the story of leeds football from 1919 to 1950

And now on to the blessed story of our history. The history of Leeds United AFC. A relatively brief snippet of our illustrious history, including all the major dates and points of note in Leeds United's time. A concise historical account of our great club, but more than enough to give the neutral football fan an idea of what we are about. This page deals with the early years from the start in 1919 up to the season of 1949-50. Read the keynotes and dates of how our great club changed divison no less than 5 times between the wars. A roller coaster ride to say the least, with Leeds having three different managers in the same period. Leeds United winning their first trophy under Arthur Fairclough and the signing of the legend John Charles under the mini revival of Major Frank Buckley. This is the start of when Leeds became United behind the team now known as the Whites.


WAFLL Main | History Index | Period 1904 ~ 1920 | Period 1950 ~ 1965

The most unlikeliest of coincidences saw the birth of Leeds United, it was October 17, 1919 when a group of Leeds City's loyal supporters and officials got together and established our club Leeds United. This was also the day that Leeds City's playing staff were being auctioned off at the Metropole Hotel in Leeds. Leeds United were born and two weeks after their inception were elected to the Midland League on 31 October 1919.

  1919-20 Not A Professional Start But United's First.

  1920-21 ~ 1929-30
Hilton Crowther took over Leeds United the wealthy chairman of Huddersfield Town and invested heavily in the club financially also appointing Arthur Fairclough as manager on 26 February 1920. Leeds United were elected to the league on 31 May 1920 along with Cardiff City.

  1920-21 Elected To The Second Division But Only 10 Away Goals.

That first season wasn't the best and Leeds finished in 14th place. Leeds managed to score only 10 away goals that term which is the worst total in the clubs history. The period of 1921-22 saw Leeds better their league debut by 6 places finishing in 8th and a season later in 1922-23 they finished in a worthy seventh spot. The term of 1923-24 witnessed an important and memorable landmark in Leeds United's history, they won the second division on 54 points winning their first ever trophy and achieving first division football for the city of Leeds. A good Leeds United side that year but unfortunately the team struggled in the season of 1924-25 their first time out in division one finishing in 18th place.

  1921-22 A Big Improvement As united Finish In 8th.
  1922-23 One Place Better In United's Third Season As The Team Finish 7th.
  1923-24 First Ever Trophy For Leeds, United Gain promotion As Champions.
  1924-25 A Struggle In The Top Tier As United Land In 18th Spot.

A worse time followed in 1925-26 and Leeds only just managed to escape relegation by beating Spurs at home 4-1, it went to the last game. During these two seasons the side was developing but their luck wasn't to hold out when in the season of 1926-27 they were relegated losing first division status. Amazingly though during that season Leeds managed a record of 69 goals with Tom Jennings bagging 35. Probably due to the case that defenders were still getting used to the changes in the off-side rule that was brought about in 1925. Fairclough resigned as manager after the relegation and Dick Ray took over taking on the decent side that Fairclough had built. Ray managed to guide that side to the runners up position in 1927-28 in his first season and the team achieved a club record of 98 goals. Back in the top flight for 1928-29 and Leeds did well finishing in 13th position. Leeds earned their best finish ever up to date in the following term of 1929-30 finishing an impressive 5th.

  1925-26 Leeds Only Just Avoid Relegation Finishing In 19th.
  1926-27 United Finally Suffer Their First Ever Relegation.
  1927-28 United Bounce Back Up With Dick Ray As Manager.
  1928-29 Leeds Finish In A Comfortbale 13th Position.
  1929-30 The Best Yet With A 5th Position In The First.

  1930-31 ~ 1939-40
There was genuine belief and hope around the camp at that time that Leeds could put in a challenge for the title come the next season but disappointingly in the season of 1930-31 they could only manage to win 12 games and were relegated back to the second division.

  1930-31 Relegation For United After Only Winning 12 Games.

The roller coaster ride had only just begun though, for Leeds United once again returned to the top division as runners up in the season of 1931-32. Leeds had had a fantastic period winning 9 consecutive games in a run of 15 unbeaten. Back in the first for 1932-33 and Leeds lost their first two but went on another unbeaten run of 14 games. Despite a poor finish they still managed 8th position. The club again had a reasonable season in 1933-34 finishing in 9th position, beating Leicester 8-0 and finished only three points behind fourth placed Derby. Wilf Copping the original hardman of English football moved down the road to Arsenal before the kick off of the 1934-35 term which proved costly for Leeds. Sinking to 18th in the league and losing 8-1 to Stoke and 7-1 to Chelsea in the bargain. Will Copping started his Leeds career in 1930-31 at left half and was nominated as one of the Top 100 British footballers of all time. Maybe we should have kept him!

  1931-32 Straight Back Up For Leeds With A 15 Game Unbeaten Run.
  1932-33 A Fair return To The Top Flight As United Settle In 8th.
  1933-34 A Reasonable Effort Finishing 9th And Beating Leicester 8-0.
  1934-35 A Star Leaves Leeds And United Slump To 18th.

Dick Ray resigned as manager and Billy Hampson who was one of the Leeds City's guest players took over. The season of 1935-36 and Leeds United finished it in a more comfortable mid table position but again in 1936-37 saw another slump with Leeds finishing in 19th position avoiding the drop by goal difference only. An improvement followed in 1937-38 with Leeds up amongst the title challengers in the preliminary stages of the season but from December to April they only managed two wins which saw them finish in 9th. The season of 1938-39 was the last full season before the outbreak of World War Two in which Leeds United had made little progress finishing in 13th spot.

  1935-36 Billy Hampson Takes Over As Manager And Leeds Rise To Mid Table.
  1936-37 Leeds Beat The Drop By Goal Difference Only Finishing In 19th.
  1937-38 A Good Improvement As Leeds Finish In 9th.
  1938-39 Little Progress Sees United Finish In 13th.

England declared war on Germany in September of 1939 and all official football activities had been postponed. Leeds at the time were at the bottom of the divison with just three games played. During the war the FA did allow football to continue but only with restrictions on players pay and if the local police consented. Many clubs still decided to close down while the war was still active but Leeds United played through and in 1939-40 played in the North-East Division. Elland Road had been taken over by the army but Leeds could still use the ground on match days. Leeds finished 5th in a division of 11 with teams that include Newcastle and Bradford. That season was probably one of the most organised of the periods during the war.Things were obviously chaotic and the crowds were low very rarely reaching over the 5,000 mark. Teams didn't know if players would be availabe and sometimes relied on reserves from other teams and even spectators.

  1939-40 Football League Postponed Due To WWII.

  The War Years 1939-40
  1939-40 A 5th Spot Finish In The North East Divison.

  1940-41 ~ 1949-50
1940-41 and Leeds United were still playing through the war in the Northern Divison which now had 36 teams involved in it. Leeds that season finished in 15th spot with Wilf Copping playing for the club when he was on leave from the army. An odd period followed for the term of 1941-42 with the Northern Championship having two championships. The first had 38 teams playing in it and Leeds finished 26th winning 7 of their 18 games. Leeds didn't qualify for the second championship because they had played fewer than 18 games. With the season of 1942-43 came more madness things were getting pretty desperate and it was almost impossible to organise anything. The league had two championships again and Leeds finished 43rd and 47th using 70 different players. They managed to win 8 out of 34 matches conceding nearly a 100 goals. There was an improvement in 1943-44 but Leeds still finished outside of the top 20.

  The War Years 1940-41 ~ 1943-44
  1940-41 United Take Part In The North regional League.
  1941-41 Leeds In The North Regional Championship.
  1941-42 40th In The Football League Northern Section.
  1942-42 43rd For United In The Northern Section.
  1942-43 47th For Leeds In The Northern Section.
  1943-43 Up to 27th In The Northern Section For United.
  1943-44 43rd For United In The FL Northern Section.

The 1944-45 period saw the last year for the two championsips format and again Leeds didn't do well but things were looking better on the war front and football always seemed secondary. After the war the football league faced many problems players were still on active service, petrol was rationed and many grounds had recieved bomb damage. So it was decided to split the league into regional sections to reduce travel. There was to be a Northern Section and Southern Section. 1945-46 and the manager of Leeds Billy Hampson managed to get a squad together, he felt confident of the coming season considering the circumstances. It proved however to be a very bad experience for Leeds United finishing bottom and only winning 9 times. Leeds were grateful that for that season relegation had been abandoned. Off the field and Leeds United were seen as a bit of a joke, the Elland Road faithfull were very fearful of what the resumption of the football league would bring.

  The War Years 1944-44 ~ 1944-45
  1944-44 United Up To 22nd In The FL Northern Section.
  1944-45 United Finish In 32nd Place In The Final War Year League.

  Football League Northern Section
  1945-46 The League Is Split And United Finish Last.

1946-47 saw the resumption of the football league. The English people could not have been more hungry for football and the crowds that year were phenominal, football being one of the things that wasn't rationed. It proved also a very memorable year for Leeds United although all for the wrong reasons. This is probably the worst season in Leeds United's history. Leeds managed to earn only 18 points all season with just one of them points earned away. This equalled the first divisions lowest points total ever until 1984-85 when Stoke did even worse. Leeds United conceded 90 goals that period and with that a ticket back down to divison two. Billy Hampson was finished and former player Willis Edwards took over as the new Leeds United manager. 1947-48 and confidence at Elland Road was at an all time low, Willis Edwards just didn't have the experience for the role. A Leeds team in this state needed someone with a little more breeding. Form for that season marginally improved but Leeds still found themselves in a relegation battle and Edwards was moved to the position of assistant manager.

  1946-47 The Worst Season In United's History 18 Points And Relegation.
  1947-48 Willis Edwards Can't Stop The Rot Leeds Finish In 18th.

Next man for the managers position at Elland Road was Major Frank Buckley. A manager who had experience and success with Wolves. The season of 1948-49 didn't prove too succesful for Buckley and Leeds though coming in at 15th, only two points above relegation. He did however come up with a genius find, Buckley signed John Charles. Finally after a decade of what seemed like an endless slope for Leeds 1948-49 looked like they were about to take a turn for the best, the rot was finally being stopped and Leeds could start looking forward.The season was hardly a success but the signs were there in young John Charles and the experience of Buckley. Leeds had previously tasted division one football and Leeds were hungry again. Buckley had made many changes on and off the field and Leeds had vastly improved. For the term of 1949-50 Leeds managed to finish 5th and made it all the way to the quarter finals of the FA cup, the best Leeds had ever done at the time.

  1948-49 Major Frank Buckley Takes Over But Leeds Can Only Manage 15th.
  1949-50 Many Changes And A Great Improvement As United Take 5th Spot.

WAFLL Main | History Index | Period 1904 ~ 1920 | Period 1950 ~ 1965

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