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Leeds United 1999-00 No.0176

Leeds United 1999-00 No.0176

Description: The season 1999-00 was the first full season in charge for manager David O'Leary and for the new campaign the Irishman made numerous signings. Danny Mills came from Charlton for 4.37M million, Eirik Bakke penned for 1M coming from Norwegian outfit Sogndal and Michael Bridges came from Sunderland for 4.5M which underlined the talent O'Leary was bringing to the club. Not much progress in the Football League Cup saw United knocked out in the 4th Round by Leicester City at Filbert Street after a penalty shoot out. Leeds went a round further in the FA Cup making the 5th Round only to be knocked out by Aston Villa 3-2 at Villa Park with Ian Harte and Eirik Bakke netting for Leeds. In the UEFA Cup and Leeds United made it all the way to the Semi Final where they met Turkish side Galatasary, Leeds lost the game over two legs, The Whites went down 2-0 in Istanbul and drew the game at Elland Road 2-2 with both the Leeds goals coming from Eirik Bakke. In the League and Leeds finished in their highest spot since they won the League in 1991-92 under Howard Wilkinson. O'Leary's young team finished in third spot and with it a place in the Champion's League. United won 28 games and scored 58 goals in the process.

This season however will always be remembered for the wrong reasons. O'Leary's achievements with his young side will always be in the shadow of two incidents that are now unfortunately cemented in the history of Leeds United. The first involved the two United players Lee Bowyer and Jonathan Woodgate. While out drinking at the Majestyk night club in Leeds January, 2000 they got themselves involved in an incident which saw a man suffer injuries that resulted in an eight day stay in hospital. What made this matter worse and prompted the papers to have a field day was the man receiving the treatment was Asian. Bowyer and Woodgate were charged with causing grievous bodily harm in an allegedly racially motivated attack. The case lasted for nearly two years and from the outset the judge made it very clear that the incident was not racially motivated. This did not stop the newspapers at large heaving an all out assault on Leeds United and it didn't stop opposing fans from chanting obscene, expletives at every following game without any recourse from the authorities. It could however have stopped Leeds United from having an even more memorable time in the League. Playing under such appalling and ludicrous conditions, a result of the national newspapers assaults, must have had a significant affect on the team.

The other regrettable and devastating incident involved two Leeds United supporters. Leeds United faced the Turkish side Galatasary in the Semi Final of the UEFA Cup. The night before the game on the 5th April, 2000 two Leeds United fans Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight were murdered by a group of Galatasary supporters. Stabbed to death because allegedly they had made insults towards sections of the Istanbul public. This allegation didn't have one witness who could put Kevin or Chris at the scene of any incident. It goes without saying that if the absurd and incompetent officials within UEFA had have cancelled the following days game Leeds might have done better on the park. The game went ahead in an extremely hostile environment with little care from the Turkish police. Hateful chanting went on over the Leeds team who lost the game 2-0. As if that wasn't enough the referee was distinctly biased in the Turkish sides favour. We'll never know how badly this affected Leeds United, it was heartbreaking for everybody involved with the club. Peter Ridsdale the Leeds chairman throughout the duration of this hard time was amazing, bringing many favourable and respectful comments from people outside of the club. The baleful deeds of the Galatasary supporting scum that night will never be absolved by Leeds fans and the memory of Chris and Kevin will always be in our hearts.

Back Row: Robert Molenaar, Michael Bridges, Jonathan Woodgate, Nigel Martyn, Michael Duberry, Paul Robinson, Eirik Bakke, Alf-Inge Haaland, David Hopkin.
Middle Row: Sean Hardy (Kit Manager), Bruno Ribeiro, Ian Harte, David Batty, Gary Kelly, Danny Mills, Darren Huckerby, Eddie Gray (Assistant Manager), David Swift (Physio).
Front Row: Stephen McPhail, Alan Smith, Harry Kewell, Peter Ridsdale (Director), Lucas Radebe, David O’Leary (Manager), Lee Bowyer, Matthew Jones, Martin Hiden.

Submitted: 04/03/11 (Edited 04/27/11)

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