1945-46 had been disappointing, it had nothing on the season which
followed, one of the most dismal in the entire history of Leeds
Manager Billy Hampson had
little money for new players and relied on those who had served
him so well prior to the war. Les Goldberg, Jim Milburn, Tom Holley,
David Cochrane, Gerry Henry, John Short, Aubrey Powell, George
Ainsley, Bobby Browne, Billy Heaton, Jim Twomey and Ken Gadsby
had all been at Elland Road in the Thirties. A number of other
players had arrived during the war, including Tom Hindle, and
Hampson had later brought in new players like winger Dennis Grainger
and half back Bob Batey, who had played under him at Carlisle.
However, it was noticeable that he did not have much young talent
available to him.
The public's appetite for football was enormous in 1946-47, one
of a handful of pleasures that was not rationed. Had Hampson's
team done anything to encourage their supporters, Elland Road
might well have seen record crowds. But while individual results
were less dire than in the previous season, Leeds United's habit
of losing became even worse.
Things started badly from the opening day, although Leeds were
involved in a very historic occasion. Their official post-war
record kicked off on 31 August 1946, with a game away to Preston
North End at Deepdale before more than 25,000 football hungry
fans, which marked the Football League debut of a young winger
by the name of Tom Finney, who had already played for the England
side during the war years. Despite two goals from Dennis Grainger,
Leeds United lost 3-2, with Finney marking his big day with one
of the goals.
It very quickly became apparent that Leeds were going to struggle.
They won just three points from the first 8 games and by the end
of September were stranded at the foot of the table. They won
a couple of games in October, another two in November and got
their first away point on November 30, but that was
nowhere near enough and their form started to deteriorate even
further. In fact, they won just 6 games all season, only one between
November 23 and the end of the season and gained just the one
point away from Elland Road. It was frightening stuff and Leeds'
ineptitude was astonishing.
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Leeds had never been a rich club, but Hampson tried to arrest
the decline by paying out £8,000 to Glentoran for the versatile
23 year old Con Martin and another £4,000 on Darlington's free
scoring centre forward Harry Clarke. It cost him rather less to
get Huddersfield's former England half back Ken Willingham in
March 1947, but whatever he did, it made no difference. Leeds
were sadly in decline and were completely out of their depth.
After New Year, the team fell apart, winning only one of their
last 21 matches - a 2-1 home victory over Chelsea that attracted
37,884, the highest crowd of the season.
The statistics made grim reading: Leeds' points tally of 18 was
the lowest ever recorded in the
First Division and remained so for 38 years. They were a clear
20 points below the 20th team in the division, they lost 20 of
their last 24 games and struggled all season for goals. Their
away record - won 0, drawn 1, lost 20 - uniquely awful.
The writing was on the wall and in April 1947 Hampson was demoted
to chief scout with Leeds already doomed to relegation and loss
of the First Division status they had held since 1932. The board
promoted assistant trainer Willis
Edwards, who had previously played more than 400 times for
the club. He took over for the last six games, all of which ended
Paradoxically, the public flocked to Elland Road to see the disaster.
Like most English clubs, Leeds enjoyed an upsurge in crowds following
the war and the average attendance of 26,000 was some 3,000 better
than any previous year.
Other Football Highlights from 1946-47
- After a third of the season the only thing that kept Arsenal
off the bottom of the table was goal average. They lost nine
of their first 14 matches and were heading for an unimaginable
drop into the Second Division. Arsenal couldn't find any young
players to buy, so they bought Everton's stalwart 31 year old
left half Joe Mercer for £7,000 and paid £1,000 plus two reserve
players for Ronnie Rooke, Fulham's 35 year old centre forward.
Rooke got 21 goals in 24 games as Arsenal hauled themselves
clear of trouble
- Nearly a million people flocked to the 43 matches on the opening
day of the League season. The season went on to become the longest
on record as a bitter winter played havoc with fixtures. More
than 140 matches were postponed in three months
- The result of the League title race hinged on two matches.
Wolves, who had been 11 points clear at one stage, needed to
win their last match against Liverpool to secure the title,
but they lost 2-1, which made Liverpool the new leaders. The
Anfield club had to wait a fortnight until June 14 for the result
of the Stoke-Sheffield United game to see if they could hang
on as Stoke would win the title on goal average if they won.
Stoke had sold Stanley Matthews to Blackpool for £11,500 in
May and he was badly missed as United won 2-1 to confirm Liverpool's
- Stanley Rous, the FA Secretary, appointed chief coach Walter
Winterbottom as the first England football team manager in May
1947, prompting the national team to beat Portugal 10-0 on May
- A Great Britain XI beat the Rest of Europe 6-1 at Hampden
in May to celebrate the home nations rejoining FIFA
- Neil McBain, New Brighton's 52 year old manager, had to play
in goal in a 3-0 defeat to Hartlepools in the Third Division
North when the club's only regular keeper was injured, thus
becoming the oldest player ever to play in the League
- Derby broke the British transfer record when they paid £15,000
for Billy Steel of Morton, the Scottish international inside
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