Leeds United may have only just returned to the Premier League after a 16-year absence but things weren’t always this way. Leeds won the last ever Division 1 title before the Premier League was born and remained a competitive side for around another decade.
With their return being as emphatic as it has, today we’re looking at Leeds United’s greatest Premier League XI.
Goalkeeper: Nigel Martyn
Martyn became Britain’s most expensive goalkeeper when he signed for around £2 million from Crystal Palace in 1996 and went on to be a comfortable figure in the Leeds United goal. 104 clean sheets in 255 appearances is nothing to scoff at and the commanding presence he exhibited led to ‘Big Nige’ becoming a fan favourite at Elland Road.
Right Back: Gary Kelly
Speaking of fan favourites, you don’t get much closer than Gary Kelly. Spending a staggering 15 years at the club from 1992 to 2007, Kelly was with Leeds for the entirety of their Premier League spell and accumulated 325 Premier League appearances. It’s not often that players remain a one club man, but Gary Kelly did with his pace and positional awareness making him a solid choice on the right hand side of defence.
Centre Back: Lucas Radebe
The former Leeds United captain simply had to make this team. Nicknamed ‘The Chief’ Radebe’s physical presence meant that it wouldn’t be an easy task for opposition attackers to go up against him. His no none-sense style of play may be much rarer now , but the South African is probably the best from his country to ever play in the Premier League and made 181 topflight appearances for Leeds..
Centre Back: Jonathan Woodgate
Woodgate’s career was unfortunately tarred by injuries but the Leeds United academy graduate was fantastic during the first few years of his career. Forming a strong partnership with Rio Ferdinand, Woodgate was a physical presence who was incredibly strong in the air. Woodgate played in an era where England were blessed with a plethora of quality centre backs so he only earned 8 caps, but his time in Yorkshire was much more memorable as he played 104 Premier League games for the Whites.
Left Back: Ian Harte
Ian Harte became famous due to his absolute rocket of a left foot. He was ahead of his time when it comes to the offensive duties of a full back as he would fly down the left channel with pace and offer pin-point crossing. Harte was a danger from set pieces and even scored 7 goals in the 2000/01 season which is a ridiculous number for a defender. The Irishman made 288 appearances over his 9 seasons with the club.
Right Midfield: Gary McAllister
McAllister was a member of the 1992 Division 1 title winning squad and would remain at Leeds for 4 more years in the Premier League, scoring 24 goals in 151 Premier League games. McAllister could rotate between centre midfield and the right flank and would constantly cause problems with his creativity. The Scotsman was a common danger due to his excellent set piece delivery and became a vital cog in the Leeds United machine.
Centre Midfield: Lee Bowyer
Whilst his off the field antics ensured he remained a controversial figure, there were few players in the league who could compare to Bowyer’s influence on the pitch. The tenacious midfielder tended to pop up with goals quite often with 51 goals in 251 games, a commendable return for a player of this position. A physical presence in defence and a danger in attack, it’s somewhat surprising that the two-time Leeds United player of the year only managed a single England cap.
Centre Midfield: David Batty
David Batty was born in Leeds and, much like McAllister, won the title in 1992 with them. He then left the club but returned in 1998 where he was a centrepiece of the Elland Road furniture until his retirement in 2004. Batty was the anchor that allowed the more creative midfielders to work their magic. Similarly to current defensive midfielder Kalvin Phillips, Batty gave everything he had on the pitch and was tough in the tackle and good at distributing the ball to his teammates. Batty made 130 Premier League appearances for Leeds, though in all competitions he played 201 games.
Left Midfield: Gary Speed
Gary Speed is a Leeds United legend. First and foremost, he also won the title in 1992 but the Welshman was later named in the PFA team of the year for the 1992/93 season and would go onto make 142 Premier League appearances for the Whites, scoring 22 goals. Operating mainly from the left, Speed was a constant danger to opposition defences due to his sense of awareness on the pitch and ability to create chances for his teammates whilst also converting many of his own.
Striker: Mark Viduka
The Australian was probably Leeds United’s best player after the turn of the millennium. Viduka scored 59 league goals in 130 appearances and became the White’s talisman in his 4 seasons at the club as he finished top scorer in each of them. Viduka wasn’t quite able to keep Leeds afloat in the 2003/04 season, but he provided many memorable moments during his time at Elland Road, most notably scoring all 4 goals in a 4-3 comeback victory over Liverpool in 2000.
Striker: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Hasselbaink didn’t spend too long at Leeds before leaving for Atletico Madrid in 1999 but his time in Yorkshire was certainly memorable. The Dutchman scored 34 league goals in 69 league games and would go onto become the 14th top scorer in Premier League history, though this is mainly due to his time at Chelsea. 34 goals is a fantastic return for just 2 seasons at a club and whilst the contract dispute that led to his departure may sour the memories, there’s no denying how good he was at Elland Road.