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Twenty-twenty was a bittersweet year. On one hand we have seen a Leeds United side flying high, playing some of the most exhilarating football we have ever witnessed as fans. Winning the Football League Championship by ten points and reclaiming our rightful place in the Premier League after a long sixteen-year absence. On the other hand, the Coronavirus pandemic has seen the country locked down with loss and heartbreak felt by many. The Leeds United family has been no different, the loss of Norman Hunter to the virus at the height of the pandemic perhaps the most opinion. With the dawn of a new year we take some time to look back at those Leeds United legends we sadly lost in twenty-twenty.
Norman Hunter (1962-1976)
Norman Hunter is revered as one of the toughest to have ever played the game. The nickname ‘Bites your legs’ was well earned, Norman was uncompromising in his tackling and alongside Jack Charlton for ten years was the foundation of the greatest Leeds United team to have graced Elland Road. But that was not all there was to his game, he was a skilful player too, 28 England caps and a World Cup winners medal testify to that fact. Whilst he may have been hard on the pitch he was a true gentleman off it with his friendly, affable character making him a favourite with both old and young fans alike. Hunter may have been born in the North East but he was Leeds through and through. That passion for Leeds United and the city of Leeds shone through during his time as a match day summariser for BBC Radio Leeds and if you ever met him meeting and greeting fans in the hospitality areas of Elland Road pre-match.
Trevor Cherry (1972-1982)
Cherry moved to Leeds from his hometown Huddersfield Town for £100,000 in 1972, and while formerly almost exclusively a central defender, his ability to play midfield and full back made him a valuable acquisition. He made the left-back spot his own at Elland Road following injury to Terry Cooper, a spot he kept until the emergence of Frank Gray saw him move back into his old spot of left-half. He had picked up a First Division Championship medal in 1973-74, but it wasn't until 24th March 1976 that he gained his first England Cap, when Don Revie selected him for the 2-1 win against Wales at Wrexham. Cherry had become a mainstay in the Leeds defence and was made club captain after Billy Bremner left in 1976. He also became the second Leeds player to captain England, the first being Willis Edwards, when he captained England against Australia in 1980 at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Jack Charlton (1952-1973)
Don Revie built his defence around Jack Charlton and gave him free rein over organizing Gary Sprake, Paul Reaney, Willie Bell and Norman Hunter into the most formidable defence in Britain. A supreme header of the ball and excellent tackler, Charlton developed into the best Centre Half in England and in his prime. His height was used to great advantage at Leeds corner kicks and his surprisingly agile defensive ability kept out even the greatest strikers of his day. Charlton also fancied himself as a bit of a striker too, playing up front a few occasion early on in Revie’s reign. Big Jack spent his entire footballing career at Leeds, making an astounding 733 appearances over 21 years and scoring 96 goals. Jack retired from playing in 1973 and had mixed fortunes as a manager at several clubs, but his best known managerial success was with The Republic of Ireland.
Alex Sabella (1980-1982)
Sabella started his career with River Plate but moved to England in 1978 when charismatic Sheffield United manager Harry Haslam travelled to Argentina in order to sign him. He moved up the M1 to Leeds for £400,000 where he played without much success between 1980 and 1982. It was a tough period for the club and manager Jimmy Adamson tried to use Sabella to add flair to his otherwise dour style of play. While he often showed signs of individual brilliance, which endeared him to the Leeds fans, he struggled to adapt to the English conditions and style of play. Lack of success saw the exit of Adamson. His replacement Allan Clarke did not have room for Sabella in a system with the emphasis on defence and high work-rate. He was sold to Aggentinan club Estudiantes de La Plata in January 1982 for £120,000, having spent just eighteen months at Elland Road.
Peter Hampton (1972-1980)
Recruited by Don Revie for Leeds in September 1971 it was a hard apprenticeship for the resolute full-back as he competed with Terry Cooper and Trevor Cherry for a place in the side. Hampton did not feature in the 1973-74 Championship side, however he was an unused substitute in the European Cup Final against Bayern Munich in 1975. It was not until the 1976-77 season that he enjoyed a good run, when Jimmy Armfield switched Frank Gray to midfield to give Hampson his chance. He had been with the club five years before he got a decent run in the first team, and his patience was rewarded but it was in a Leeds team that was in transition. He was in the United team that reached the Semi Final of the FA Cup in 1977 only to be beaten by Manchester United and also played in the League Cup Semi-Final against Nottingham Forest the following year.
Marius Žaliūkas (2013-2014)
Žaliūkas, a centre-back by trade, played for Leeds United, Heart of Midlothian, Rangers, FBK Kaunas and Žalgiris during his career. The defender achieved his greatest success during a seven-year spell at Heart of Midlothian, where he won the Scottish Cup in 2012 as captain. Brian McDermott signed Žaliūkas for Leeds in 2013, initially on a contract until the end of the season, before impressive performances for the Whites led to an extension. Making his debut in Leeds United's 2-0 win over Yeovil Town, he would go on to make 16 appearances for the Whites during the 2013/14 Championship season, producing a last minute block against Watford to deny them a win. Žaliūkas represented the Lithuanian national team from 2006 to 2016, scoring one goal in the process.