I have always wondered exactly what happened to Leeds City, a team that apparently just disappeared, after playing first class football for ten years or more. Of course, we have all heard of Leeds United, famous for its few triumphs and many near misses in the late 1960s and early 1970s. But what about Leeds City? How does a big football club just disappear?
Well, they were founded at the Griffin Hotel in 1904. Here is the Griffin Hotel nowadays. It doesn’t seem to be doing much better than Leeds City:
Leeds City were slated to be the primary football team in the city, somebody who could bring the delights of a relatively new sport to a rugby mad area.This allowed them to adapt the council’s coat of arms as their own and to wear the city’s colours of gold and blue for their shirts:
Luckily for them, a local rugby club folded around this time, and Leeds City moved straight into their old stadium in Elland Road.
A decent ground enabled them to arrange friendly games against local league clubs, and after making powerful friends in this way they became members of the Second Division for the 1905-1906 season, when they finished sixth. Years ago, it was the club secretary who did what would nowadays be the job of team coach and club manager. City started with Gilbert Gillies (1904-1908) and then Frank Scott-Walford (1909-1912). The club’s record was fairly average until they appointed Herbert Chapman, the legendary manager of Huddersfield and Arsenal, who took City to fourth place in the Second Division, their highest position so far. Here is the great man. His ghost was said for many years to haunt Arsenal’s old ground at Highbury:
Until the First World War, Leeds City continued to wear blue and gold as their colours, except for the 1910-1911 season. Research by David Tomlinson has revealed that their kit changed at this point, when they signed five young, inexperienced, but hopefully talented, Irishmen for the team. The Leeds Mercury, in their match report, said
“It must be remembered that these Irishmen are very young men, who have been brought into a higher class of football than that to which they have been accustomed, and that they were playing their first match amid unfamiliar surroundings. Mr Scott-Walford evidently had an eye to making his new men feel at home as well as to stage effect when he attired the team in green jerseys and supplied green flags to mark the centre line, and he apparently realised that their first match might go wrong when he addressed them in his official programme: “Should your efforts deserve success, and it is denied you, we shall extend our sympathy, when you do badly we shall still think you have done your best.”
It certainly looks very strange for a team from Leeds:
During the 1913-1914 season they adapted a kit which they would wear for the rest of their short history:
The Football Association has always been very adept at thinking up rules and regulations. It was strictly forbidden, for example, for a club to pay their players over the course of the Great War. No matter how dangerous it was fighting for King and Country, it was down to you to look after the wife and kids, rather than allow your rich erstwhile employer to help you out, even if that arrangement suited both sides. And woe betide, of course, anybody caught breaking the rules, even though many clubs did. It was a blind date with a bunch of Germans for you. Hopefully, you won’t get the one whose hat doesn’t fit:
Leeds City were grassed up to the FA by a former player who told journalists that the club’s guest players for friendly games were being paid to turn out and play. The FA considered this to be an extremely serious offence, and began an investigation.
City, being both arrogant and stupid, did not help themselves by their poor choice of reaction to the FA’s questions. Instead of rolling over with a loud cry of:
“I am guilty, guilty, guilty but O how I regret my wrongdoing”
they basically told the Football Association:
“Get stuffed. You can’t look at the books”.
The FA’s reaction was to make a huge example of the wrong doers. Immediate expulsion from the League sine die as they say, and the disbandment of the entire club.
They had played only eight games of the 1919-1920 season and delighted Port Vale took over the rest of City’s fixtures. I bet the man with the rip across his face was the first one to die. I saw it in a horror film once:
Herbert Chapman, the club secretary, and a good few others, were also banned sine die. All the club’s assets were to be sold off. Not just the tables and chairs, but the players too.
At ten o’clock on October 17th 1919, therefore, an auction was held at the Metropole Hotel, where sixteen footballers were all sold to the highest bidder. They were bought by nine various clubs for a total of £9,250.
Billy McLeod £1,250 to Notts County
Harry Millership to Rotherham County (who??) and John Hampson to Aston Villa, both for £1,000.
Willis Walker to South Shields (who??) and John Edmondson to Sheffield Wednesday, both for £800
Other clubs who coughed up either £600 or less were Grimsby Town, Manchester City, Aston Villa, Lincoln City and Hartlepool United.
Poor old Francis Chipperfield, worth only £100 to Lincoln City. I wonder if he just packed up football and went to join the circus?
During the afternoon, after the auction, a number of other local officials, or at least, all the ones who were as pure as the driven snow, founded a new club, Leeds United, which could play in the now deserted Elland Road ground. United initially took over the fixtures of City’s reserves in the Midland League, but for the next season of 1920-1921, the club was promoted into the Second Division:
As I have done before in other posts, I would like to thank the website who supplied all of the illustrations of the old football kits from days of yore.
It is the best ever website for the soccer nerd and all those little boys who had more than twenty different Subbuteo teams.