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Today marks the 96th birthday of Leeds United Association Football Club. The history of football in Leeds dates back to the late 1800’s with teams such as Hunslet Football Club winning the West Yorkshire Cup in 1898 and Leeds Woodville in the Leeds League who shared Elland Road stadium with Holbeck Rugby Club. When Holbeck failed to secure a place in division one of the Northern Union in 1904 the club were disbanded and Elland Road put up for sale.
Traditionally a Rugby League city there was an appetite for football in Leeds, especially now there was a vacant stadium available. The men previously behind the now disbanded Hunslet Football Club held a meeting at the Griffin Hotel in Leeds to discuss plans for a new football team for the city. And so it was in 1904 that Leeds City Football Club was founded. Leeds was the biggest city in England not to have a team in the Football League and finally on the 29th May 1905 they were admitted to the second division of the Football League.
Leeds City finished mid-table in the first few seasons but when Herbert Chapman arrived as manager in 1912 their performances started to improve. They finished in the top half of the table and narrowly missed out on promotion before the league was suspended in 1915 due to the war. During the war Leeds City won an unofficial League Championship with many guest players including internationals turning out for the club. The League started again in 1919 but allegations were made about the club making illegal payments to players during the war. As a result of an enquiry Leeds City were expelled from the Football League.
Following the disbandment of Leeds City by the FA due to illegal payments made to players during the first world war the entire playing staff of the club was auctioned off at the Metropole Hotel in Leeds on 17th October 1919. After the auction a group of more than 1,000 loyal Leeds City supporters held a meeting at the Salem Hall in Hunslet where Leeds United AFC were formed. The new club were elected to the Midland League on 31st October 1919 taking the place vacated by the Leeds City reserves. Leeds United joined the Football League on 31st May 1920 and finished 14th in their first season.
I'd also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to John Cave (Pictured above right in 1956) or Jailhouse John to many who sadly passed away last week. I met John through Marching on Together and we have shared many a beer in the Peacock beer garden over the years. His passion for Leeds United was immense and having supported them since the 1940's his knowledge of the history of the club was unrivalled. Be it time leading the Supporters Trust, his articles in The Square Ball or more recently promoting fan ownership through Leeds Fans Utd he will have enriched the lives of many Leeds fans. A genuinely nice guy, a lovely bloke who will be missed greatly by a great many.
To read more on the history of Leeds United visit these wonderful sites;
Oz Whites Leeds United FC History
The Mighty Mighty Whites
WAFFL Leeds United History