their first short taste of the big time, Leeds United were relegated
back to the Second Division at the end of 1926-27.
Manager Arthur Fairclough
immediately resigned his post. The Leeds Board were desperate
for an early return to Division One and they sought a replacement
who would be good enough to satisfy their needs.
Dick Ray was the easy solution
to their problem, having already had a relationship of twenty
years with Elland Road, starting when as a left back he followed
his manager Gilbert Gillies
from Chesterfield to Leeds City for their first season of League
football back in 1905. He had been the first United manager and
had been assistant to Arthur Fairclough until he went his own
way in the close season of 1923. He had moved on to Doncaster
Rovers but was happy to return to Elland Road when the call came.
Despite the relegation, Fairclough had left a strong side behind
him: Jimmy Potts was an ever present in 1926-27 and on his way
to being United's outstanding keeper between the wars; Willis
Edwards, Tom Townsley and George Reed were a dependable half
back line, while Tom Jennings and Russell Wainscoat were threatening
One of Fairclough's last acts at Leeds had been to fork out a
then massive £5,600 to secure the services of Scottish international
schemer John White, who was to be a star of the team for the next
three seasons. Leeds could have turned a quick profit on White
when First Division Sheffield United offered them £6,000 for him
in November. The Board turned down the offer and stuck with White,
who was taking a while to settle in the English game.
Clearly, the Elland Road ship was not sinking, but it needed
someone to make the best of the potential and Ray was that man.
He shipped out a number of players in the close season, including
Percy Whipp and Billy Jackson, but strengthened the squad with
the capture of forwards Charlie Keetley and Joe Firth. He went
on to add others throughout the rest of his first season in charge,
including Alex Stacey and George Milburn, who were both signed
for the future.
Dick Ray was determined to cling on to his star players. With
all mainstays present at the start of 1927-28, the Yorkshire Post
sensed optimism at Elland Road. "The enforced return of Leeds
United to the second division has awakened a new spirit among
the management and players alike. There is a feeling that
United's set back is only temporary ... the utmost confidence
is felt that a team which includes players of such outstanding
merit as Townsley, Edwards, Jennings and White will make a bold
strike for a return to the higher status."
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With the left flank strengthened by Tom Mitchell, whose direct
surging runs ruffled many defences, Leeds announced their intentions
on the first day of the season as they ripped apart South Shields
in a 5-1 away win, with White hitting two of them. "The effect
on morale of such a victory is incalculable. With confidence restored,
Leeds should stand out in the Second Division," predicted
the Yorkshire Post. White added another to his tally in the 2-2
home draw with Barnsley. Two further home wins followed against
Southampton (2-0) and Nottingham Forest (4-0). The goals were
flowing freely with White, Jennings and Wainscoat all on the way
to wonderful seasons.
The club were losing the odd match here and there, but by the
beginning of December had won half of their 16 matches, scoring
38 goals in the process. They had stuffed five past Swansea and
won 6-2 at home to Reading.
It was about this time that Ray pulled off a tactical masterstroke
by moving Townsley into the problem position of right back and
recalling Ernie Hart to the team at centre half. He had tried
the move temporarily in September when right back Harry Roberts
was injured, but he now made the switch permanent, with immediate
rewards. In December and January, the side won seven straight
victories with the goals flowing freely. Tom Jennings inspired
that run with four goals in the first victory, by 5-0 at home
to Chelsea. He hit another two in the 5-1 victory over Stoke and
was having a massive impact on Second Division defences.
Although Jennings was laid low intermittently through the effects
of blood poisoning, Dick Ray maintained his team's momentum with
the mid-season acquisition from non-League football of centre
forward Charlie Keetley. Keetley was one of five footballing brothers,
the rest of whom played at various times for Doncaster Rovers
under Ray. For Keetley, the higher standard in League football
made no difference to his habits - he continued scoring as if
for fun, running in 18 goals during Leeds' final 16 matches.
A 3-2 win at Stamford Bridge against promotion rivals Chelsea,
delivered by two goals from Keetley and one from White, ensured
United's immediate return to the first division. The match drew
a crowd of 47,562 and was worthy of the occasion. The Yorkshire
Post: "The exchanges were extraordinarily fast and keen and
reached a high standard of cleverness." On their return to
Midland Station in Leeds that night, United were greeted as heroes
by hordes of supporters including the Lord Mayor and Mayoress.
But Jennings was struggling with a bout of blood poisoning and
Ray brought Charlie Keetley in as replacement. He repaid Ray's
faith by scoring in both of his first two games, a 3-0 win at
home to South Shields and a 4-1 away victory at Southampton. Leeds
lost their next game, the FA Cup Third Round tie away to Manchester
City, who they were vying closely with at the top of the Second
Division table, but then Keetley scored again in the 2-2 draw
at Forest and hit all three goals in the 3-2 win over Bristol
City. A new hero had been found and formed a deadly forward line
along with Wainscoat, Bobby Turnbull, White and Tom Mitchell.
Keetley was proving a more than capable substitute for Jennings
and was now a main man. The two didn't play in the same side until
the following season.
Leeds struggled through February, suffering a couple of defeats,
but came back strongly at the end of the month. They beat Fulham,
drew the next match and then
won 8 of the next 9, with the only goals against coming at the
end in a 3-2 win away to promotion rivals Chelsea. During that
run Keetley really came good, scoring 12 times, with hat tricks
in the 6-0 thumping of Notts County and the 4-0 win over Clapton
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With two games left, Leeds were on 57 points and were already
certain of promotion. They still had to face their closest rivals
for the title, Manchester City, along with another team in the
shake up for promotion, Stoke City. Unfortunately, Leeds lost
both matches, with the last seeing them going down 5-1 at Stoke.
A win in either match would have given Leeds the title, but as
it turned out City won the Championship by a clear two points.
City's 1-0 win at Elland Road before a record attendance at the
ground of 49,799 had been crucial.
For all that stumble at the death, it had still been a magnificent
season for the club, bouncing back up to Division One at the first
attempt and hitting a club record 98 goals in the process. Jennings
and White were joint top scorers with 21 apiece and Wainscoat
and Keetley each hit 18, with Charlie's haul coming in just 16
matches, a remarkable haul. The wingers, Bobby Turnbull and Tom
Mitchell, also contributed 8 each.
They were older and wiser after a year back in Division Two and
could look forward with some hope to another shot at the big time.
Other Football Highlights from 1927-28
- A year after George Camsell had torn up the goalscoring record
books, Dixie Dean shredded them again when he overhauled Camsell's
59 League goals in the last match of the season. But with three
matches to go the 21 year old Everton and England centre forward
was nine short of the record. Dean scored two against Aston
Villa, four against Burnley and required a hat trick against
Arsenal to reach 60. Although Everton had already won the championship,
more than 48,000 packed Goodison on May 5 to see if he could
pull it off. He got two in the first half but had to wait until
the 82nd minute to smash the record when he soared above the
Gunners defence to score his 40th header of the season from
- When Huddersfield lost 3-1 to Blackburn in the FA Cup final
they became the first team since Barnsley in 1910 to score in
a final and fail to win the trophy
- Tottenham were relegated from the First Division with 38 points,
the highest total for a club going down. The seven teams that
finished immediately above Spurs all had 39 points, and only
four points separated bottom of the table Middlesbrough (37
points) and tenth placed Arsenal
- Scotland came to Wembley at the end of March and, in the pouring
rain and in front of 80,000 people, proceeded to give England
a lesson in how football should be played. The "Wee Blue
Devils" - hat trick hero Alex Jackson was the tallest of
the forwards at 5ft 7in - turned on an exhibition of ball skill
and artistry to run out 5-1 winners and were forever after known
as the "Wembley Wizards"
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