Leeds United Football Club is a historic institution in the English game. The Yorkshire club have experienced some major highs and lows since its founding in 1919.
Some of the biggest stars of English football have featured for the Whites in the club’s history and helped the team to glory over the years. Here are the ten players who have featured most for Leeds United:
Jack Charlton (773 appearances from 1952–1973)
The centre-back spent the whole of his playing career with the Yorkshire team after joining the club as an apprentice in 1950. He turned professional at just 17 and made his full Leeds debut in 1953.
During his Leeds career, Charlton helped his team to win the First Division in 1969, the FA Cup in 1972, and the League Cup in 1968, as well as the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1968 and 1971. The centre-back was also part of the team that won promotion from the Second Division in 1964.
Despite playing in defence for his whole career, Charlton notched 96 career goals for Leeds. He is ninth on the club’s list of top goalscorers.
On an individual basis, Charlton was crowned the FWA Footballer of the Year in 1967 while also being inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
At international level, Charlton was part of Sir Alf Ramsey’s team that won the World Cup on home soil in 1966. Charlton is a legend of the English game.
Billy Bremner (772 appearances from 1960–1976)
Bremner was a teammate of Charlton for many years and played a crucial role in Don Revie’s great team of the 1960s and 1970s. The Scottish midfield terrier joined Leeds as an apprentice in 1959 before signing a professional contract in 1960 and went on to patrol the centre of the park for the Whites until 1976.
Bremner was known for his tough tackling and tenacity in the Leeds midfield. The tenacious Scot enjoyed a trophy-laden career in Yorkshire, with the highlight of his Leeds career being winning the First Division title on two occasions in 1969 and also 1974.
Bremner picked up the FWA Footballer of the Year award in 1970 and was named in the First Division Team of the Year in 1974. In 1999, Bremner’s legacy was assured as a statue of the midfielder was erected outside Leeds’ home ground, Elland Road.
Paul Reaney (749 appearances from 1962–1978)
Reaney joined Leeds as a youth player in 1962 and enjoyed a 16-year career in the famous white shirt before departing for Yorkshire rivals Bradford City in 1978.
Reaney made his Leeds debut just before his 18th birthday and was part of the team that won the Second Division title in 1964. Greater glory awaited the right-back and his team, though, as Leeds, with Reaney in the side, won the English top-flight title on two occasions in seasons 1968–69 and 1973–74.
Reaney also picked up winners’ medals in the FA Cup, the League Cup and twice in Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. He also won a runners-up medal in the 1975 European and 1973 Cup Winners’ Cup finals.
Norman Hunter (726 appearances from 1962–1976)
Like many on this list, Hunter was a key figure in Leeds’ most successful period, having joined as an apprentice in 1959. The tough-tackling Hunter made his Leeds debut in 1962 and became a mainstay in the Leeds team for close to a decade and a half. His style of play earned him the nickname “Bites Yer Legs Hunter”.
He played both as a centre-half and centre-midfielder, with the highlight of his playing career with the Whites winning the First Division title on two occasions.
He also won some individual honours, as in 1974, Hunter won the PFA Players Player of the Year award while also being named in the PFA Team of the Year in the same season.
The tenacious Hunter was also a member of the England side that won the World Cup in 1966, alongside Leeds teammate Charlton.
Paul Madeley (725 appearances from 1963–1980)
The versatile Madeley joined the Yorkshire club as an apprentice in 1962 and turned professional the following year. Although he spent much of his Leeds career playing in defence, Madeley played in virtually every outfield role during his time with the club.
Madeley picked up a number of winners’ medals with the Yorkshire outfit, including the First Division title on two occasions and the FA Cup and League Cup.
As an individual, Madeley won the Leeds Player of the Year award in 1976. However, his importance to Leeds’s success was further highlighted by the fact that Madeley was named in the First Division Team of the Year in three straight seasons from 1974 to 1976.
Peter Lorimer (703 appearances from 1962–1979 and 1983–1985)
The Scottish former attacking midfielder is a Leeds legend, having enjoyed two spells with the Yorkshire club. Lorimer is the club’s record goalscorer in all competitions, having scored an impressive 238 goals during his time with the Whites.
Lorimer was just 15 years and 289 days when he made his first-team debut for Leeds against Southampton. He still holds the record for the club’s youngest player ever to feature.
Lorimer was one of the key players in Leeds winning the English title in 1969 and 1974 and the FA Cup in 1972, among numerous other trophies won by the Whites during their glory years of the 60s and 70s.
In 1972, Lorimer won the Leeds Player of the Year. He also played 21 times for Scotland, including at the 1974 World Cup in Germany.
Eddie Gray (577 appearances from 1966–1983)
The Scottish winger made his Leeds debut in 1966 and went on to represent the Yorkshire club until 1983, when he retired from playing. He was a stalwart with the Whites both on and off the field.
Like many on this list, Gray picked up lots of silverware during his career, with the zenith being winning the First Division twice, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Inter-Cities Fair Cup on two occasions.
In 1982, Gray became Leeds United player-manager until 1985, when the team failed to win promotion back to the First Division. Eddie Gray was voted Leeds’s third-best player of all time in 2000, with only Billy Bremner and John Charles higher on the list.
Gary Kelly (531 appearances from 1992–2007)
The Irish full-back served Leeds for a decade and a half and became a club hero. Kelly joined the club in 1992 after playing youth football at Drogheda United and Home Farm before his switch to the Yorkshire club.
In 12 of his 16 seasons at Leeds, Kelly made 25 or more appearances in all competitions, illustrating his reliability and consistency. Like many players on this list, he only represented Leeds in his senior playing career.
Kelly never won silverware with the Whites. However, he was selected in the Premier League PFA Team of the Year in seasons 1993/94 and 1999/2000 and the championship version in 2005/06.
Johnny Giles (527 appearances from 1963–1975)
The Irish midfielder started his career in English football with Leeds’s bitter rivals Manchester United before switching to the Yorkshire club in 1963.
Giles’s 88 goals for the Whites contributed to his team winning two titles, two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups, an FA Cup and a League Cup.
The midfielder is considered by many to be one of the greatest footballers that the Republic of Ireland has ever produced. In 2020, Giles was inducted into the FAI Hall of Fame. He had already been inducted into the English football version a decade earlier.
Gary Sprake (507 appearances from 1962–1973)
The goalkeeper joined Leeds in 1962 as a youth player before making his first debut as an emergency substitute against Southampton. The Welsh goalkeeper made 507 appearances for Leeds, keeping an impressive 200 clean sheets in his career with the Yorkshire club.
Despite retiring from football at just 30, Sprake enjoyed a trophy-laden decade and a bit with the Yorkshire, winning, amongst others, the First and Second Division titles and the Inter-Cities Fair Cup twice.
Unfortunately for Sprake, some crucial high-profile errors led to him gaining the nickname “Careless Hands”, a reference to an old Des O’Connor song of the same name. However, the errors should not distract from his achievements with the club.