The Downward Spiral

After Paris, Jimmy Armfield and United continued the inevitable break-up of the team, the like of which unfortunately only occurs once in a privileged lifetime. Following their European Cup final defeat in 1975, Leeds United experienced a period of decline marked by managerial changes and player departures. Armfield struggled to maintain the club's earlier success, and managerial instability persisted with several changes at the helm. The departure of key players further weakened the squad, and Leeds found themselves relegated from the First Division in 1982, ending their top-flight status. This marked a challenging era for the club as they grappled with financial troubles and the loss of their competitive edge, setting the stage for a rebuilding phase in the years to come.

Original content by Tony Hill (OzWhite), reproduced here for posterity.

Leeds United 1975-76 - Back Row: Jimmy Armfield (Manager), Duncan McKenzie, Joe Jordan, Gordon McQueen, David Harvey, David Stewart, Paul Madeley, Norman Hunter, Paul Reaney Front Row: Terry Yorath, Frank Gray, Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer, Trevor Cherry, Billy Bremner, Allan Clarke.

1975-1976 Season

After Paris, Jimmy Armfield and United continued the inevitable break-up of the team, the like of which unfortunately only occurs once in a privileged lifetime. 1975-76 saw United remain competitive, finishing 5th with 51 Pts. Stalwart Big Jack Charlton had brought an end to his record 773 appearance 20 year career in 1973. Gary Sprake had left for Birmingham for £100,000 in the same year. Terry Cooper went to Middlesbrough for £50,000 the following season. Now the fulcrum of the team was broken as Johnny Giles departed for West Bromwich Albion for £45,000 and Mick Jones finally succumbed to injury and had to retire.

David Harvey resumed in place of David Stewart after recovering from the effects of a car accident. McQueen and Jordan had taken on the mantles of Charlton and Jones. Now Frank Gray was an ever-present in Cooper’s former position. Terry Yorath proved an adequate replacement for Giles, but due to injuries to McQueen, Hunter and Reaney, the versatility of Madeley and Cherry was put to the test, while up-front the gifted Duncan McKenzie filled in for Lorimer and Jordan and finished the season as the leading goal-scorer.

Despite all the injuries the aging team were in with a chance of the championship until the final weeks of the competition. In the League Cup there was a 3-2 home victory over Ipswich Town, before they were inexplicably beaten by Second Division Notts County at Elland Road in the Third Round 1-0. There was revenge for United in the FA Cup when an Allan Clarke goal was enough to win the Third Round tie at Meadow Lane, but Third Division Crystal Palace ended any hopes of a Wembley appearance by scoring the only goal at Elland Road in the 4th Round.

1975-1976 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division One 5 (51)
R4
R3
-
-

Leeds United 1976-77 - Back Row: Don Howe (Coach), Paul Reaney, Tony Currie, Norman Hunter, David Harvey,Jimmy Armfield (Manager), David Stewart, Gordon McQueen, Joe Jordan, Trevor Cherry, Geoff Ladley (Physio). Front Row: Frank Gray, Paul Madeley, Allan Clarke, Billy Bremner, Terry Yorath, Peter Lorimer, Eddie Gray.

1976-1977 Season

There were changes in the backroom as Syd Owen left to join Willie Bell at Birmingham City after 17 years loyal service and he was replaced by the highly recommended Don Howe. Another loyal long serving player, the much under-rated Mick Bates, left for Walsall for £25,000 after a 12 year career and almost 200 appearances/substitutions, always a reliable midfield deputy for Bremner and Giles, his value to United, particularly in Europe, was immeasurable.

In the close season United spent big on the immensely talented Tony Currie, a £250,000 signing from Sheffield United and a further £172,000 to Burnley purchased the striking power of Ray Hankin. The sales of Terry Yorath (£125,000 to Coventry City) and Duncan McKenzie (£200,000 to Anderlecht) almost squared the ledger.

Early in the season, arguably the ‘best ever’ United player, the captain and driving force, Billy Bremner, ended his 17 year association with the club, one appearance short of Jack Charlton’s record, when he left for Hull City for £35,000. Defensive strongman, Norman Hunter, bit his last leg for the cause as he also departed, to Bristol City for £40,000.

Trevor Cherry was ever-present and Frank Gray (41) Paul Madeley (38) Eddie Gray (37) Paul Reaney & Gordon McQueen (34) Joe Jordan (32) performed solidly while new-comer Tony Currie played 35. Unfortunately Ray Hankin managed only 4 appearances as United slipped to 10th with 42 Pts.

They also fell to Manchester United at Hillsborough in the FA Cup Semi Final 2-1, after victories over Norwich City 5-2 at Elland Road in the Third Round, at Birmingham City 2-1 in the Fourth, while a single goal was sufficient to beat Manchester City at home and Wolverhampton Wanderers away in the Fifth and Sixth Rounds. The League Cup saw an immediate Second Round exit at Stoke City by 2-1.

1976-1977 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division One 10 (42)
SF
R2
-
-

Leeds United 1977-78 - Back Row: Ray Hankin, Carl Harris, Trevor Cherry, Gordon McQueen, David Stewart, Allan Clarke, Joe Jordan, Tony Currie, Paul Reaney. Front Row: Peter Hampton, David McNiven, Arthur Graham, Peter Lorimer, Eddie Gray, Byron Stevenson, Paul Madeley,

1977-1978 Season

For the next season, Arthur Graham was signed from Aberdeen for £125,000 followed by the diminutive Brian Flynn from Burnley for £175,000. Gordon McQueen (£495,000) and Joe Jordan (£350,000) crossed the Pennines to perennial rivals Manchester United, and it was small consolation that a handsome profit resulted. Jordan having joined United as an 18 year old from Morton for a mere £15,000 and the then 20 year old McQueen for £30,000 from St Mirren, both a tribute to Don Revie’s scouting system. Paul Hart was lured from Blackpool for £300,000 to plug the defensive hole left by McQueen. Trevor Cherry (41) Frank Gray & Arthur Graham (40) Paul Madeley (38) Tony Currie (35) Ray Hankin (33) Brian Flynn (28) were the regulars as United finished 9th on 46 Pts. Ray Hankin led the goal-scorers with 20.

The League Cup brought hope of success, with emphatic wins at Rochedale by 3-0, followed by Colchester United at Elland Road by 4-0, 3-1 at Bolton Wanderers and then Everton at home by 4-1. Silverware almost beckoned before falling to Nottingham Forest in both legs of the Semi-Final, 3-1 at home and 4-2 away. Manchester City quickly gave the knock out blow to United’s FA Cup ambitions 2-1 at Elland Road in the Third Round.

1977-1978 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division One 9 (46)
R3
SF
-
-

Leeds United 1978-79 - Back Row: Paul Madeley, John Hawley, Paul Hart, David Stewart, Ray Hankin, David Harvey, Keith Parkinson, Tony Currie, Byron Stevenson. Front Row: Frank Gray, Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer, Brian Flynn, Trevor Cherry, Carl Harris, Arthur Graham, Peter Hampton.

1978-1979 Season

In the close season Armfield bought striker John Hawley from Hull City for £85,000, and allowed two further legends to move on. Paul Reaney, who became the first player to negotiate his own transfer under the new freedom of contract, chose to join Bradford City while ‘Sniffer’ Clarke become player-manager of Barnsley for £45,000, and achieved promotion in his first season in charge. Armfield had his critics, who claimed him to be indecisive, but it was often said that he was too nice an individual to be a success at top-level football management. The truth being that he had to tackle a job which Don Revie had always maintained he would have found near impossible! Yet Armfield was not to be allowed the opportunity to see all his signings blend together which, not surprisingly, was a major disappointment to him. Replacing him was not an easy task for the United Board. Top men such as Lawrie McMenemy, Ron Saunders & Don Howe could not be tempted to Elland Road and United started the new season with the faithful Maurice Lindley in another spell as caretaker manager.

With the season just one game old, United found a successor in the form of Jock Stein, who had not been happy at being pushed into a backseat by Glasgow Celtic. Stein was in many respects similar to Revie, he was big in stature, knew the game inside out, and had an aura of success about him after his glorious years at Celtic, which was highlighted by bringing the European Cup to Parkhead. Stein impressed greatly and would have done the job of restoring former glories to Elland Road, but it was not to be, as he found the lure of managing the Scottish national team too strong and he returned north after only 44 days.

So Maurice Lindley duly commenced his fourth spell as caretaker-manager and though there were suggestions that he might well make the ideal successor, the club eventually tempted Jimmy Adamson away from Sunderland to take up the challenge other top men had seen fit to shy away from. A man steeped in Football experience, Adamson had given stalwart service to Burnley as Captain and Right Half, as a player, before becoming their manager prior to taking up a similar position at Roker Park. He was highly regarded for his coaching ability in tandem with former Burnley defender Dave Merrington and it was no surprise when Merrington and Sunderland Chief Scout Dave Blakey followed him to Elland Road.

Eventually United had their best season since Don Revie’s departure finishing 5th with 50 Pts and at last qualified again for Europe, their high placing having put them among England’s qualifiers for the 1979-80 UEFA Cup. United had a more settled look to them. David Harvey (39) Trevor Cherry (38) Frank Gray (41) Brian Flynn (41) Paul Hart (40) Carl Harris (29) Paul Madeley (39) Carl Harris (29) Ray Hankin (29) John Hawley (29) Tony Currie (32) Arthur Graham (39) Eddie Gray (25) performed consistently and John Hawley led the goal-scorers with 16.

After an easy passage at Hartlepool United in Round Three, being forced to play all their FA Cup games away from Elland Road, United fell after extra time in the Replay to a fine Cup-fighters of that time, West Bromwich Albion, with both games played at the Hawthorns! United and West Bromwich set a record that can never be broken (due to rule changes). They met each other seven times in the season. The away team prevailed in both league encounters, neither team could score a goal at the Hawthorns or the replay at Elland Road, and a single Paul Hart strike won the Second Replay at Maine Road in the League Cup, in addition to the already mentioned FA Cup encounters!

Once again United were so near and yet so far away from Cup Silverware as once again they reached the Home and Away League Cup Semi-Final only to go down to Southampton. After drawing the Elland Road encounter 2-2 they lost to the only goal of the game at the Dell. Following the Second Round encounters with West Bromwich Albion, there were easy wins at Sheffield United 4-1 in the Third Round, followed by a 2-0 victory at Queens Park Rangers in the Fifth and Elland Road played host to a 4-1 thrashing of Luton Town in the Sixth.

The end of the season saw another legend depart, Peter Lorimer, who left for Toronto Blizzard for £25,000, two goals short of John Charles’s 154 League scoring record. A feat he accomplished after later returning to Elland Road. After splashing £357,000 for Kevin Hird from Blackburn Rovers late season, Adamson broke United’s record pay-out when he spent £400,000 to bring Alan Curtis from Swansea Town. The fluent creator of the team, the immensely skilled Tony Currie left for QPR for £400,000. The prolific John Hawley, departed for Sunderland for £200,000 and was not adequately replaced by Wayne Entwhistle who made the reverse move for £80,000, especially as Ray Hankin was subsequently allowed to migrate to Vancouver Whitecaps. The emergence of John Lukic allowed David Harvey to also join Vancouver for £40,000. While Frank Gray left for a rewarding association with Nottingham Forest for £500,000.

Adamson was quick to spend the proceeds and bought the versatile Gary Hamson for £140,000 from Sheffield United, defender Brian Greenhoff (younger brother of Jimmy) from Man. United for £350,000, midfielder Jeff Chandler from Blackpool for £100,000 and finally striker Derek Parlane from Glasgow Rangers for £160,000.

1978-1979 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division One 5 (50)
R4
SF
-
-

Leeds United 1979-80 - Back Row: Keith Parkinson, Paul Hart, John Lukic, Neil Firm, David Harvey, Ray Hankin, Byron Stevenson. Middle Row: Kevin Hird, Alan Curtis, Gary Hamson, John Hawley, Eddie Gray. Front Row: Brian Flynn, Paul Madeley, Peter Hampton, Trevor Cherry, Arthur Graham, Carl Harris, Gwyn Thomas.

1979-1980 Season

One could be forgiven to think that the team had been weakened, a fact borne out by United underachieving in finishing 11th with 40 Pts, with their worst record since promotion and a sad disappointment on the radiation of hope of the previous season. There was further humiliation in the knock-out competitions, twice falling at the first hurdle. They were humbled 4-1 at Elland Road in the Third Round of the FA Cup by Nottingham Forest and 7-0 in the Second Leg of the Second Round of the League Cup by Arsenal at Highbury.

There was little joy in Europe either, where after easing past minnows Valletta of Malta on a 7-0 aggregate in Round One, United were defeated 2-0 both home and away by the equally anonymous Universitatea Craiova Romania.

After flirting with relegation for the first half of the season, United pulled through thanks to their home performances and Adamson was given a second chance after being given a two month ultimatum, early in November. There was also discontent by the fans and missile throwing saw sections of the ground closed for some games which resulted in crowds of less than 20,000 in two of the affected games, Bolton Wanderers (16,428) and Brighton (17,216) with the resultant loss of revenue.

Subsequently there were crowds of Coventry City (16,967), Middlesbrough (17,906), Stoke City (15,541), Aston Villa (15,840), the lowest for over 17 years, before the almost 40,000 for the visit of Manchester United and a 2-0 victory in the final game of the season. However, the average for the season of 22,788 reflected the fans displeasure at the mediocrity of the team and their performances. The only bright spots were the emergence of two young Welsh Internationals, Carl Harris and Byron Stevenson, the equally youthful John Lukic and two locals, Striker Terry Connor and Defender Martin Dickinson, all products of the United Youth policy.

1979-1980 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division One 11 (40)
R3
R2
UC (R2)
-

Leeds United 1980-81 - Back Row: Gwyn Thomas, Terry Connor, Alan Curtis, Byron Stevenson, Brian Greenhoff, Kevin Hird. Middle Row: Geoff Ladley (Physio), Eddie Gray, Paul Hart, John Lukic, Paul Madeley, Carl Harris, Peter Gunby (Coach). Front Row: Martin Wilkinson (Assistant Manager), Jeff Chandler, Brian Flynn, Arthur Graham, Allan Clarke (Manager), Trevor Cherry, Alex Sabella, Gary Hamson, Barry Murphy (Coach).

1980-1981 Season

Despite much speculation, Adamson was still there at the start of the following season. He gambled £400,000 on buying Argentinean Alex Sabella, from Sheffield United, in an effort to please the fans with his ball skills and providing the sadly lacking creativeness and ammunition for the strikers. Peter Hampton went to Stoke City for £175,000 and Wayne Entwhistle was freed to Blackpool. After a terrible start to the new campaign, Adamson bowed to the inevitable and once again Maurice Lindley was caretaker-manager!

After six matches, United were second last and the following record: one win, one draw, 5 for, 12 against, points 3, and already out of the League Cup, beaten home and away in the 2nd Round, by Aston Villa. Not for the last time, United turned to a former player to dig them out of the mire, and former goal-poacher Allan Clarke, who had done well in his first venture into management with Barnsley, took up the challenge. He brought his assistant Martin Wilkinson and Coach Barry Murphy with him as Adamson and Merrington departed.

After declaring he was a winner and stating that he would consider himself a failure if he could not produce a major trophy in three years, he made the players aware that all would be given a chance to prove their worth. He was given a hero’s welcome for his first game at home to Manchester United, which ended scoreless. It foreshadowed his approach, defence and no semblance of his former scoring prowess. Not an unexpected approach, considering the team’s predicament. Slowly the ship was brought on an even keel. There was a slight aberration with a 5-0 drubbing at home by the Gunners, but it went deeper than that, it was Paul Madeley’s last ever game for United as the injury he sustained in the game proved to be career ending. This left Eddie Gray and Trevor Cherry as Sniffer’s only former-playing colleagues from the Revie era. After the untimely exit of the ‘Rolls Royce’ he pulled a master stroke by converting Eddie Gray to left-back, which no doubt prolonged his playing career.

It was not a thrilling experience witnessing the steady accumulation of points and the crowds stayed away in droves and a new low was reached when only 14,333 greeted the 1-0 victory over Brighton in early November. Alan Curtis took the return journey to the Vetch Field in return for a cut-price £180,000, as the goals dried up to a trickle but even with a low 39 goals United finally managed a creditable 9th with 44 Pts. This was due mainly to a final 16 games harvest of 9 wins and 3 draws. Carl Harris top scored with 10 from 33games, and ever-present John Lukic, Trevor Cherry (41), Brian Flynn (41), Paul Hart (38), Eddie Gray (38), Brian Greenhoff (36). Kevin Hird (32) and Arthur Graham (40) were the solid base on which the turnaround was based.

Coventry City ended United’s FA Cup ambitions with a 1-0 win at Highfield Road after a 1-1 draw at Elland Road in the Third Round.

1980-1981 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division One 9 (44)
R3
R2
-
-

Leeds United 1981-82 - Back Row: Gary Hamson, Brian Greenhoff, John Lukic, Neil Firm, Alex Sabella. Middle Row: Geoff Ladley (Physio), Frank Gray, Arthur Graham, Derek Parlane, Paul Hart, Eddie Gray, Kevin Hird, Bob English (Physio), Peter Gunby (Coach). Front Row: Martin Wilkinson (Assistant Manager), Byron Stevenson, Trevor Cherry, Allan Clarke (Manager), Brian Flynn, Terry Connor, Barry Murphy (Coach).

1981-1982 Season

It seemed as if United and ‘Sniffer’ had finally turned the corner, but it turned out to be a false dawn. England Winger Peter Barnes was the cornerstone of Allan Clarke’s ambitions for United and he paid a club record £930,000 to secure his services from West Bromwich Albion and together with the return of Frank Gray from Nottingham Forest for £300,000 were the close season arrivals to bolster the team. While Alex Sabella returned to his native Argentina to Estudientes for £120,000 and Jeff Chandler went to Bolton Wanderers for £40,000.

A first day thrashing by Division newcomers Swansea City 5-1 at the Vetch Field set an ominous precedent as United won only one of their first ten league games. The defence leaked goals and the attack, with young Aiden Butterworth being forced to replace the injured main striker Derek Parlane, was understandably impotent. £400,000 was paid to Nottingham Forest for Kenny Burns to bolster the weak defence and five of the next ten games were won and another two were drawn as things improved. But some bad weather and several postponements seemed to lose the momentum and a run of six loses and one draw without a single victory or a single goal saw United’s fortunes plummet once more. Already out of the League Cup, beaten home and away by Ipswich Town in the Second Round, United exited the FA Cup in the Fourth Round in a 1-0 loss to Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane after beating Wolves 3-1 at Molineux in the Third Round, it was obvious that the lack of firepower up front needed to be rectified. Clarke sacrificed young Byron Stevenson in exchange for Frank Worthington from Birmingham City and thankfully the charismatic Worthington produced the goods with nine goals in his seventeen games.

John Lukic, who had withstood pressure from two other up and coming youngsters, was United's only ever-present. Interestingly he never achieved full international recognition while his adversaries David Seaman and Henry Smith never made the first-team at Elland Road but played for their respective countries.

With victory over Brighton in the final home game at Elland Road the crowd celebrated a supposed safety. Unfortunately with only a point needed at West Bromwich Albion on the following Monday, United fell 2-0 and finished as the third teamm relegated with 42 points, in the first season where 3pts were awarded for a win, with Sunderland, Stoke City, West Bromwich Albion and Birmingham City all on 44 Pts. Ironically Stoke City achieved what United failed to do, as they beat West Bromwich Albion on the final day. Unfortunately there was trouble from the Leeds fans at the Hawthorns and once more the Club were in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Clarke and Wilkinson paid the price for relegation and both left quickly to be replaced by the popular Eddie Gray who assumed the title of player-manager.

1981-1982 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division One 20 (42)
R4
R2
-
-

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