Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The Blues and Whites - Whitby and Leeds Connection

Co-written between Lensmeister and Paul Connolly.

Upon the crest of Leeds United is the White Rose of Yorkshire, Leeds has always been a industrial force in the county as Whitby once was one of the big fishing forces in the North. But it is not the county that the clubs have shared over the years. Leeds have helped their smaller county-men with players and other assistance. Indeed the close affinity has been a good one.

The first player trade that is recorded was that of Bob Garrett who joined Leeds from Whitby back in the close season of 1960. Bob had joined the Blues from Easington Colliery in 1959 and made his debut on October 10th, 1959 against Shildon. He also netted his first goal in that very same game. By the end of the season, Garrett had netted 8 goals in just 15 appearances before joining Leeds United.

This was the first real link recorded between the two sides, and it wasn’t until 1976 before the two sides forged their link again. Whitby Town faced Leeds United reserves in a friendly match on 17th August 1976. United’s reserves ran out very comfortable 3-0 winners.

It appears that it was the 1980s that strengthened the link between the two clubs. Joining the Blues came Steve Balcome from Leeds via Oaklands FC in Ireland in August 1985 then came Eddie Gray, Peter Lorimer and David Harvey. The two teams also faced each other twice during the decade, and the whites ran out winners both times.

As we know, both Gray and Harvey had stints at being the Whitby manager with Harvey achieving a good level of success.

During Eddie Gray’s time at Whitby Town, he brought in players such as Steve French, who went on to gain hero status amongst the Whitby Town fans for his fantastic performances in a Town shirt. Gray’s time at Whitby Town is still remembered today, by a certain Don Kirby, who regularly chants his name when passing Thorpe Arch, the Leeds United training ground, on trips to away matches.

The links with Eddie Gray and David Harvey ensured that Whitby Town and Leeds United faced each other in friendlies and testimonials during the 1980s. The first match of the decade, in August 1985, finished a whopping 9-0 to Leeds in front of a Turnbull crowd of 437. The following season, it was time for Les Scott’s testimonial at the Turnbull. In March of 1987, Billy Bremner’s boys were in town for the match. This game finished 5-2 to Leeds United, which was a massive improvement on the previous match. The match also saw the first two goals Whitby Town had ever scored against the Whites.

The next match up between the sides came in 1990, as Howard Wilkinson prepared his side for an assault on Division Two. It wasn’t a side that Howard Wilkinson had sent, though. This time, it was a team of Leeds United all stars who were facing the blues. Once again it was at the Turnbull, and once again United ran out winners. This time, the score was 3-2.

In more recent years, Kenny Sansom, an ex England and Arsenal player contacted the club to find a place for one of the England under 21 players Ryan Vickers.  Ryan joined the Blues from Leeds United in January 2000 and made his debut against Stalybridge Celtic on January 29th, 2000. He went on loan to Harrogate Railway Athletic after just 4 appearances.

Another player who has pulled on both the blue and white shirts in recent years is Tony Hackworth. Hackworth was a promising striker when he made his Leeds United debut in the Champions League against Barcelona. At the young age of 20, this was Hackworth’s first real chance to impact on the Leeds United team. Unfortunately, he played only 2 further matches for Leeds, against Tranmere Rovers in the League Cup and Lazio, once again in the Champions League. He was then cast into the Leeds United wilderness before being let go in 2001. Between 2001 and 2007, the year in which he joined Town for his first spell, Hackworth played for 3 clubs. These teams were Sogndal, Notts. County and Scarborough. Town signed Hackworth in the summer of 2007. Hacky cemented his place in the team, but was soon on his way again, as Harrogate Town came calling in November 2007. This brief flirtation only lasted until the end of the season, as he was released by Harrogate. This paved the way for him to return to Town. This time around, he spent 3 years with the club, before being released by Tommy Cassidy at the end of the 2010/2011 season. During his 3 year spell, Hackworth netted 37 goals, mainly from his attacking midfield role. He also captained Whitby for the majority of his second spell.

Recently, the current Leeds United manager Neil Warnock was reunited with his “son” Paddy Kenny, after making him one of his early summer signings. This is the fourth time Warnock has signed Kenny during his managerial career. Back in 1998, Warnock had Kenny at Bury, but he decided to let him go out on loan. After a few offers, Kenny was shipped out to Whitby Town. Although Kenny only played a few games for Town, it was enough to cement his popularity with Warnock, after Warnock himself claimed that if you can deal with winter in Whitby, then you can deal with anything. Too true Neil, too true.

The final player to be mentioned is Ray Hankin. Hankin was part of the Leeds United team fairly early in his career, playing around the aging Don Revie team. During his four years at Elland Road, he became something of a cult hero amongst the Leeds fans. Hankin became somewhat of a journeyman throughout his career, playing for no less than 10 clubs. Hankin only played for Whitby Town during the 1985-1986 season, but during that time he made somewhat of an impact. Hankin’s quality was such that he oozed quality every time he played. In every match he played, he helped to bring the best out of players around him, whilst still knocking goals home himself. Hankin only played one season with Whitby Town, but he was a massive player in that season, making 32 appearances for Town, and scoring 9 goals. Not a bad return for a single season!

The links between the two clubs had another dormant spell following the influx of activity linking the two clubs together. But, it was late in the 1990s that the link re-emerged, when Paul ‘Yakka’ Pitman was due a testimonial. This time, it was David O’Leary’s babies that were gracing the Turnbull pitch. The Leeds United side on that day included a fresh faced Paul Robinson, and Leeds United’s new signings, Michael Bridges and Eirik Bakke. Town’s side was a mix of Town past and present, who were all there for Yakka. The match finished 2-1 to Leeds United, in front of a bumper crowd of 1452. Michael Bridges and Matthew Jones netted for Leeds, and Paul Pitman got the Town goal, albeit from a soft penalty. From this day onwards, Peter Ridsdale must have taken a shine to Leeds United, as we found out only a couple of years later.

In 2001, Harry Dunn and Whitby Town were living the dream in the FA Cup. They had gone on a fantastic run to the FA Cup first round, and their fantastic run was rewarded with a tasty home tie against Plymouth Argyle. On the day of the match, Town played a blinder, and earnt a very well deserved replay. But there was a problem. A nightmare had emerged. Town had no way of getting down to Plymouth, as it was way too costly. Club chairman Graham Manser made many an appeal, and thankfully, those appeals didn’t fall on deaf ears. Leeds United chairman, Peter Ridsdale, answered the pleas of the town, and he donated the Leeds United first team luxury coach for the players to travel down on. This kept the dream well and truly alive. Despite Town losing the replay, going down to only a single goal, they are still thankful to Leeds United for helping to keep the dream going.

So, that’s the story of Leeds United and Whitby Town. It’s been an eventful one, and the path has seemingly run rather smoothly. It will be nice to see the connection between the clubs being reignited in November when the Whitby Whites event ‘Leeds on the Road’ comes to the Turnbull Ground. This will awake the connection that has remained dormant once again since 2001, and hopefully, it will go on to build a bright future between the two clubs. Who knows, we may see more matches between the clubs in the future, and we may even get that first ever match at Elland Road… Or is that pushing it a bit? Yeah, we thought so too.

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