“Dylan Kerr, who was mostly in the background, played from time to time, but he was always at the forefront in training,” says Strachan. “And Vinnie led the group. We didn’t need a fitness trainer. We had three or four players to lead everyone in their wake. We didn’t need anyone to tell us our heart rate was on the rise. It was still up there, but our attitude was’ whatever, we have to go back. If you feel like you can’t go, stay with me. I will be there. Stay with me until you fall. We got in shape.
They lost 5-2 to Newcastle on Matchday 1 without the injured Jones, but he came back from the bench for the home opener against Middlesbrough and was an instant success, met with fervent cheer when he entered and put up a flukey winner. For a while he was all over town, hanging out with countless business partners but at the forefront of every community enterprise, donating his time to charities and hospitals, taking David Batty and Gary Speed. Under his wing and behaving with such charm and dedication that the city’s affection for him is eternal 30 years later.
His influence on the ground was also profound. Although he focused on winning the ball, giving it away and intimidating the opponent with a growl, his touch became more and more confident and he scored some dazzling goals, especially a 30-yard volley against Hull. and a skillful finish near the post to beat West Ham in October.
Leeds gained the upper hand after a 2-0 away win over Middlesbrough in early December and remained there for the remainder of the season, not without several risky moments during the meeting. Leicester’s equalizer at Elland Road in their penultimate game left them at the mercy of others if they had finished the game with just one point and with seconds remaining it seemed their fate until what the emaciated, he said worriedly Captain Strachan threw a left-footed shot from 20 yards into the top corner, his 16e goal of the season.
“Every now and then I have a feeling in my left foot which is the same as I had when I scored that goal,” Strachan said. “Every training session, every run I had in school, every time I threw up and got sick from training, every shock I received, every game horrible that I played, everything was meant for that moment. It was worth it. Just for this moment. I can still live off of this for the rest of my life.
Chris Kamara organized the winner from Lee Chapman in the final match at Bournemouth, who was promoted to the south coast in an afternoon of robbery, looting and brawling by some of the thousands of Leeds fans who made it the trip. For the country, naturally, this overshadowed their success. Away from the conviction and injuries inflicted by some of their supporters, the players emerged from their brief locker room evening to board the coach for the long journey home.
“I found myself in a quiet place at the front of the bus and sat there for five hours with a stupid smile on my face,” Strachan says. “I don’t think I spoke to anyone. It was my celebration. Win the best league [in 1992] was a bonus. Most of us who were brought there, and for Howard as well, we had to be promoted. It was the main thing. Thanks to the momentum that we built over a few years, we were able to continue and win the top league, but for me 1990 was just huge. Winning the second division was by far, much more important for the club and for me. “
From The Biography of Leeds United, by Rob Bagchi (Vision Sports Publishing, £ 20). Available at shop.visionsp.co.uk.