‘It changed our lives’: Silencing Leeds, netting past the England keeper - James Scowcroft and Town's season in the sun
- Credit: Archant
If you are going to score your first-ever Premiership goal – and you can do it at one of England’s most iconic stadiums - against the current England goalkeeper – happy days!
For James Scowcroft that’s exactly the way it turned out, as ‘Scowie’ opened his Premiership account at Elland Road, Leeds, in September 2000, when Town won their first away game of the 2000/01 season - a season that was going to see them finish fifth in the Premiership table and qualify for Europe.
Scowcroft’s header, the result of a somewhat miscued Hermann Hreidarsson volley, levelled Town up after Lee Bowyer had put Leeds ahead. Jermaine Wright got the winner 90 seconds into the second half, as Town won 2-1.
It had been a tough week for the Yorkshire side, humbled 0-4 by Barcelona in midweek in the Champions’ League and then deservedly beaten by a Blues team who were to go on to win eight more on the road that incredible season.
Bury St Edmunds-born Scowcroft, now 44, remembers that day as it were yesterday.
“You have to remember Leeds were an outstanding side back then,” he said.
“They were in the Champions League and I still maintain the Premier League was better then that it is today – some of the teams were exceptional – Man United, Arsenal, who were just a couple of years away from that ‘invincibles’ team, Liverpool. And Leeds were right up there as well.
"We’d lost at Spurs and Leicester and we were wondering if it was going to be a long season on the road.
“We had won our first match at home to Sunderland and I remember when we were warming down, Mogga (Tony Mowbray), saying that if we can just get 10 more results like that, we will be safe. I think we ended up winning nearly 10 on the road, let alone at home.”
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So, what about that afternoon at Leeds?
“I hadn’t played at many big grounds, like Elland Road,” Scowcroft said.
“Never even been there. I don’t know what the attendance was,” - it was 35,552 - “but it was a great atmosphere. They played ‘Marching on Together’ as we walked out and it was incredible.
“I think we really needed that result. It gave us so much confidence. There was a little bit of competition for places at the time, which was good. It was all giving us a little bit of a nudge.
“In the changing rooms afterwards there was a great buzz, as you can imagine.”
For Scowie and Town, the season was up and running. Just two weeks later Town won at Everton and three weeks after that, at Bradford. Thoughts of relegation were turning into thoughts of a top-10 finish - eventually turning to thoughts of Europe.
Scowcroft lays much of that success during that time down to one man – George Burley.
“George was simply superb for the club,” Scowcroft said.
“When we were in the Championship, the minimum he demanded was to reach the play-offs, aiming for the top-two all the time.
“It came from the chairman as well – David Sheepshanks - they just didn’t allow us to accept mediocrity.
“George never went into a game with trepidation. We never put men behind the ball and we grew in confidence. George was immaculate, he never had excuses.
“I remember January and into February we lost a few games on the bounce and George called a meeting. He told us, ok, so we might not be as good as the Man U’s, Liverpool’s of this league, but we were certainly as good as the rest of the teams.
“If you didn’t buy into his philosophy, you could tell, as far as he was concerned, you could leave.” (Town went on to win four of their next five Premiership matches after that meeting).
And for every member of that squad that season, it has always been one to remember. “It completely changed our lives,” Scowcroft added. “As people, as players. The ground was upgraded, training facilities upgraded. All because of those couple of years.”
For Scowcroft, who had been with the club when they were last in the top-flight, back in 1994, the Premiership was a new level.
“I was at Portman Road in the John Lyall days when we were in what was then Division One,” he said. “It was big then, but being in the Premiership years later, was a different thing altogether. It was a time when top foreign stars were coming into the game. We would get fan mail from all over the world.”
For Scowcroft, however, the next season saw a move to Leicester where he made almost 150 appearances and continued to rattle in the goals.
One of a number of ‘local boys done good’ during that period at Ipswich Town, Scowcroft called time on his career in 2010, having played almost 550 League games and netting 100 goals.
He had a short spell back on loan with Town in 2005, before playing for Coventry, Palace and Orient, finishing with a final swangsong ‘back home’ at Bury Town.
A terrific career– and with memories to cherish – none more so than silencing Elland Road, during that ‘season in the sun’.
WHAT are your memories of that season? Great games? Fun trips on the road? Great goals? Let me know: email@example.com
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