SHERIDAN DICTATES: LEEDS UNITED NOSTALGIA

GARY HAMSON

Gary Hamson is one of many players that moved to Elland Road from Sheffield United, he spent eight years at Leeds but unfortunately much of that time was blighted by injury and a record suspension at the time.

Hamson was born in Nottingham, he grew up in Sandiacre and joined Nottingham Forest as an associate schoolboy after trials with Derby County and a spell playing for Ilkeston.

The young midfielder signed his first professional contract in 1976 and that was with Sheffield United. Months later he was called up to represent England youth against Wales but was denied the chance to play due to a postponement and another call up, at any level, never materialised:

It was Jimmy Adamson that signed Gary, in a deal worth £140,000 and it was during the previous season that he'd been impressed with his new signing:

"I'd played against his Sunderland side for Sheffield United and we beat them 3-2 at home, it was probably my best performance in a Blades shirt."

Despite being a regular at his previous club and having the experience of playing in front of decent crowds, Hamson found himself in the Leeds reserves when the season got underway:

"I knuckled down and worked hard. I was surrounded by great players but I knew my chance would come".

Opportunity knocked for Gary in a UEFA Cup tie at home to Valetta on the 3rd October 1979. Leeds had won 4-0 in Malta in the first leg and the second leg was comfortable:

"I don't remember too much about the game to be honest. It was a relatively easy win and John Lukic also made his debut. I travelled into training with John, who lived in Chesterfield, and we became good pals."

Gary kept his place in the side and made his league debut the following Saturday in a 2-1 home win over Ipswich. He went on to make 19 league appearances that season, one from the bench, and he scored his first Leeds goal in a 3-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Leeds were struggling at the time and in October the following season, Allan Clarke replaced Jimmy Adamson as manager:

"I felt sorry for Jimmy, the job was a poisoned chalice, he had an hard act to follow and there were one or two players coming to the end of their careers.

"When Clarke got the job, there were little clicks developing. I was struggling to get a game and it wasn't a great time."

Gary made just 7 starts during the 1980/81 season, the club finished ninth but struggled for goals. Clarke was trying to stamp his authority on the place but the following year, the unthinkable happened, Leeds were relegated:

"Between October and February I was a regular in the side and scored the winning goal at Stoke in December then it all went wrong."

Gary found himself back in the reserves after a run of indifferent results and he was far from happy:

"We had a team meeting and Trevor Cherry asked Clarke for the reasons that I wasn't playing. Clarke told him that he picked the team and that was the end of the conversation. I didn't want to be in the reserves and looking back I handled the situation badly."

Gary was sent off in a reserve game against Newcastle United:

"I simulated a head butt at one of their players but stopped myself before I made contact. However, he went down and rolled around on the ground and the referee dismissed me.

"We then played a reserve friendly game against Sunderland on Fullerton Park and I was sent off again, followed by another red card in a Central League fixture."

The F.A threw the book at Gary Hamson and he received the maximum fine at the time which was two weeks wages and he was banned for eight weeks:

"I did myself no favours and it was a terrible time. Clarke made me train with the kids and didn't speak to me.

"I was ready to leave at the end of the season. I had sold my house in Leeds and was set to make a move to Notts County who were managed by my old boss, Jimmy Sirrell."

With Leeds in desperate trouble, Gary found himself out of the cold and back in the team for the final home game against Brighton & Hove Albion:

"Prior to the game Frankie Gray suffered an injury and I came in at left back. I'd never played there before and we were 1-0 down until late on. I managed to equalise and then Kevin Hird got the winner."

Gary stayed in the side for the final game of the season at West Brom despite Frankie Gray being fit enough to be named as the substitute. It was a disastrous night for Gary Hamson and a disastrous night for Leeds United:

"We were holding our own and as half time approached the game was stalemate at 0-0. In the 43rd minute I suffered a knee injury, I was in agony and had to come off.

"I spent the second half in the changing room with my father and had the odd shot of medicinal whiskey to try and kill the pain. We lost 2-0 and the battle to stay up was out of our hands.

"When the lads came in at full time, all Clarke did was tell everyone how well Terry Connor had played. He never asked about my injury or how I was feeling.

"The club was in turmoil and I had to wait nearly a month for an operation. An NHS surgeon operated and made a mess of it. It took me three years to get back to full fitness but I was never the same player."

As a result of taking Leeds down, Clarke was sacked and replaced by Eddie Gray:

"Eddie was fantastic, all the players admired him and he put together a good squad. He had some great young players at his disposal. He asked me to come off the transfer list and said he wanted to get me fit and build a team around me.

"Due to my battle with the injury suffered at West Brom, I only played one game the following season and that was at Highbury in a FA Cup tie."

By November 1983, Gary was back in the side and made 23 starts during the remainder of the season:

"I was enjoying my football again, it was great playing for Eddie Gray and I was seen as a senior figure to the younger players. We had Scott Sellars, Denis Irwin, Tommy Wright and John Sheridan to name a few. Shez was outstanding, he had the lot and it was a joy to play in the same side, he strolled through games.

"Look at the youngsters at the club. Denis went on to great things, Sellars and Sheridan went on to play in the top flight. Phelan, Scales and Linighan all won the FA Cup and Ian Snodin went to Everton where he was unlucky with injuries. Those players would have got Leeds to the first division but Eddie was sacked too early. A member of the coaching staff wanted Eddie's job and in my opinion he stabbed Eddie in the back. Sacking Eddie was the worst thing the board could have done."

In October 1985 the board appointed Billy Bremner and although Gary Hamson played 30 games that season, it would be his last at Elland Road:

"Billy played me at left back and in midfield, I liked playing for Billy but I couldn't understand why he decimated Eddie's team. He got it right eventually and came within a whisker of promotion and an FA Cup final and I can't knock him for that."

Gary recalls a particularly unpleasant evening playing at Anfield:

"We had lost on the Saturday and Billy was furious. He sent the first team to play Liverpool in a reserve fixture. One of their kids smashed me in the face, breaking my nose and eye socket. I sat alone in the changing rooms and the physio told me not to blow my nose.

"I resisted but had to eventually blow it. It was agony and my eyes expanded, I had never experienced anything like it."

At the end of the season Billy allowed Gary to leave Elland Road on a free transfer:

“George McCluskey, Denis Irwin, Terry Phelan and I were all given free transfers on the same day. I was devastated to leave Elland Road as I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, particularly under Jimmy Adamson, Eddie and Billy.

"Billy told me he could have got a fee for me but due to my knee injury he did me a favour really and I joined Bristol City and managed to earn a few quid out of the deal.”

Gary Hamson also went on to play for Port Vale before retiring in 1988. He spent some time coaching at Vale Park before entering the financial services business. Gary is the owner of Hallmark East Midlands where he offers pensions and investment plans.

http://hallmarkwm.co.uk/contact.html

In addition, Gary commentates on Nottingham Forest home games for the Press Association. He was a liberal democrat member of Erewash council and was one time agent of Aiden McGeady.

Gary is back involved in football and currently holds the position as manager of Midlands Regional Alliance football club, Derby Rolls Royce Leisure.

Thanks to Gary Hamson for giving me the time and the opportunity to write this article.

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