Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, will the wheels stay on for Leeds United?

Leeds United

So began the lyrics for ‘Rawhide’ – the Western TV series – broadcast from 1959 to 1965. For Leeds United, this period represented the genesis period of our most famous club side and catapulted Leeds into the consciousness of football fans up and down the country as well as placing West Yorkshire firmly on the international map.

At the beginning of the Rawhide run, Leeds were struggling in the Second Division, having never won a major trophy. After appointing Don Revie as player-manager in March 1961 the team were promoted as champions in 1963-64 and reached the FA Cup Final the following season (losing after extra-time to Liverpool), also finishing as runners-up to Manchester United in the First Division on goal average.

Rawhide came to an end but domestic and European success did follow for Leeds over the next ten years. This rich period in the club’s history was effectively over by 1975 when Bayern Munich won a controversial European Cup Final against us and goal difference replaced goal average!

I mention all of this now in the context of our current promotion campaign under the coaching and management of Garry Monk. Unlike Revie, Monk had already seen management success at Swansea City before being sacked in somewhat controversial circumstances, with many Swans left to lament his early departure.

Monk survived some early scares under Leeds chairman and joint owner Massimo Cellino but has now built a side that finds itself in fifth place in the Championship, battling out with Reading and Yorkshire rivals Huddersfield and Sheffield Wednesday for the play-off places.

Rawhide is effectively an animal skin that has not been tanned; many in the late 1960s and early 1970s felt that Leeds United’s approach to the game was similarly raw and often untamed but they also forget that this was a much ‘harder’ era for football in Britain as well as further afield.

For those of us who have supported the team since the Revie Years, that tough spine has been a key element in the teams’ successes. Vinny Jones provided part of the toughness in our last second tier promotion campaign in 1989-90, as Bremner and Giles had done so effectively before him.

Liam Bridcutt, Kalvin Phillips and Ronaldo Vieira are among those providing bite in midfield for the current team, while Kyle Bartley and Pontus Jansson are forging a commanding partnership in defence rarely seen since the Charlton and Hunter days. The side’s performances this season have undoubtedly been built on these solid platforms.

New Zealander Chris Wood is having a hugely successful scoring run and Spaniard Pablo Hernández is unlocking defences with his vision and ingenuity. Barrow from Gambia and another Spaniard – Pedraza – were added in the transfer window to give us additional pace on the wings and down the channels.

So why are we so worried? Well, remembering 1965 and 1975, as well as many other ‘near misses’ amongst the glories, all Leeds United fans of a certain age have a fear making up their collective DNA that we might get so far, only for the wheels to come off just short of the finishing line yet again. We have never been promoted via the play-offs and an automatic place looks to be already beyond us this season.

Do we have enough creativity in midfield where we once had Batty, Speed, Strachan and McAllister? What happens if Woods or one of our key defenders (where we are short of cover) gets injured? Is our squad still too young? Will Monk be given long enough – as Don Revie was in the Rawhide years – to really build a team that can get promoted and be a force in the Premier League?

Perhaps we all worry too much about the future instead of settling for a much more exciting ride than the bottom half of the table mediocrity we have become accustomed to in recent seasons?

Or are we just too a little bit just desperate for football history to repeat itself so that we can ‘Move ’em on, head ’em up’ and be ‘livin’ high an’ wide’ once again?