1929-30 had been beyond
the wildest dreams of even the most committed Leeds United fan
- they had come in fifth and were more than holding their own
with the big boys. Now they started to wonder, could they actually
challenge for the big one, the League Championship? There were
certainly high hopes as they readied themselves for 1930-31.
John White returned to Hearts and Scotland during August 1930,
but Leeds were surely strong enough to challenge for the top honours.
There was to be a rude awakening, however, for all at Elland Road.
They kicked off with a 2-2 draw at home to Portsmouth, but then
lost twice, 4-1 at Derby and 3-1 at Arsenal (under former Leeds
City manager Herbert Chapman,
on the way to the League title and supremacy of English football).
However, Leeds then beat Manchester City and Blackburn, scoring
four goals in each game against teams that were top six the previous
year. The club had had slow starts before and now, surely, they
would be launching a bid for honours.
Jack Milburn had retained his place at left back and Wilf
Copping had been blooded at left half in the absence of the
injured George Reed. He was not to miss a match all season. Willis
Edwards and Ernie Hart were as powerful as ever and helped the
youthful Copping bed in. Left winger Tom Cochrane had broken through
at the end of the previous season and was preferred to the popular
Tom Mitchell, despite crowd unrest. Milburn's brother George was
starting to establish himself at right back and Jimmy Potts had
regained the goalkeeping position. Charlie Keetley, Bobby Turnbull,
Russell Wainscoat, Tom Jennings and Billy Furness (signed for
£50 from non-League Usworth in 1928) were terrorising defences.
All looked well with the world.
A reversal in the return at Manchester City was soon forgotten
when they won their next match by 7-3 away to Blackpool. It was
a record away win for the club and put them in good heart. The
four straight defeats, with just one goal to their credit, which
followed were a setback, sure, but the 7-0 win which followed
against Middlesbrough with Duggan, Wainscoat and Jennings all
scoring twice stilled fears again. However, Wainscoat was the
only one of three who made anything like a significant
contribution and Duggan and Jennings only managed 20 games and
9 goals between them.
That continued to be the story of an amazing stop start season.
The defence could not be relied upon and the forwards were inconsistent,
swinging wildly between brilliance and anonymity. Leeds would
have a heavy win, then go five or six games before another one
came along. They won just twelve games in the League all season,
but those games showed a goals record of 45 for and only 10 against.
The position was equally stark in their 23 League defeats, where
the position was 16 for but 64 against. Inconsistency was certainly
the word. However, even more annoying was the fact that nine of
Leeds' 23 defeats were by the margin of a single goal.
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The crowds were starting to drift away from Elland Road as well.
They had hit an average 23,000 during 1924-25, their First Division
debut year, a record for the club, and had remained above the
20,000 level even when United had dropped back down to Division
Two, but now they had plummetted to below 16,000. The home game
with Bolton on December 6 saw just 7,595 fans in attendance.
Leeds beat First Division sides Huddersfield (2-0) and Newcastle
(4-1) in the FA Cup Third and Fourth Rounds, with Elland Road
attracting more than 40,000 fans on each occasion. Then they inexplicably
crashed 3-1 away to Exeter City from Division Three (South) just
as they looked like they might be able to go all the way to Wembley.
It was the furthest that they or Leeds City had as yet progressed
in the competition.
As April 1931 dawned, Leeds were down among the dead men, battling
for their First Division lives. A 4-0 win over Sheffield United
on April 7 was a welcome boost, but
United were in trouble. Manchester United had been in bottom spot
for some time and as good as relegated, but Leeds and Blackpool,
the team United had earlier savaged by 7-3, were now fighting
to avoid the remaining relegation spot. Two 2-0 defeats on April
11 and 18, at Bolton and in the home match with Villa, were massive
body blows for Leeds and put Blackpool in the driving seat.
As the last day of the season dawned, on May 2, Leeds had 29
points. Blackpool were on 31, but with a much inferior goal average.
The equation was simple - Leeds had to defeat top six side Derby
County at Elland Road and pray that Manchester City would be able
to beat Blackpool at Maine Road. Blackpool had an abysmal defensive
record, conceding 125 goals that season, ten more than bottom
placed Manchester United. Surely City would see them off?
Leeds had one of their better days and achieved their part of
the task by beating Derby 3-1, with two goals from Keetley. However,
Blackpool fought back at Maine Road to snatch a late equaliser
and secure the point they needed to survive. After being tipped
for the title, the Elland Road club were sent tumbling back down
to Division Two! Everyone connected with Leeds United was devastated.
Other Football Highlights from 1930-31
- Arsenal became the first southern club to win the League Championship
and did so with a record 66 points to finish seven clear of
runners up Aston Villa. The Gunners' 127 goals would also have
been a new record had Villa not managed that by scoring 128
- The Midlands came into their own at Wembley in the wettest
Cup final seen for years, when Second Division West Bromwich
Albion beat their First Division neighbours Birmingham 2-1.
Albion became the first side to win the Cup and promotion in
the same season
- Buoyed by a victory in France in 1930, Scotland staged their
first full overseas tour in May. This time they were less successful,
losing 5-0 to Austria and 3-0 to Italy before regaining some
pride by beating Switzerland 3-2. England also came unstuck
on their travels, going down 5-2 in France in May before bouncing
back to win 4-1 in Belgium. The old rivals shared the Home International
Championship although the Scots won the annual match between
the two sides 2-0
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