The most successful period of Leeds United’s history to date was during the Don Revie era. Revie was known as the "Master". Ranked up alongside Matt Busby and Bill Shankly as one of the top managers in the game. The legend of the Don still lives on at Elland Road, with United naming the old kop after him.
Under Revie Leeds won promotion to Division 1 in the 1963-64 season; two league championships: 1968-69, 1973-1974, League Cup in 1968, Fairs Cup 1968 and 1971, FA Cup in 1972 and FA Charity Shield in 1972.
Leeds United have never since reached the glory days of the 60’s and 70’s however under Howard Wilkinson, Leeds won the league in the 1991-92 season before the first division made the transition into the Premiership.
In 1996 Howard Wilkinson bought Lee Sharpe, Nigel Martyn, Lee Bowyer and Ian Rush. Leeds didn’t made a promising start to the season with two wins and a draw in the first four games. However, when arch-rivals Manchester United visited Elland Road injuries to key players meant Wilkinson was forced to field a weak team and defeat against the league’s top team was inevitable. Chants of “Wilkinson Out!” rang out around the stadium as Manchester United scored four goals. The board sacked Wilkinson after five games into the new season.
Leeds controversially appointed George Graham, rescuing him from the soccer-scrap heap; Graham had been out of a job since being accused of accepting illegal payments at his former club Arsenal. When Graham arrived he stepped into a club where the players morale was low, he started work immediately by sorting out the teams defence and he became the “bore” draw specialist. At the start of the season Graham brought in some bargain buys notably Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink for 2 million pounds. Graham introduced Australian youngster Harry Kewell from the youth team and he quickly became a fans favourite with his pace, skill, enthusiasm and eye for goal. At the end of the season Leeds booked their place in the UEFA Cup for the next season. The 1998-99 season saw Leeds scrape past Maritimo in the UEFA Cup however, stories were circulating that George Graham has accepted an offer from Tottenham Hotspur Graham denied this but a week later he was indeed manager of the north London club.
Leeds searched for a new manager for weeks with Martin O’Neil seeming certain to take the job, however pressure from Leicester City fans meant O’Neil stayed on as their manager and subsequently snubbed Leeds United. Leeds opted for David O’Leary, George Graham’s assistant manager.
Under O’Leary the glory-days seemed likely to return. On the pitch he let his team do the talking. He introduced promising youngsters like Jonathan Woodgate, Alan Smith and Stephen McPhail to complement the likes of Harry Kewell and Ian Harte who were already established first teamers. The fans and pundits saw a new vigorous and dynamic Leeds United side. A young and inexperienced Leeds side narrowly lost in Rome against Italian giants AS Roma and Leeds were unable to break the deadlock a week later at Elland Road.
With David O’Leary in-charge the 1999-2000 season approached and was looking good for Leeds. O’Leary put himself across to the media as “naïve” and his squad were just “babies”. But those babies played a fast-paced, attacking football under the coaching of Eddie Gray. Leeds were again paired with AS Roma in the UEFA Cup and they were beaten this time over two-legs. The superb run in the UEFA Cup was complemented by good form in the league, with a win at Watford sending Leeds top of the league. Leeds secured 3rd place in the league that season sending the club into the Champions League for the first time.
However, if there ever was a point in Leeds United’s history that would change the club it occurred during January of 2000. Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer were involved in an incident in Leeds city centre outside the Majestyk nightclub, which left an Asian student in hospital with severe injuries. The fact that the victim of the attack was Asian meant the players, fans and the club were under the spot-light as the anti-racist industry decided that the innocent until proven guilty premise shouldn’t be applied. Leeds ever since have been labelled “racist” and “dirty” in certain tabloid newspapers, seeing a large percentage of supporters boycott the Daily Mirror. It took nearly two years to resolve as the start-stop court case came to a close. Bowyer was cleared and Woodgate convicted of affray and sentenced to community service. Bowyer played some of the finest football of his career during the trial and would often drive straight from court to play for Leeds, however Woodgate’s form deteriorated and he had to sit out games due to pressure.
Leeds’ UEFA Cup run continued beating Slavia Praha in the quarter finals, Leeds reached their first European semi-final in 25 years and were paired against Turkish champions Galatasaray, notorious for their fanatical support. Another dark moment in Leeds’ history was around the corner when two Leeds United fans, Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight were brutally stabbed to death before the game in Istanbul. The Turkish FA and Galatasaray’s actions showed how they didn’t care and ordered the game to go-ahead that night, Leeds lost 2-0. The return leg in Leeds had the most charged, emotional yet poisonous atmosphere. Outside the ground saw running battles between police and fans and there were attacks on Turkish TV crews, the game saw Harry Kewell sent off and a 2-2 score wasn’t enough for Leeds, as they went out of the competition.