Post War Depression

After the cessation of hostilities Leeds United experienced a challenging period in their history. The team struggled in the First Division, with the 1946/47 season being particularly disappointing as they finished with only 18 points, a record low at the time. The following season under Manager Willis Edwards saw marginal improvement but still featured a lackluster performance. Financial difficulties plagued the club, and Major Frank Buckley was appointed as manager in 1948. Buckley introduced unconventional training methods, including a mechanical kicking machine and monkey gland extract treatments. He also focused on youth development and made several player changes. Despite his efforts, Leeds United continued to face difficulties in the league, finishing 18th and 15th in Division Two in successive seasons.

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

Leeds United 1945-46 - Back Row: John Hodgson, Ken Gadsby, Ted Alberry, Cyril Coyne, Sid Jones (Arsenal), John Dutchman, Robert Duffy (Celtic). Front Row: John Moule, Gerry Henry, Dennis Grainger, Jackie Chew (Burnley).

1945-1946 Season

With the cessation of War, chaos still prevailed on the football scene and, while the season was run more on normal league lines, with each team playing each other on a home and away basis, there was still no official Football Leagues and Leeds showed signs of things to come when they finish bottom of the Northern Section which featured a 22 team league. George Ainsley was the top scorer with 20 goals in 28 appearances.

After a seven-year lay-off, the FA Cup was staged on an home and away basis and saw a glut of goals as United went under on aggregate to Middlesbrough in the Third Round by 11-6. Elland Road witnessed the sharing of eight goals, while Ayresome Park saw one more, with the home team scoring seven.

During the War Period, apart from pre-war Leeds United players, United were able to field guests of the calibre of George Swindon (Arsenal), Reg Attwell (then of West Ham United and later of Burnley), Bill Jones and Ray Lambert (Liverpool), George Antonio (Stoke City), Clarrie Jordan (Doncaster Rovers), Freddie Steele (Stoke City), Tim Ward (Derby County), Arthur Glover (Barnsley), Frank Westlake (Sheffield Wednesday) and Sam Weaver (Chelsea). Interestingly, Maurice Lindley (Everton), later to assist Don Revie and fill in for short periods as temporary United manager, and Eddie Burbanks (Sunderland), later to sign for and become the oldest player on debut under Raich Carter, both also figured.

The War also unfortunately claimed its casualties. England International Eric Stephenson was killed in action in Burma in 1944 at the age of 30. In the same year, over Denmark, England Schoolboy International Leslie Thompson lost his life at the age of 22. Irishman Robert Montgomery was killed over Germany in 1944 and former United forward Alan Fowler was killed in France in 1944. Earlier a Leeds junior player, Vernon Allen of Harehills, lost his life when his plane was shot down over Germany in July 1943 at the age of 20. Then Ingram Road boy, Maurice Lawn, who had just made his first team debut was killed when, after being injured by machine-gun fire in the invasion of France, the hospital ship that was repatriating him was sunk off Normandy in August 1944. He was only 20 when he died. Several players, including Jim Milburn received injuries and others, including the Stephens twins and Lord Harewood were P.O.W. Guest players Tom Farrage and Harry Goslin were also killed in action.

1945-1946 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details - -
R3
-
-
-

Leeds United 1946-47 - Back Row: Gerry Henry, Les Goldberg, Jim Twomey, Tom Holley, Bobby Browne, Ken Gadsby. Front Row: David Cochrane, Aubrey Powell, George Ainsley, John Short, Dennis Grainger.

1946-1947 Season

When the League programme resumed in 1946/47, United relied on many of the men who had served them in the late 1930's, but it soon became obvious that they were well past their best. Only 18 points were amassed. At that point the lowest ever First Division total. Interestingly enough, it was equalled by Queens Park Rangers in our never to be forgotten first Championship year of 1968-69 and stood until Stoke City's woeful 1984-85 season lowered the bar to 17 points. Leeds' final 17 fixtures brought 15 defeats and two draws. Only one point was secured away from home all season. It resulted in Willis Edwards being appointed Manager in place of Billy Hampson for the following season.

Pre-War players Tom Holley (39), Davie Cochrane (38), Jim Milburn (36), Aubrey Powell (34) and George Ainsley (28) were still there, with War-time regulars Gerry Henry (36) and John Short (32) being joined by newcomers Dennis Grainger (32) and Eddie Bannister (23) as the regular performers. There were also appearances from Pre-war players Les Goldberg (12) Bobby Browne (19) Jim Twomey (14) and Ken Gadsby (16).

Hampson had previously made several fine acquisitions of young players from Ireland. David Cochrane, Jim Twomey and Bobby Browne were recent such acquisitions, who almost immediately became full Internationals due to their form with United. He now gambled on the versatile Eire International Con Martin who was bought from Glentoran for £8,000. Versatile was the word as Cornelius, to give him his "Sunday" name, played every position, including goalkeeper, for the Republic and Aston Villa. He also represented both Eire and Northern Ireland. He was the founding member of the Martin Dynasty which supplied British Football with several generations of footballers. Son Mick played over 50 times for Eire, and with Manchester United and Newcastle United while Grandson Alan was on Leeds' books.

He also bought Darlington Centre-Forward Harry Clarke and the veteran Centre-Half Ken Willingham, of Huddersfield Town, Sunderland and England fame. He also gave chances to local born Harry Fearnley and John Hodgson in the goalkeeping department. All was to no avail.

In the FA Cup there was the usual 3rd Round exit, this time 2-1 to West Bromwich Albion at the Hawthorns.

1946-1947 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division One 22 (18)
R3
-
-
-

Leeds United 1947-48 - Back Row: Jack Smith, Ken Willingham, Jim Milburn, Jim Twomey, Ken Gadsby, Dennis Kirby, Bob Roxburgh (Trainer). Front Row: Dennis Grainger, Aubrey Powell, Albert Wakefield, John Short, Billy Heaton, Tony Ingham.

1947-1948 Season

Willis Edwards welcomed back Albert Wakefield, after a season in Italy, where he stayed after the war. He also cleared out several reserves and allowed Bobby Browne to go to York City. In November he let both George Ainsley and Gerry Henry leave for Bradford Park Avenue and replaced them with the robust striker Ken Chisholm from Partick Thistle and FA Cup winning Half-Back Jim Bullions from Derby County. He also paid £10,000, and keeper John Hodgson, for the strong Irish defender Jim McCabe, who quickly debuted for Ireland to illustrate his ability.

The season was not much better than their last First Division campaign, as predictably, rock-bottom United struggled in Division Two. Again Leeds suffered from travel sickness, with only one away victory as they escaped relegation to Division Three (North) by only two points. They finished in 18th place, with 36 points. To add to United's problems they had reported financial losses for three successive seasons. On the bright side fans were turning up in droves all over the country to witness football after being starved of entertainment for so many years. Elland Road was no exception and had it not been for a strong showing in the home games, where only four were lost, they would have been sunk without trace.

Surprisingly the team was relatively stable, with the usual formation being: Jim Twomey; Jim Milburn and Ken Gadsby, with a young Jimmy Dunn breaking in late in the season; Ken Willingham, Jim Bullions, Tom Holley, Con Martin and later Jim McCabe sharing the Half-Back duties; David Cochrane, Aubrey Powell, Albert Wakefield, John Short/Ken Chisholm, and Billy Heaton/Tom Hindle.

Albert Wakefield led the scorers with 21 followed by Aubrey Powell with ten and Davie Cochrane and John Short both managed 7. The FA Cup brought the usual misery with a 4-0 thrashing from at Bloomfield Road by Blackpool. Willis Edwards duly resigned as Manager, but continued as coach, and Major Frank Buckley was chosen as his replacement in the managerial position, for the ensuing 1948/49 season.

1947-1948 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division Two 18 (36)
R3
-
-
-

Leeds United 1947-48 - Back Row: Jim McCabe, Jimmy Dunn, Harold Searson, Jim Milburn, David McAdam. Front Row: David Cochrane, Ray Iggleden, Len Browning, Tom Burden, Billy Heaton, Roly Depear.

1948-1949 Season

Major Frank Buckley was not everyone's cup of tea. It was once said of him that there was no man in football who had been more cheered or jeered than he. He did things very much his own way. Criticism had little or no effect on him. One of the first things he did after his appointment at Elland Road was to introduce his own mechanical kicking machine to aid training. The machine, built of tubular steel, had the look of a rocket-firing machine. It was loaded with half-a-dozen footballs at once which were propelled singularly at adjustable heights and used to improve a goalkeeper's weaknesses or an outfield players heading, trapping and volleying. He also returned to a previously tried technique, from his days at Wolverhampton, by treating some of the players with monkey gland extract, in the belief that it would sharpen their thinking, and make them better and more decisive players! He innovatively, had the players ball-room dancing and chorus line high-kicking in training! He also gave the club financial advice, suggesting that the £30,000 of debentures should be repaid as soon as possible as it was a millstone round the club's neck.

He started putting the club on a better financial footing by selling established stars such as Welsh International Aubrey Powell, who went to Everton for £10,000 and versatile Irish International Con Martin, who went to Aston Villa for a similar sum. Admission price for supporters was also increased.

The Major was a constant advocate for Youth and he would spend hours scouring the parks of Leeds in search of potential stars. He organized youth trials, even refereeing the games himself. 20 year old Len Browning, who was excellent in the air, was drafted into the team to partner Ken Chisholm up front. Jimmy Dunn had been bought from Rutherglen Glencairn to partner Jim Milburn at full-back. Tom Burden was signed from Chester, having previously played at Wolverhampton with the Major, to form a solid half back line with Tom Holley and Irish International Jim McCabe. Irish International keeper Jim Twomey was first replaced by local boy Harry Fearnley until Harold Searson was bought from Mansfield. After a string of bad results the Major dived into the transfer market, exchanging Ray Iggleden of Leicester City for Ken Chisholm, and left winger Jimmy Rudd for the long serving Tom Hindle. The Irish International, blacksmith Eddie McMorran was bought from Manchester City and two old hands John Short, to Millwall for £4,000, and Billy Heaton, to Southampton for £7,000 were also sold. The Major was piecing together the jigsaw that was the basis of the United team for several years to come. The mercurial Irish International right winger Davie Cochrane was still casting his spell over opposing full-backs and was constantly one of United's best players.

At Major Buckley's instigation, the club changed its strip to Old Gold Shirts with Blue Sleeves and Collars, White Shorts and Black, Blue and Old Gold Hooped Socks, as he maintained the players would recognise each other better than in the old strip.

At the end of an indifferent season United struggled to 15th position with 37 points. In the FA Cup United received possibly their most humiliating defeat to date, going down 3-1 to lowly Third Division (South) team Newport County. Tom Holley's long reign as the lynchpin of the United defence was coming to an end.

In April 1949, in the annual clash between England and Scotland, the English defence was given a torrid time by the Scotland centre-forward Billy Houlison. As luck would have it, his team, Queen of the South, were due to play a friendly against United at Elland Road, and several thousand increased the gate just to see Houlison. They could have saved their money, as he hardly got a kick all night! They did, however, get more than their money's worth. A barely 18 year old "man mountain" from Wales deputised for Holley. The first product of the Buckley youth scheme stepped up and they witnessed the birth of a football legend. William John Charles.

1948-1949 Season Division Pos (Pts)
FA Cup
Lg Cup
Europe
Other
Season Details Division Two 15 (37)
R3
-
-
-

Previous: The Outbreak of War, Football During WW2 Next: The Reign of King John