Life after the Second World War had started pretty abysmally
for Leeds United. They had finished bottom of their division in
both 1945-46 and 1946-47. Those performances
had cost former manager Billy
Hampson his job and led to the appointment of former United
captain and England international Willis
Edwards as the new boss in April 1947. It had been too late
then to do anything about the slide into Division Two, but Edwards
took little positive
action during the summer either. He made a couple of minor signings,
but the only new player who went on to make any sort of impact
was right back Jimmy Dunn, who arrived from junior football. He
went on to play more than 400 times for Leeds, but only figured
in fifteen games in 1947-48.
Edwards may have been a superb player over nearly 20 years for
the club, but he was not really cut out for the hurly burly dealings
of management and he had little impact in his time in charge.
At the end of 1946-47, all his six games as manager had ended
in defeat. Even though Leeds started off quite promisingly on
their return to Division Two, they were soon back to their bad
old ways as they slithered down the table.
United kicked off their first Second Division campaign for 15
years with all guns blazing and looked like they might take the
division by storm. They won five of their first seven matches
and scored heavily. Aubrey Powell, Albert Wakefield and John Short
had bagged 13 between them. But as they moved into the second
half of September, Leeds started facing stiffer opposition. Their
lengthy trip to Plymouth on September 17 ended in a 1-0 reverse
and then they faced two of the stronger sides in the division,
Newcastle and Birmingham, one after another. Both clubs had illustrious
pasts and had finished in the top five the previous season. They
had both started well and eventually went on to secure the two
Leeds got a hammering in their trip to Newcastle. Len Shackleton
was the star of the Geordies team in those days and Leeds were
no match for the Toon Army who triumphed 4-2 before a massive
57,000 crowd. A week later Birmingham were the opposition at Elland
Road and became the first visitors all season to pick up a point,
coming away with a 1-0 win.
Those results knocked the brittle confidence that Leeds had started
to build up. This was a team that had got used to losing football
matches and that's a hard habit to break. The wins were starting
to come less and less often and the forwards were now struggling.
Manager Edwards had no answer to the problem. He was seen as
the pawn of the directors, picking the team with them and bringing
little fire to his team talks. Three new men had joined the Leeds
board, Percy Woodward, Harold Marjason and Robert Wilkinson, but
there was a general malaise descending on Elland Road which was
compounded by a worrying lack of direction.
As the season drifted on into the winter months there were some
new arrivals in winger Billy Windle, half back Jim Bullions, who
had been in Derby's Cup winning side of 1946, and inside forward
Ken Chisholm, a Scottish inside forward from Partick Thistle.
However, they made little difference. Within months, Windle was
off to Lincoln, as a number of other players departed Elland Road.
Since the arrival of Edwards in April 1947, Harry Sutherland,
Bob Batey, Bobby Browne, Harry Clarke, George Ainsley, Gerry Henry
and Dennis Grainger had all left the club. Partly, that was down
to money, as Leeds continued to face crippling debts, but there
was no coherent planning or development behind the changes. The
club was drifting into directionless chaos.
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On December 27, United collapsed 6-1 away to Luton and followed
that up with a Cup exit, by 4-0 away to First Division Blackpool,
and another Elland Road defeat, against Fulham. It was now six
weeks since the team had won and they were struggling against
relegation to the Third Division.
They managed to pull off a surprising 3-1 win at home to Newcastle,
and follow it up with an away win at Coventry, but Birmingham
brought them back down to earth on February 14 with a 5-1 thumping
at St Andrews.
Luckily for the club, there were some even poorer sides around,
and Leeds started picking up a few points as winter turned into
spring, not enough to give them too much comfort, but enough to
keep their heads above water. They had good wins against West
Brom and Cardiff, who were both doing well in the top half of
the table. A 3-0 win at home to Chesterfield on April 17 was enough
to secure the club's Second Division status, although it marked
the end of the line for manager Edwards, who was demoted to assistant
The board had finally recognised that the appointment of Edwards,
a loyal club servant, but with no experience on the management
side, had been a bad mistake. The new chairman of the club, Sam
Bolton, knew that if the club were ever to mean anything, they
needed a proven manager, one who could make a difference. He brought
in Frank Buckley, a
64 year old former Army officer who was always known as the Major.
Buckley was a big name appointment and had in the past rescued
a struggling Wolverhampton Wanderers side from ignominy in the
Second Division and built them into a major force in Division
One. The extra attraction of Buckley's astute business skills
(he had helped the Black Country club to generate a £100,000 profit
in his spell at Molineux) made him an ideal candidate for a club
who had always struggled financially. Buckley had moved on to
Hull City after the war and had just bought former England inside
forward Raich Carter from Derby for a nominal fee. As well as
playing, Carter had become Hull's assistant manager. When Buckley
resigned within weeks to go to Leeds, Carter was given complete
charge and Hull's attendances boomed.
With Leeds safe, Buckley could watch the last match of the season,
at Elland Road against Bury, in peace. Bury were just above Leeds
on goal average, but a superb 5-1 win with a hat trick from Albert
Wakefield, enabled Leeds to overtake them and finish the season
in 18th place, some seven points clear of relegation.
Wakefield was far and away the top scorer, with the three goals
that day moving him onto 21 for the season. He was one of the
few successes. Of the rest, Ken Chisholm had weighed in with seven
goals in 17 games since his move from Scotland, Jim Bullions had
added some much needed bite in the middle and Con Martin had made
himself a valuable member of the side, switching, seemingly at
will, between wing half, inside forward, centre half and full
Once again, the Elland Road public had been perversely supportive
amidst the depressing performances and the average gate reached
another record, moving up to 28,500. The home game with Birmingham
in September had drawn a crowd of more than 37,000.
Clearly, there was a thirst in West Yorkshire for big time football
and the appointment of Buckley looked like it might herald a new
beginning for a dispirited club.
Other Football Highlights from 1947-48
- After their flirt with relegation in 1946-47, Arsenal coasted
to their sixth First Division title with almost a month to spare.
Captain Joe Mercer put off retirement to inspire their triumph
- Third Division North side Notts County were the first club
to pay £20,000 for a player when they bought Tommy Lawton from
Chelsea. Lawton went on to become the first Third Division player
to turn out for England
- A Football League record crowd on January 17 of 83,260 saw
Manchester United draw 1-1 with Arsenal at Maine Road (United's
temporary post war home)
- Matt Busby won his first trophy as a manager when he inspired
Manchester United to win the FA Cup, coming back from 2-1 down
in the final against Blackpool to run out 4-2 winners
- Newcastle, with an average home crowd of more than 56,000,
gained promotion to the First Division despite selling Len Shackleton
to Sunderland in February. The deal raised the transfer record
again, to £20,500
- Stanley Matthews played possibly his greatest game as England
won 5-2 against Belgium in Brussels in September. Later in the
season they beat Sweden at Highbury, won 2-0 in Scotland and
then beat the rampant, arrogant Italians 4-0 in Turin
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