a very moderate game, while the
backs were seldom reliable. Barnett had a busy afternoon in goal,
and he had very little chance with the shots that beat him."
After such a dismal opening half to their season, the easy victory
provided a tremendous fillip for City; Arthur Price's second half
opportunism and the all round combination work of the forward
line revived hopes of better things to come in the West Riding.
It was all the more galling, then, that the Peacocks failed to
build on the display, losing 2-1 at Barnsley the following Saturday.
A season of rumbling inconsistency teetered on as Herbert Chapman
sought in vain to drag his men away from the wrong end of the
table while the guns thundered on in central Europe.
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