Oddballs, Wannabes and Misfits: The Leeds United Nearly Men

Scarlett Gray returns with a piece inspired by a close encounter with Alessandro Nista…yeah, I had to Google him too…

This rhetoric was inspired while I was randomly daydreaming abut halcyon days gone by for Leeds United and the name Alessandro Nista popped in to my head from absolutely nowhere!  That sparked me off thinking about all sorts of players, such as Danny Milosevic, who nearly, but didn’t quite make an impact as a football player at Leeds.


From here I started to think about other players that nearly had a career at Leeds and if I could create an entire team of nearly men or misfits, so I started to develop some rules for said team. To qualify, I decided that they must have made at least one appearance for Leeds, so immediately ruled out some of those who inspired me to write this and others like David Seaman.

Second condition, they had to be on a permanent deal with Leeds, so places for loanees such as Mark Hateley, Mark DeVries, Wayne Andrews and Tony Capaldi.

Conversely, I figured, if they’re ‘nearly men’ or misfits then they couldn’t have played too many games for Leeds, so this wasn’t going to become a “did you remember he played for Leeds?” piece therefore excluding such luminaries as Andy Linighan, Terry Phelan, Denis Irwin, Jim Beglin etc. etc.

Furthermore I decided that they must have played for Leeds in the time I consider myself to have an awareness or memory of the team, so I made the decision that only those who frequented the fringes and the physio’s table from 1985-1986 or later would qualify.

Finally, I decided the formation for this team would be a traditional 4-4-2 with 7 Substitutes and a manager.

So, here we go with the SLG LUFC Nearly XI: I hope this will make you think “Oh yeah (I remember him)”, or “Oh No! (I remember him!)” or plainly and simply “Who?!?!” If nothing else maybe it will just give you a trip down memory lane.


GK – Trevor Swinburne

Mr. Swinburne is not a player I remember terribly well (in fact not at all to be honest). Research tells me he made 2 appearances from 1985 to 1986 so just squeezing in to my criteria for this team. He came to the club from Brentford and left to join Doncaster Rovers and no fee was involved in him coming to Leeds or when leaving.

Simon Grayson fulfilling the classic fringe player role

Simon Grayson fulfilling the classic fringe player role

RB – Simon Grayson

Yep, I included him for familiarity value – that earned him the nod ahead of Vince Brockie. He nearly did, but didn’t quite have a playing career at Leeds, making 4 appearances from 1988 to 1992. He came through the youth system and left to join Leicester City, commanding a fee of £50,000. As we all know, “nice bloke” Simon returned for a reasonably successful spell as manager, thankfully getting Leeds promoted out of the mire that was League One.

Danny Hay (right)...with Danny Milosevic, in case you were wondering

Danny Hay (right)…with Danny Milosevic, in case you were wondering

DC – Danny Hay

Danny came from New Zealand, not holding being a Kiwi fruit against him, he made 6 appearances from 1999 to 2002. He was signed from Perth Glory for £200,000 and left for Walsall (following the expiry of his contract) after an injury hit stint at Leeds. Interestingly he made his Leeds debut away against Barcelona, coming on in the last minute of that game.

DC – David O’Leary

Better known for his managerial spell at Leeds, we’ll leave the debate of his complicity in the ensuing financial meltdown for another day. D’OL made 10 appearances from 1993 to 1995. After a distinguished career at Arsenal, he came to Leeds on a free to help shore up a failing defence at the time, as I recall injury affected his time at the club. George Graham installed him as his assistant. When Boring George buggered off to “a bigger club” at Tottenham, O’Leary embarked on his memorable managerial stint at Leeds. Apparently he was still a naïve and young manager when he left the club.

DL – Chris O’Donnell

Chris will help me keep the average number of games played by my team down … He came for nothing in 1989 and left for nothing a year later. He was signed by Howard Wilkinson and he made 1 substitute appearance, in 1990. He briefly announced his arrival by replacing Jim Beglin in the topsy turvy 4-3 home win against Hull. I was at the game but don’t remember him. He was brought in from Ipswich and left for Exeter.

Steve Stone: Summer signing, April debut

Steve Stone: Summer signing, April debut

MR – Steve Stone

After making his name at Nottingham Forest and Portsmouth, becoming an England International in the process, Steve Stone’s star was fading and injuries had begun to take their toll when Kevin Blackwell took the gamble of bringing him to Leeds in 2005 on a free transfer. This was a gamble that was set to “Black-fail”. In his first season Leeds made it to the Championship Play-off Final but Stone only made two appearances due to … err … erm … injury. The following season he managed 11 appearances as Leeds were relegated and by the time they lurched in to administration, Kevin Blackwell had long since departed. Stone scored one goal for Leeds in a humbling 4-2 defeat against a 10-man West Brom team.

MC – Jason Blunt

Yes, there is more than one unmemorable J Blunt and it may take more than ‘Three Wise Men’ to jog my memory about this player. Despite educational, boy and fledgling alcohol distractions, he played in a time I really should be able to remember him, but I don’t! I don’t know about you, but this is one that really made me go “who”!?!?! Research tells me he made 5 appearances from 1995 to 1998, after a loan spell at Raith Rovers he eventually moved on to Blackpool.

MC – David Livermore

Strictly speaking this man is breaking my team rules because he never played for Leeds, but in the name of JUSTICE I am picking him and putting him in the team in favour of A.N Other player whom we shall address later. David Livermore was brought to Leeds from Millwall by Kevin Blackwell for £400,000 in the summer of 2006. Bizarrely, ten days later, he was sold to Hull for an “undisclosed” fee (Leedspeak for a loss!!!). David Livermore, Leeds player for ten days, no appearances, no goals. Allegedly Mr. Blackwell had secured another signing – again,  more later – and felt that Livermore would not feature much for Leeds … so why spend £400,000 on him. It’s little wonder Leeds were in administration by the end of the season!

Robbie Rogers: even injured when fit

Robbie Rogers: even injured when fit

ML – Robbie Rogers

Arriving from America with his baggy jeans, skateboard and reverse baseball cap, he had Leeds fans scrabbling around YouTube for footage of some special goals he’d scored. He was one of Simon Grayson’s last signings. Another whose time was affected by injuries, he made 4 appearances for Leeds.  Placed on the transfer list in pre-season before he was loaned out to Stevenage and eventually his contract was terminated. A bit of a hit with the ladies…though he was to recently shatter the dreams of those who worshipped at his metrosexual altar.

CF – Tomi Ameobi

Possibly more famous for being Shola Ameobi’s younger brother than his football ability, he made a single substitute appearance in the 2007-2008 season. Tomi came through the youth set up and made his senior team team bow in the League Cup at Portsmouth; a debut probably most notable for one shocking tackle that, somehow, he managed to avoid getting sent off for. Portsmouth won 3-0 and David “Ruddy” Nugent irritatingly scored a rare goal for Pompey. Tomi left Leeds for Doncaster in 2008.

He came, he saw, he left

He came, he saw, he left

CF – Leon Constantine

A Denis Wise signing after Leeds crawled out of administration and all that. Leon played for Leeds during 2007 and 2008 managing 6 appearances, scoring 8 minutes in to his first game for Leeds against Bury (in that silly cup thing that League One and Two clubs play in). Leeds went on to lose 2-1! He was another whose Leeds career was hampered by injury, he managed one league goal in a 3-1 home defeat to a Neil Kilkenny inspired Oldham and guess what, Constantine injured himself scoring that goal! Gary McAllister, on his arrival, was quick to ship Constantine out on loan to Oldham before eventually letting him join Northampton on a free transfer where, quite frankly, he was “Cobblers”!


RB – Vince Brockie

A player who made 2 appearances between 1985 and 1988 having signed as an apprentice from Morton; he was eventually sold to Doncaster for £15,000. A player I only recall from old team posters my father used to post on my Bedroom door every Christmas.

Fede in the 'getting skinned' posed he developed so well...

Fede in the ‘getting skinned’ posed he developed so well…

DL – Federico Bessone

Oh No, just when you’d managed to forget him too … Fede was signed by Simon Grayson following Leeds promotion from League One to the Championship. He made 6 appearances when he came to Leeds, then travelled to Barnlsey…only to be never seen again. He came from and eventually returned (thankfully) to Swansea City.

Russell Doig

Russell Doig

MR – Russell Doig

If you ever get the chance to ask Papa Gray about this man, he’ll have him straight in to the “Oh No! I remember him!” category! Truth be told I only know him by name and other people’s stories about him … Russell made 10 appearances between 1986 and 1988, I’ve noted from research, that he played the full 90 in the notorious 2-7 loss at Stoke City. Leeds made a £5000 loss on this player who cost £15,000 from East Stirling and left for £10,000 to join Peterborough.

MC – Kevin Nicholls

Oh dear, oh dear, the kind of inspirational signing that probably lost Kevin Blackwell his job. Somehow, this detestable character amassed 15 appearances for Leeds in the 2006-2007 season. Yes that was the season Leeds had the same number on the front of their shirts as their final league position – 24. Kevin Nicholls kind of sums up that season … a disaster. If memory serves me right, Kevin Blackwell signed and sold David Livermore in the space of a few days to accommodate this signing. Nicholls turned up from Luton for £700,000 (not a bad fee for a team that would be in administration 10 months later – one for Ken Bates that??). As the calamity goes, he got injured pre-season, returning in September before getting injured again. By the time Nicholls returned from injury, Denis Wise was manager and the mouthy midget promptly made him captain. First game back from injury and Nicholls gets himself sent off, incurring a three match ban over the Christmas period … it’s not going well is it?!?!?. The tale of woe ends in the March of that season when Nicholls demands a transfer back to Luton a move that never materialises. When Nicholls left Leeds he joined Preston, by which time Leeds were in administration.

As the caption suggests...

As the caption suggests…

MC – Tommy Knarvik

Another one that falls in to the “Who?!?!?” category for me. Born in Norway he was a promising product from the youth set up. He made one appearance in 1999 in an FA Cup Game at Portsmouth in which Leeds won 5-1. He went on to enjoy a healthy career as a striker in Norway.

LM – Filipe Da Costa

Here we have another unknown who had people scouring YouTube for his one memorable career highlight.  A Denis Wise signing, dare I say on the advice of Glyn Williams? He made 7 appearances from 2007 to 2008. Career highlight for Leeds would undoubtedly be getting sent off in a 2-1 defeat at home to Bury in the JPT, the only game he was in the starting XI for. Went on trial to Falkirk and left when his contract expired.

Lyndon Simmonds

ST – Lyndon Simmonds

Lyndon is in here because you may well have forgotten this would-be “wonder-kid”.  He made 11 appearances for Leeds from 1984 to 1987. His debut was as a substitute against Blackburn, then burst on to the scene as he scored 2 in his first full game against Portsmouth (ha I’m really picking on them today, bless ‘em). He came through the youth set up and left for Rochdale after a successful loan in 1987 for £4,000. Rochdale, at the time, were managed by Uncle Ed (Eddie Gray … and no, he’s not really my uncle).


Oh now then, I nearly chose Neil Warnock as I don’t have a substitute goalkeeper. I could have chosen David O’Leary because he nearly won something as Leeds manager but he’s in the Starting XI and I didn’t want a player manager. How about Gary McAllister who nearly got Leeds promoted and nearly made a very attractive Leeds team?

A 'nearly' manager for a 'nearly' team...

A ‘nearly’ manager for a ‘nearly’ team…

No, because you can’t think of Leeds without thinking about this great man’s name, for nearly getting Leeds to the FA Cup Final and for nearly getting Leeds promoted in the same season … my nearly manager for my nearly team is the Leeds legend that is Billy Bremner.

So there you go, I’m sure I’ve missed many but this is my Leeds misfits and nearly team. If not an inspiring read, I hope it’s at least jogged your memory of days past.


Follow Scarlett on twitter.


6 responses to “Oddballs, Wannabes and Misfits: The Leeds United Nearly Men

  1. I’m old enough to add Steve Balcombe to thaqt illustrious list. He played one game (in which he scored) and was never seen again. I saw every game he played for Leeds, but I visited his pub in Great Ouseburn more times and I only ever went there twice.

  2. Oh yes and John Falconer. He was signed after impressing Don Revie in our 6-0 win over Sutton United, if thats not a contradiction in terms for a center half, I dont know what is. He was meant to be a long term replacement for the aging Jack Charlton but only played twice before being sold to Luton.

  3. Tony Hackworth. He did play for us. Honest!!!!
    Robert Peel. Apparently witnessed/knew of a embarrassing contretemps involving a member of management. Sent to Coventry, figuratively speaking

  4. I seem to remember Jason Blunt putting that scum bully, Roy Keane, in his pocket at ER…may have come on as a sub? Good piece, cheers.

  5. What about Kenny De Mange, joined from Liverpool, scored twice against Man City on his debut then grasped onto obscurity with both hands – a legendary nearly man

  6. Kenneth John Philip Petit DeMange … to use his full name did come in to consideration but I felt he’d played a few too many times for inclusion. Suffice to say he “nearly” got in.

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