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Season 1921/22
Promising signs

Harry Sherwin joined Leeds United from Sunderland, but had been a star for Leeds City during the WarNew manager Arthur Fairclough probably did as much as could be expected in his first season, guiding the newly elected Leeds United and a young squad to a 14th place finish in the Second Division. He had created a sound platform for the future around a strong defensive formation and now sought to move the club forward.

He recruited a number of new players - goalkeeper Fred Whalley (Grimsby), full back Ralph Rodgerson (Huddersfield), right-half Harry Sherwin, who enjoyed 91 wartime guest appearances for Leeds City (Sunderland), right winger Wallace Clark (Middlesbrough) and inside forward Jim Moore (Southampton) among them.

However, his most successful acquisition was undoubtedly centre-forward Jack Swan who arrived from Huddersfield in November, after losing his place at Leeds Road to England international Clem Stephenson. Swan went on to score 47 goals for United in 108 League games over the four years he spent at Elland Road and was a real handful for opposing defences.

Full-back Bert Duffield, wing-half and captain Jim Baker, and centre-half Ernie Hart lined up alongside Whalley, Rodgerson and Sherwin in the United defence through most of the season and provided an outstanding rearguard - they only conceded 38 goals in the league, with just 12 of them at Elland Road, a telling improvement on previous seasons. It was far and away the best defensive record so far on the part of either Leeds City or United. Signs of this improvement had been hinted at the previous year, but now Baker was leading a powerful rearguard which was growing in experience and confidence. Fred Whalley missed just four games all season after displacing young Billy Down in United's goal.

However, goals were proving difficult to come by, and by the end of October, United had scored just 15 times in 12 matches, although half of those games had been won. Fairclough returned to Leeds Road to snap up Swan when the opportunity arose. United had been heavily dependent upon Tom Howarth who had been recruited from Bristol City for 1,750 the previous March, and he had weighed in with 9 of those 12 goals. He was a fiery individual, who was often in trouble for his temper and Swan now usually partnered by Len Armitage up front. The duo got eighteen goals between them that season, although Howarth still ended leading scorer with 13. He didn't manage any after 27 December, however, and clearly Swan was the star of the show, with his best return being a hat trick against Coventry at the end of March.

United's form dipped following Swan's arrival, and the club only won one game between the middle of November and the end of January. That poor run of 13 games included the inevitable FA Cup defeat at the first time of asking, this time away to Swindon Town from the Southern Section of Division Three.

After that, though, Swan and Armitage started to get their act together and between 28 January and 17 April the pair hit 15 goals between them in 18 matches, as United won 7, scored 23 and conceded just 11. Bill Poyntz, a Welsh inside-forward who had joined the club from Llanelli in the summer, had now also broken into the team. Poyntz achieved the unwanted distinction of becoming the first United player to be sent off when he was dismissed against Bury in February. He soon made up for that by scoring a hat trick against Leicester City, only hours after his wedding that morning. In that same run of 18 games, Poyntz scored five goals.

United looked poised for a highly improbable promotion place, but could only manage one goal and one win in their last five matches, the last two of which were against eventual champions Nottingham Forest. Leeds lost at the City ground and could only manage a goalless draw at Elland Road, to finish the season in 8th spot, eleven points behind Forest. They were three points behind fourth placed West Ham.

However, when on form, Leeds United could see off anyone. During an excellent run towards the end of the season, they beat Coventry 5-2 at Elland Road in what the Yorkshire Post described as 'a hurricane finish - four goals in ten minutes. Better forward play has not been seen on this ground for a long while.' Two weeks later, Leeds swept aside promotion candidates Barnsley, winning 4-0 at Elland Road 'in atrocious conditions ... with turf soddened ... almost the whole of the second half was played in a violent sleet storm. Leeds United triumphed over their surroundings in great style.'

The unfortunate closing run, during which little went right, was an anticlimactic end to what had been an extremely promising season, but it still represented a significant step forward from the previous year and gave reason for Fairclough and Chairman Hilton Crowther to look forward eagerly to the following season.

Other Football Highlights from 1921/22

  • Liverpool cruised to a third league title, finishing six points clear of second placed Tottenham
  • Huddersfield Town, having been virtually out of business in 1919, started their climb to the top under former Leeds City manager Herbert Chapman by winning the FA Cup. They beat Preston 1-0 at Stamford Bridge thanks to a second half penalty
  • Syd Puddefoot was transferred from West Ham to Falkirk in February for the unbelievable sum of £5,000, a new record. Syd King, the West Ham manager, attempted to call Falkirk's bluff by naming an outrageous fee

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