SHERIDAN DICTATES: LEEDS UNITED NOSTALGIA

DAVID McNIVEN

David McNiven was just 15 years of age in 1971 when he packed his bags and moved south to sign for Leeds United as an apprentice, he would go on and realise a dream:

"I was raised in Stonehouse, Lanarkshire and as a young boy my bedroom walls were covered in pictures of Don Revie's Leeds United team."

The young Scot joined the Elland Road staff on the same day as Keith Parkinson and would play alongside a fantastic crop of youngsters which included Peter Hampton, Carl Harris, Frankie Gray and the late Byron Stevenson.

David admits to taking time to settle in at Elland Road:

"The digs weren't the best, some real dives. Young players today wouldn't be made to stay in those surroundings, it didn't really help to settle us in straightaway. In addition, I was a bit overawed,  but once I did find my feet I began to really enjoy my football and I scored plenty of goals at youth team and reserve level."

Leeds United had an abundance of talent, particularly in attacking areas but a month after his 20th birthday, David McNiven got his chance, achieving an ambition on the 8th of October 1975 when he made his debut in a League Cup tie against Notts County at Elland Road. Leeds, surprisingly, lost the game 1-0 and David was replaced by substitute Carl Harris.

McNiven had been in the first team squad prior to that night. He was an unused substitute away at Sheffield United in August of that season. He was also on the bench for away games at Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Ham United, this was after a prolific run where he'd scored nine hat-tricks in two seasons for the reserves.

His league debut eventually came, as a substitute, on the 17th of April 1976:

"I'd done well in the reserves and was knocking on the first team door. It wasn't going to be easy for me to get a regular place, Allan Clarke and Joe Jordan were world class strikers, I was still a kid."

McNiven got his chance that day, replacing Keith Parkinson and he repaid the faith shown by Jimmy Armfield by scoring his on his league debut in a 2-1 win.

Three days later, McNiven was back on the bench for the game at Leicester City, replacing Eddie Gray and he was thoroughly enjoying the experience:

"I was playing alongside the likes of Peter Lorimer, Allan Clarke, Eddie Gray, Paul Reaney, Paul Madeley and Norman Hunter. These were the players on the posters that I used to stick on my bedroom walls. It was fantastic, I used to love the atmosphere, playing in front of the big crowds."

When Leeds kicked off the 1976/77 campaign, Joe Jordan was struggling with an injury and McNiven started six of the first seven games, scoring one goal in a 2-2 draw against Newcastle United:

"The reality was that as soon as Joe was fit, I'd be back on the bench or in the reserves."

David McNiven made 18 appearances that season, five from the bench and he scored five goals, including an equaliser against league champions Liverpool at Elland Road in front of almost 45,000 fans:

"I earned the tag, super-sub, coming on and nicking a few goals. It was tough back then, only one player on the bench, not the seven they have today so it was hard enough being named sub, never mind getting in the starting line-up."

The young strikers impressive displays earned him recognition at international level with Scotland under-21's, making his debut against Czechoslovakia in Pilsen, the game ended goalless. Further caps followed, coming off the bench against Wales to score in a 3-2 win in Edinburgh and a year later as sub in a 2-0 defeat in Switzerland.

Like the previous season, David started the 1977/78 campaign in the starting line up, playing in the first two games. However, the appearance against West Bromwich Albion on the 24th of August would be his last in a Leeds shirt. McNiven would soon be on the move, across West Yorkshire to Bradford City:

"Jimmy Armfield didn't force the move, it was my decision. I wanted to play regular football and I wanted to stay in the area. I was married to Sue, a Leeds girl, we were expecting our twin boys and I didn't want the upheaval. I turned down moves to Fulham, the United States and Canada.

"The gaffer (Jimmy Armfield) had a thankless task at Leeds, he took over from Cloughie and the players were disillusioned yet he still took that team to the European Cup Final and he didn't really get the credit he deserved."

David, who's twin boys, David and Scott were brought up in Leeds and both played professional football, now works in the motor trade. He's still a Leeds fan:

"These days I get to the odd game at Elland Road, I still love my football and Leeds is the first result that I look out for."

Once Leeds, always Leeds.

Thank you to David McNiven for giving me his time and the opportunity to write this article.

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