The day Liam Cooper fulfilled his destiny and secured his place in Leeds United history

24 Jul 2021 07:13 am, by YorkshireSquare

One year ago, Liam Cooper fulfilled his destiny and secured his place in Leeds United history by lifting the Football League trophy, following in the footsteps of the great Billy Bremner and Gordon Strachan who had lifted the trophy before him. The trophy may not represent the pinnacle achievement in English football anymore but it’s value to Leeds United fans was just as important as it ever had been following sixteen years out of the top-flight. A hard-fought victory at Barnsley before West Brom and Brentford dropped points secured the title for Leeds and the team received a guard of honour from Derby County ahead of their final away game of the 2019-2020 season. The players were afforded a brief celebration on the Pride Park pitch after the game, but in the last game of the season against Charlton on 22nd July 2020, getting their hands on that trophy for the first time in twenty-eight years is what it was all about.

On Monday 28th April 1969 at a packed Anfield, Leeds gained a hard fought draw against Liverpool and at the final whistle were the worthy Champions of the Football League, an achievement that was given the seal of approval from those incredible 25,000 people at one end of that ground known as the Kop. Just 48 hours later, the new Champions ran onto the Elland Road pitch to a tremendous ovation from over 46,000 and proceeded to stablish a new First Division points record by beating a Nottingham Forest side who had sportingly lined up to applaud Leeds onto the field. After that came the presentation of the Championship trophy itself to skipper Billy Bremner and a lap of honour from the players, which produced another tumultuous reception from the fans.

In 1974 it was Liverpool who contested Leeds for the league title yet again but it was a wonderful surprise when Arsenal pulled off a shock win at Anfield which meant that Liverpool could no longer reach United's points total and that the 1974 Football League Champions were - Leeds United. To celebrate taking the honour for the second time, Leeds won their final League match of the season, in London against Queens Park Rangers with an expertly taken goal from Allan Clarke, and in the end finished five points ahead of runners-up Liverpool. Leeds were very worthy Champions if only for the unforgettable football they had played in the first half of the season and Billy Bremner lifted the trophy for the second time as Leeds United captain.

In 1992 Leeds United had destiny in their own hands. If they won their remaining games at Sheffield United and at home to Norwich City the championship was theirs, falter and Manchester United could claim English Football’s major prize. Leeds won 3-2 at Bramall Lane with goals from Jon Newsome, Rod Wallace and an own goal from Brian Gayle. The 3-2 win meant Manchester had to win at Anfield to keep their hopes alive. An early Ian Rush strike and a late Mark Walters goal ensured a 2-0 defeat and many thousands of Leeds fans all over the world were jubilant as they reclaimed the championship after eighteen years.

Norwich City were guests to a party on the final day of Leeds United's championship-winning season as a sell-out Elland Road crowd celebrated United's first top-flight title since 1974 and the era of Don Revie. A presentation ceremony was held before kick-off with club chairman Leslie Silver collecting Barclays’ League prize money of £100,000 before United captain Gordon Strachan lifted the century-old championship trophy to the sound of "Are you watching Manchester?" The City of Leeds feted their heroes and the final game took on a festival atmosphere as a Rod Wallace wonder goal saw United victorious. United's supporters erupted, including those who had failed to gain entry to Elland Road and who had positioned themselves in the small gap between the West Stand and the South Stand. The atmosphere was such that United's directors were moved to include themselves in the Mexican waves which swept round the stadium.

Last year’s celebrations were rather different, with the supporters locked out of Elland Road but it meant just as much to the fans and it will have meant just as much to Liam Cooper as it meant to Billy Bremner and Gordon Strachan.