By Keith Ingham
The arrival of England's Jack Butland got me thinking of the people who have stood between the goalposts since I started watching the Mighty Whites in and out of the Theatre of Hope. Firstly may I apologise to anyone I miss.
The first goalkeeper I must mention is Gary Sprake, a little before my time of actually attending games but definitely worth a mention. I've heard his performance when Leeds won the league at Anfield in 1969 was incredible, as he and the rest of the defence thwarted attack after red attack to help claim the teams first League title. He had his horrors too aka The FA Cup final in 1970, when he seemed to dive over Houseman's incoming shot at Wembley and even had a nickname 'Careless Hands'. He was replaced in the replay by the first keeper I saw live, David Harvey who kept goal for Leeds during the triumphant 70's, long hair and so I'm told a very reserved man but what a keeper, even before I saw him at Elland Road in 1974 I marvelled at his reactions during the 1972 FA Cup Final versus Arsenal. He was a giant in my eyes and probably one of my favourite 'goalie's'. If ever he was injured Dave Stewart, not the rock star but a another quiet man off the field but a good keeper when called upon. He played in Paris in the European Cup final when Harvey was coming to the end of this Leeds career and if memory serves me right was injured for the said showpiece.
The Eighties when Leeds slipped out of Division 1 and into the second tier of English football a young man claimed the number one jersey, his name John Lukic, as with Sprake you could marvel at him one minute and sink to the Elland Road steps the other. Tall and lanky with incredible reflexes. He left to join Arsenal and was part of their title winning side. David Seaman was also within the squad during that time but never cemented a place in the first team and inexplicably became the man to replace Lukic at Arsenal and became a title winner with them and a very talented England goalkeeper to boot. Mervyn Day saw us through the middle eighties, talented if frustrating akin to Lukic. I remember one game in particular versus Barnsley when one of his howlers cost us the game, we lost 2-1 and my annoyance was clear to see as I verbally abused some Bradford City fans on the way home after they had been abusive about the defeat.
Lukic returned in 1990 and was part of the resolute defence that claimed the last League Championship in 1992, he returned a better goalkeeper than the one that left. The next man to follow Day was as been said the greatest keeper ever at Leeds. Nigel Martin kept goal in the late nineties to the season of 2003. Voted by many in the Polls and magazines as number one of all time. He really was brilliant, I've just watched him in some games and the way he marshalled his defence was unbelievable. Not the biggest of keepers but agile and you always felt safe as he bellowed at his defenders in front of him. Still involved with LUST and still loves Leeds. A gentleman on and off the field.
During the noughties (2000 +) another keeper came to the fore, who can forget the heroics of the young eighteen year old who thwarted the mighty Barcelona until the very last minute when Rivaldo beat him via a post. He also had a goal in him, the last minute equaliser versus Swindon sent him and the crowd wild. Good in the air and a great shot stopper, sold on to pay for Ridsdale's dream that became a bloody nightmare. Ex Don Neil Sullivan replaced him and although not mentioned in the same breath as Martyn and Robbo he certainly was a good, efficient keeper although himself and the rest of the team let the fans down in Cardiff when Watford steamrollered Leeds in the Playoff Final in a ignominious defeat. Casper Ankergren joined as his number two but soon got the first teams gloves off Sully, the Denmark shot stopper did enough in his years to claim the plaudits, a member of the victorious Leeds team that beat the scum in that never to be forgotten game at old farmyard in January 2010, he also was there when Leeds claimed Promotion that same season. A very solid keeper is the worthy assessment of the man.
Which brings me nicely to the man currently at the rear of the defence, Paddy Kenny has his critics but he has saved the team on more than one occasion. Leaner this season than when he first came with uncle Colin and who can forget his save in the dying embers of the first game of the 2013/14 season, flinging himself backwards to claw away a certain Brighton goal. His kicking can upset more than a few fans but one of Colin's better acquisitions. The latest hopefully pulling on the number 30 shirt is Jack Butland, he saved Barnsley from a battering just before Christmas. An England international, debut versus Italy and a highly rated goalkeeper by most who follow the game. Loaned to us by that nice Mr Hughes at Stoke City as he finds himself third in line for the Premiership side. It would be a major coup if after his loan stay Brian McDermott could find the funds to buy him. I rate him and he could become England's first choice in the years to come. Welcome aboard Mr Butland.
There you have it not a detailed list but goalkeepers past, present and hopefully future who have stood between the white goalposts of Leeds United.
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