Leeds United Roar into the 20s

The club was formed in 1919 following the disbandment of Leeds City FC due to financial irregularities. Initially, Leeds United played in the Midland League before gaining entry to the Football League in 1920. The team achieved promotion to the First Division in 1924 under the management of Arthur Fairclough. They enjoyed a few successful seasons in the top flight, finishing as high as fourth in the 1927/28 season. However, financial difficulties plagued the club during this period, leading to the sale of star player Tom Jennings to Huddersfield Town for a then-record fee of £4,000 in 1926. This financial strain ultimately resulted in Leeds United's relegation to the Second Division in 1927. Despite their relegation, the club continued to compete and eventually secured promotion back to the First Division in the 1929/30 season under the management of Dick Ray.

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

Leeds United 1920-21 - Back Row: Jim Baker, Dick Murrell (Trainer), Ernie Hart, Billy Down, Mark Barker (Director), Ralph Rodgerson, J. Hilton-Crowther (President), Jimmy Walton. Front Row: George Mason, Bert Duffield, Tommy Howarth, Merton Ellson, Basil Wood, Jimmy Frew.

1920-1921 Season

Having secured their election to the Second Division, United now had to assemble a team good enough to compete in it. Most of the acquisitions were for little or nothing. The team was built around United's first captain, Jim Baker, whose brother Alf played for Arsenal and England, while younger brother Aaron would later join him fleetingly at Elland Road.

Ironically their first game was at Port Vale on 28th August 1920 and a crowd of 15,000 saw the home team victorious 2-0. Sporting their new strip of Blue and White Stripes with White Shorts, the Leeds team was: Down, Duffield, Tillotson, Musgrove, Baker, Walton; Mason, Goldthorpe, Thompson, Lyons, Best.

Four days later, on 2nd September 1920, Jim Baker led his side out against South Shields for United’s first Football League game at Elland Road. The team showed two changes Ellson and Armitage replacing Goldthorpe and Thompson. It appears that it was Len Armitage who scored United’s first-ever goal (although one book claims it to be Jack Lyon from an Armitage cross!), but in front of a 16,958 (£1,016 takings) the visitors spoiled the party by scoring two.

Despite the disappointment, 15,000 turned up on Saturday, 4th September to witness United’s first League victory. Jimmy Frew debuted at left back in place of Tillotson and United tasted the sweetness of victory as Port Vale was put to the sword. Ellson scored a brace and Best the other, in an emphatic 3-1 win.

United had to be content with 14th position, with 38 points. Jim Baker, Billy Down and Bert Duffield were ever-present, while Jimmy Walton only missed one game. Robert Thompson led the goal-scorers with 11, but as his goals dried up, Fairclough forked out £1,750 for Tommy Howarth from Bristol City. In United’s last nine games he was the only scorer and finished with 6 goals in only 11 appearances. Ivan Sharpe and later Tommy Lamph, became the first and only former Leeds City players to play for United.

While never playing a League game for United, Eugene O’Doherty is credited with scoring the first ever hat-trick for United, when he appeared for some under-strength United teams in the qualifying rounds of the FA Cup against mediocre opposition. United had to play eight qualifying rounds to get to the First Round proper of the FA Cup. These games clashed with Second Division games. After a 5-2 United victory over Boothtown, a team from the Halifax district, next opponents Leeds Steelworks forfeited home advantage and the FA allowed United to field their second team, provided they then pulled out of the competition after the game! A crowd of 3,000 saw a 7-0 victory, with Walter Butler getting a hat-trick. Subsequently Robert Thompson obtained United’s first League hat-trick in a 3-0 victory over Notts County.

1920-1921 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division Two 14 (38)
PR
-
-
-

Ernie Hart emerged as a tower of strength in Leeds United's defence during the 1921-1922 season.

1921-1922 Season

In the 1921-22 season, Leeds United consolidated their position in the Second Division finishing 8th, with 45 points from their 42 matches.

With the emergence of Ernie Hart as a reliable stopper, "T'Owd War 'oss" Jim Baker was able to move to half back. Fairclough strengthened his team with experienced keeper Fred Whalley from Grimsby Town, half-back Harry Sherwin from Sunderland and veteran inside-forward Jim Moore from Southampton. Robert Thompson, Robert Musgrove, Jerry Best and Jack Lyon took the exit door.

After a flying start of five victories and two draws from their first seven fixtures, the next twelve produced only three wins and three draws. The goals again dried up and Jack Swan was bought from Huddersfield Town. Bill Poyntz, a close season signing as a reserve inside-forward from Llanelli, wrote himself into the history books with a wedding day hat-trick against Leicester City to compensate for the more ignominious achievement of being the first-ever player to be sent off, the previous week at Bury!

Tommy Howarth led the scorers with 13. He and Jack Swan (10) being the only players to manage double figures. Swan did also get his name on the scoresheet in United's 2-1 Round 1 defeat at Swindon Town in the FA Cup.

1921-1922 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division Two 8 (45)
R1
-
-
-

Leeds United 1922-23 - Back Row: Joe Potts, Alan Noble, Fred Whalley, Richard G. Thornton, Billy Down, William Robson, Unknown (Director). Back Middle Row: Mark Barker (Director), Alan Ure (Assistant Trainer), Bill Norman (Assistant Manager), Jimmy Frew, Bert Duffield, Tom Bell, Bill Menzies, Len Smith, Jimmy Walton, Alf Dark, Arthur Fairclough (Secretary-Manager), Dick Murrell (Trainer). Lower Middle Row: Tom Gascoigne, Harry Sherwin, Bobby Mason, Jim Baker, Ernie Hart, Wallace Clark, Jack Swan, J. Hilton Crowther (Chairman). Front Row: Walter A. Coates, George Mason, A. Gordon, Bill Poyntz, Len Armitage, Joe Harris, Sam Powell, Tommy Howarth, Jeremy Best.

1922-1923 Season

The 1922-23 season saw a further improvement for Leeds United to 7th in the Second Division with 47 points.

Left-winger Joe Harris was a big summer signing from Bristol City and Jim Moore left for Brighton, but, although points were being accumulated, there was a dearth of goals. This was rectified by the purchase of the classy Percy Whipp from Sunderland for £750, who immediately repaid the faith placed in him with a debut hat-trick and finished as leading goal-scorer with 15 goals.

Fairclough was building a team capable of pushing for promotion. He had two reliable keepers in Fred Whalley and Billy Down. Fred Duffield, Ernie Hart and Captain Jim Baker were models of consistency in defence and 'The Arch General' Percy Whipp added a new dimension to the strike force.

In the FA Cup United survived the First Round with a 3-1 replay victory over Portsmouth at Elland Road, after holding them 0-0 at Fratton Park, but fell 3-1 in the Second Round at Bolton Wanderers.

1922-1923 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division Two 7 (47)
R2
-
-
-

Leeds United 1923-24 - Back Row: Bill Norman (Assistant Manager), Bert Duffield, Billy Down, George Speak, Arthur Fairclough (Secretary-Manager), J. Hilton Crowther (Chairman). Middle Row: Walter A. Coates, Percy Whipp, Joe Richmond, Jack Swan, Joe Harris. Front Row: Harry Sherwin, Jim W. Baker, Ernie Hart.

1923-1924 Season

By 1923-24 United had brought together a blend of players good enough to win the Second Division Title with 54 points. Assistant Manager Dick Ray had moved on to Doncaster Rovers and was replaced by Bill Norman, who had managed Blackpool. In attack, United now had the formidable trio of Jack Swan, Percy Whipp and Joe Richmond, with winger Joe Harris being their main supplier. However, the Championship of the Second Division was built on the strong defence, with Baker and Hart prominent. This was testified by the conceding of only 35 goals. A feat only matched by runners-up Bury.

United made a poor start to the season with one lone victory in their first six games, but only two defeats in a 17-match sequence which included seven successive wins put United on a roll, with Billy Down keeping six consecutive clean sheets.

Eventually they had the most victories (21) and the least defeats (9) to head the League with three points to spare.

In the FA Cup, Stoke City was vanquished 1-0 at Elland Road in the First Round. West Ham United also succumbed by the same score after a 1-1 away draw but the Third Round saw a 3-0 defeat at Aston Villa.

Jack Swan (18) led the scorers with Percy Whipp (11) and the emerging Joe Richmond (15) also contributing well.

1923-1924 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division Two 1 (54)
R3
-
-
-

Leeds United 1924-25 - Back Row: Josh Atkinson, Dick Murrell (Trainer), George Speak, Dave Russell, Bill Menzies, Valentine Riley, Ernie Hart. Front Row: Joe Harris, Sam Powell, Jim Baker, Fred Graver, Percy Whipp, Alan Noble.

1924-1925 Season

Leeds United had been run on a shoe-string and not unsurprisingly was unable to make any signings of note to re-enforce their team for the rigours of the elite Division One. There were several incoming players but mainly for the reserve team, while Jimmy Frew departed. Jimmy would be best remembered for owning a Leeds Sports Outfitters, which became the official suppliers to Leeds United for many years.

United faced Sunderland at Elland Road for their first game in Division One, before a crowd of 33,722. The teams were Leeds United: Billy Down, Bert Duffield, Bill Menzies, Harry Sherwin, Ernie Hart, Jim Baker, Alan Noble, Percy Whipp, Joe Richmond, Jack Swan, Joe Harris. Sunderland: Albert McInroy, Warney Cresswell, Ernie England, Billy Clunas, Charlie Parker, Arthur Andrews, Billy Grimshaw, Charles Buchan, John Paterson, Arthur Hawes, Billy Ellis. Sunderland had finished third in the previous season and contained several players who were the top players of the day, Warney Cresswell and Charles Buchan being the most famous household names. Their goalkeeper Albert McInroy, an England International and FA Cup winner, was later to play for Leeds. To hold them to a draw was no mean feat, and at the end of the month the visit of Champions and local rivals, Huddersfield Town, saw a new record crowd of 41,800 appreciate the 1-1 draw.

The team's inconsistency was highlighted by a 6-1 thrashing at Arsenal, followed five days later by a spectacular 6-0 humbling of Aston Villa at Elland Road. Suprisingly, Arsenal finished a couple of places below United while Villa were several places above. However, it highlighted the lack of success on the road, with only two victories, while only four games were lost at Elland Road. The Villa victory was followed by only one win in thirteen games. This prompted the production of the cheque book in March, and Willis Edwards was bought from Chesterfield, Tom Jennings from Raith Rovers and Russell Wainscoat from Middlesbrough. All were to make huge contributions to the United cause, both short-term and long-term. All three played their part in winning three of the final five games. So to finish 18th with 34 points was satisfactory.

Swan (11) and Whipp (10) led the scores with no significant contributions from others and, in the FA Cup, United made their usual early exit in the First Round, 3-0 at Liverpool.

1924-1925 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division One 18 (34)
R1
-
-
-

Leeds United 1925-26 - Back Row: Harry Duggan, Bert Duffield, Bill J. Menzies, Harry Roberts, David P. Russell, Bill Johnson, Richard G. Thornton, C. Wootton, Allen, Jim Kirkpatrick, John Fell. Middle Row: Allan Ure (Assistant Trainer), Cuthbert Robson, Aaron Baker, Len Smith, George Reed, Jim W. Baker, Josh Atkinson, Willis Edwards, Ernie Hart, Bobby Mason, Unknown, Arthur Campey (Trainer). Front Row: Bobby Turnbull, Percy Whipp, John E. Armand, Tom Jennings, Frank Mears, Russell Wainscoat, Valentine Riley, Joe Richmond, Jack Thom, Jack Swan, Joe Harris, Billy Jackson.

1925-1926 Season

Despite being strengthened by new men, only a 4-1 win in the final match for 1925-26 ensured Leeds United's safety, as they limped into 19th place with 36 points.

The season saw United wave goodbye to several old stalwarts, Jim Baker, Bert Duffield, Jack Swan and Joe Harris. Jim Baker later became a Director of Leeds United. He also was mine host at the Smyths Arms in Geldard Road and later the Mexborough in Moortown.

Right-Winger Bobby Turnbull was signed from Bradford Park Avenue. An England International, he was a class act but was sometimes let down by inconsistency. The change in the offside law saw him as United's trump card with his dazzling footwork and ability to cross at speed, and the games rained goals. Tom Jennings cashed in with a new United goal-scoring record of 26 league goals.

The FA Cup saw another First Round exit after a 5-1 thrashing at Middlesbrough.

1925-1926 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division One 19 (36)
R3
-
-
-

Leeds United 1926-27 - Top Row: Richard G. Thornton, J. Hill, Jack Thom Back Row: David Robinson, Valentine Riley, Harry Roberts, Bill Johnson, Jim Kirkpatrick, C. Wootton, Harry Duggan, George Reed. Middle Row: John White, Aaron Baker, Willis Edwards, Tom Townsley, Jimmy Allan, Jimmy Potts, Bill Menzies, Ernie Hart, Josh Atkinson, J. Coulthard. Front Row: J. Young, Frank Mears, Albert Sissons, Bobby Turnbull, Percy Whipp, Bobby Mason, Tom Jennings, Russell Wainscoat, John Armand, Billy Jackson, John Fell.

1926-1927 Season

It proved third time unlucky for United in 1926-27, although they lost their top division status only after a remarkable season.

Tom Jennings ran riot with 35 goals of the overall team tally of 69, and he broke his own club goal-scoring record. Yet they were relegated with only 30 points. It must be said, however, that goals were plentiful around this time as defences were still coming to terms with the new off-side law introduced the previous season. Jennings scored a remarkable nineteen goals in only nine games, including three consecutive hat-tricks. Unfortunately the shaky defence had leaked 88 goals and 23 of the 42 matches had been lost. United duly accompanied wooden-spooners West Bromwich Albion in relegation to the Second Division.

Despite the injection of new faces, locals Harry Roberts and George Reed, and the purchase of winger Tom Mitchell from Newcastle for £785, the slide could not be stopped. After a shocking run from November to April, when only one win was registered in 18 games, the outcome was inevitable. Even the big money signing of Scottish International John White from Hearts for a new record £5,600 failed to avert it.

The visit of Newcastle United in the Christmas fixture saw a new crowd record of 48,490 established. There was even progress in the FA Cup with a 3-1 victory over Sunderland at home in the 3rd Round. A crowd of 42,694 was on hand to witness the goal-less draw at home to Bolton Wanderers in the 4th Round, but their hopes were dashed as they were handed a 3-0 defeat in the replay.

Arthur Fairclough and Bill Norman accepted responsibility for the failure and resigned. They had left United with a fine nucleus of players and in Jennings, White, Turnbull Edwards and Hart they possessed some of the finest footballers in the country.

1926-1927 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division One 21 (30)
R4
-
-
-

Leeds United 1927-28 - Back Row: John Armand, Willis Edwards, Tom Townsley, Jimmy Potts, Bill Menzies, George Reed, Allan Ure (Assistant Trainer). Front Row: Bobby Turnbull, John White, Charlie Keetley, Russell Wainscoat, Tom Mitchell, Ernie Hart.

1927-1928 Season

Pleasingly, United returned to Division One, at the first attempt. Dick Ray had taken over as manager from Arthur Fairclough and again the emphasis was on attack. He allowed the 30 year old Percy Whipp to go to Clapton Orient, Billy Jackson to depart for West Ham United, while Jock Thom moved to Bristol Rovers for £175 and reserves Bobby Mason and Jim Kirkpatrick were both on the move with Mason also joining Bristol Rovers, while Kirkpatrick moved to Watford. His first act as manager was to sign Charlie Keetley, who soon showed his scoring potential with seven goals in a reserve game.

Jennings and Russell Wainscoat were joined up front by Jock White, while young Charlie Keetley proved an able deputy for Jennings. All four hit double figures as United set another club record with 98 League goals. White and Jennings (in only 26 games) each netted 21 times, while Keetley (in only 16 games) and Wainscoat both notched 18.

In a remarkable late season run the defence too played its part keeping nine successive clean sheets. Jimmy Potts was superb in goal, Skipper Tom Townsley and George Reed were ever-presents, and Willis Edwards was still first choice for England despite playing in the Second Division. Promotion was sealed on 21st April, with a 3-2 victory at Stamford Bridge, in front of 47,562 fans.

With two games to go they were in with a shout for the championship. Unfortunately Manchester City again proved their nemesis, winning 1-0 at Elland Road, in front of a crowd of 48,470. Fifth-placed Stoke City gained vengeance for a 5-1 drubbing at Elland Road by defeating United by the same score in the final fixture.

United finished runners-up, with 57 points, to Manchester City, who also compounded Leeds atrocious FA Cup record by beating them in that season's Third Round, in front of the biggest Elland Road crowd of the season, 50,473, a new attendance record.

The regulars were Jimmy Potts, Tom Townsley, Bill Menzies, Willis Edwards, Ernie Hart, George Reed, Bobby Turnbull, John White, Tom Jennings/Charlie Keetley, Russell Wainscoat, Tom Mitchell.

1927-1928 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division Two 2 (57)
R3
-
-
-

Leeds United 1928-29 - Back Row: Unknown 1, Unknown 2, Unknown 3, Unknown 4, Bill Johnson, Unknown 5, George Milburn, Unknown 6, Unknown 7. Back Middle Row: Tom Cochrane, Unknown 8, John White, Tom Townsley, George Reed, Fred Hart, Alex Stacey, Unknown 9, Unknown 10, James Wilson. Lower Middle Row: Arthur Campey (Trainer), Willis Edwards, Bobby Turnbull, Tom Jennings, Charlie Keetley, Russell Wainscoat, Tom Mitchell, John Armand, Unknown 11 (Assistant Trainer). Front Row: Unknown 12, Harry Roberts, Bill Menzies, Jimmy Potts, Ernie Hart, Joe Firth, Harry Duggan.

1928-1929 Season

Back in Division One, United were able to rely on the same formation which had gained promotion and reached respectability despite a late season slump, when they picked up only one point from a possible 12. They finished 13th with 41 points.

The prolific Charlie Keetley kicked off the season with a first game hat-trick in a 4-1 thrashing of Aston Villa and top-scored with 20, as his form kept Tom Jennings in the reserves. He was well supported by Wainscoat (18), while Jennings and White both weighed in with 9.

Willis Edwards captained England and he was joined by team-mate Ernie Hart for the game against Wales, while Russell Wainscoat also received the call against Scotland.

Tom Cochrane emerged as a player for the future and George Milburn, the first of the Elland Road Milburn Dynasty, was given his first games. His elder brother Jack joined soon after, and brother-in-law Jimmy Potts made it a real family affair. Younger brother Jim joined the ranks in the mid-thirties. A fourth brother, Stan, was also an excellent full-back with Chesterfield and Leicester City, while Cousin Jack was the legendary 'Wor Jackie' of Newcastle United and England fame. Of course, Leeds Legend 'Big Jack' and his brother, and fellow World Cup Winner, Bobby Charlton, were nephews of the Milburn Brothers.

In the FA Cup, after sharing four goals at Exeter City, United breezed through the replay 5-1 only to be brought back to earth at Leeds Road where Huddersfield Town scored three without reply.

1928-1929 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division One 13 (41)
R4
-
-
-

Leeds United 1929-30 - Back Row: Dick Ray (Manager), George Reed, Ernie Hart, Jimmy Potts, George Milburn, George Wilson, Tom Jennings, Arthur Campey (Trainer). Front Row: Bobby Turnbull, John White, Willis Edwards, Harry Roberts, Russell Wainscoat, Tom Mitchell.

1929-1930 Season

In 1929-30 Ray's men finished fifth, with 46 points. It was the clubs best position achieved until the Revie days, thanks to a major improvement in defence where the experienced Edwards and Hart had been joined by full-back Jack Milburn. There was now genuine belief in the United camp that they could mount a serious title challenge.

United were off to a flying start which produced 9 wins, two draws and only two defeats, including a run of seven successive victories. Such was their success that Edwards and Hart continued to be picked for England and in the International against Ireland the opposition included another Leeds player, Harry Duggan, a talented right winger who was being kept out of the first team by the sparkling Bobby Turnbull.

Wainscoat led the scorers with 15 in the league and a further 3 in the Cup, closely followed by Jennings with 14 in the league and 3 in the Cup. There was a quick burst of 6 goals in 9 games by Dave Mangnall, before Huddersfield Town gave £3,000 to take him to future stardom. He scored a record 42 for Town in the 1931-32 season. Keetley was ruled out through illness for most of the season but was still able to net 10 goals from his 9 appearances, while Bobby Turnbull continued to supply the crosses for the forwards, he also managed 9 goals in the league and another in the Cup.

Thoughts of FA Cup success was high as United thrashed Crystal Palace 8-1 in the Third Round but crashed, as usual, with a 4-1 defeat at West Ham United in the Fourth Round. Elland Road did sample the later stages of the Cup, when it staged the Semi-final between Arsenal and Hull City. The 2-2 draw featured former Leeds reserve Jack Lambert at centre-forward for the Gunners and the same month Leeds signed the future 'Iron Man' to similarly feature for both clubs in the next decade or more, Wilf Copping.

1929-1930 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division One 5 (46)
R4
-
-
-

Previous: The Birth of Leeds United Next: Leeds United in the 1930s