The previous two seasons had been promising ones for Arthur
Fairclough and his Leeds United team, and there was a great
deal of optimism around Elland Road as their fourth season in
the Second Division, 1923-24, dawned. They had been
just four points off promotion the previous season.
The resignation of assistant manager Dick
Ray during the summer was shrugged off as Fairclough enlisted
the support of Dick Norman, the Blackpool manager, to replace
him. The two had worked together previously when Fairclough had
been at Barnsley before the First World War and knew each other
In the summer there had been something of a clear out of fringe
players, with half backs Alf Dark and Jimmy Walton, forwards Len
Armitage and George Mason and full back Joe Potts all leaving
while former Leeds City winger Ivan Sharpe retired.
The only recruits were forward Bob Fullam, centre half Lawrie
Baker, keeper Bill Johnson and left back George Speak. Of these
only Speak played any real part in the team in 1923-24, filling
the left back position in around half the games. Bill Menzies
captured the shirt for much of the run in, however, and became
a fixture at No 3 for the next few years.
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Much of the previous year's promising side was still around,
but now Billy Down had regained the goalkeeper's jersey from Fred
Whalley and young Joe Richmond secured the No 9 shirt for most
of the season. The stalwarts Bert Duffield, Ernie Hart and skipper
Jim Baker ensured the defensive stability continued as the goals
against total achieved a record low for a third successive season,
but now the forward line had become equally effective. Alan Noble
and Joe Harris were the providers from the wings, but the real
strength lay in the other three, Richmond, Percy Whipp and Jack
Swan, who between them hit 44 of United's 61 goals in the League.
At last Fairclough had finally brought together an outfit that
were uniformly good and that he could be satisfied with. Despite
an inauspicious start, with just one win from the first six games,
by November Leeds had surged to the top of the table with a dazzling
streak of results that included seven successive victories. They
faltered in December, losing twice to promotion rivals Bury, but
on Boxing Day recovered enough to thrash Oldham 5-0 at Elland
Road with goals from Swan (2), Richmond and Whipp(2). The Yorkshire
Post celebrated "a fine exhibition of aggressive play ...
Leeds would not have been flattered if they'd doubled the score.
They had a very effective left wing in Armand and Swan whose perfect
combinations went a very long way to securing this victory."
Two early defeats had come at the hands of Leicester City. The
Midlands club had been unlucky to miss out on promotion the previous
season when they had finished third but only on the basis of an
inferior goal average to runners up West Ham. They were still
a strong test for any team, although they slumped badly to a final
position in the middle of the table.
After their shaky spell during December, Leeds United came back
strongly. Six straight wins from January to March kept Leeds buoyant.
Yet, despite being on the threshold of the first division, home
attendances were dispiritingly
low: only 11,000 saw the 3-1 home victory over Coventry on 9 February;
just 8,000 the midweek 2-1 win against South Shields on 27 February.
Leeds United were about to make history, but Elland Road, when
only a quarter full, was a downbeat arena; its pulse rate low.
The team, however, was full of fight and fire.
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Leeds were now sitting pretty at the top of the division and
even the customary Cup exit, 3-0 at the hands of First Division
giants Aston Villa in front of nearly 52,000 fans in Birmingham,
could not deter them.
That match was in the Third Round, which was as far as either
City or United had ever got, and matched their progress the previous
They faltered quite badly in the last couple of months of the
season, winning just twice in the last eight games and it looked
like they might have shot their bolt when four straight draws
were followed by a 2-0 defeat at promotion rivals Derby. However,
on 21 April the football team of Leeds finally achieved their
long cherished goal of promotion to Division One by beating Stockport
4-0 at Elland Road and for once there was a sense of occasion.
"The holiday crowd, officially returned at 22,145, was more
demonstrative than perhaps any that has been assembled in this
ground since the War," reported the Yorkshire Post. "Though
cleverer teams have won promotion,
no set of players has tried harder or trained more conscientiously.
The extraordinary tenacity of the home players and their effective
tackling was too much for Stockport in the second half."
Jack Swan struck two of the goals.
That set things up nicely for the home
game with Nelson Town on 26 April. A 1-0 victory secured the
Second Division title and the crowd poured onto the pitch at the
final whistle to celebrate their success. Leeds lost the return
game at Nelson a week later by 3-1, but it was too late to make
a difference and they won the title with 54 points, going up with
second placed Bury who finished level on 51 points with Derby.
Manager Arthur Fairclough and his players were branded miracle
workers in the city of Leeds and feted wherever they went. The
unofficial Championship win during the year had been important,
but now official glory was conferred upon Leeds United and the
Yorkshire public revelled in the triumph.
Other Football Highlights from 1923-24
- After the closest battle ever for the title, Huddersfield
Town emerged victorious over Cardiff on goal average by 0.024
of a goal to secure their first League Championship. Huddersfield's
goals record read 60-33, while the Welsh club's finished 61-34.
As the teams entered the last match, Town were a point behind,
but they beat Forest 3-0 at Leeds Road, while Cardiff missed
a penalty as they had to settle for a goalless draw at Birmingham
- Wembley proved a happier hunting ground than Crystal Palace
for Newcastle in the Cup. They had lost five of their six finals
at Palace, but in their first visit to Wembley they scored two
goals in the last seven minutes to win the 1924 FA Cup against
- Future Leeds manager Billy
Hampson became the oldest finalist this century at 41 years
8 months when he played right back for Newcastle, but Billy
Meredith became the oldest man to play in the FA Cup when, at
the age of 49 years and eight months, he took the field for
Manchester City against the Geordies in the semi finals
- Wales won all three Home International games to win the title
outright for the second time in five seasons
- England played their first match at Wembley, drawing 1-1 with
Scotland to earn their only point in the championships
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