Newcastle United manager Rafa Benitez, whose team could move five points clear at the top of the Championship by beating Leeds. Photograph: Ian Horrocks/Sunderland AFC via Getty Images
It would be a little churlish to linger on the past. This is a game between two Championship teams of the present, one proudly astride the division as they were expected to be, another finally looking like they’ve cracked it, residents (or thereabouts) in the playoff places for the first time since Boxing Day 2013. These are two giant clubs who can genuinely think themselves out of place in the second tier. Despite one of them being there, or lower, since 2004.
But stuff it. There’s too much in The Past to ignore here, so let us wander down the alleyways of yore, and look at the history of this fixture.
Leeds United 3-4 Newcastle United, 2001
Let’s start with peak-era bloated Leeds, a side featuring vanity purchases Seth Johnson and Robbie Fowler, but also a bunch of bloody good players. Not that it was enough this time, as a 90th minute Nolberto Solano goal gave Newcastle them points. Newcastle, incidentally, were top of the Premier League and Leeds third, although they’d eventually finish fifth, the missing out on the Champions League that sent them spinning towards the doo-doo.
Newcastle United 5-2 Leeds United, 1988
The last time these two were both at this level we had quite the belter, as the sides met on the opening day of the season, Newcastle shimmied to a 5-2 victory and Micky Quinn had an absolutely lovely time on his debut, helping himself to four (4) goals. Leeds though, would have the Partridgian last laugh, as they finished the season top of the table and won promotion, while Newcastle suffered the ultimate kick in the swingers by losing to Sunderland in the playoffs.
Newcastle United 3-2 Leeds United, 1977
Another opening day, and another win for Newcastle, against a Leeds side still trying out life after Don Revie. Alas, this would almost be the high point of their season, as they lost their next ten games, didn’t win at all after January 2, and were relegated. Although they somehow still didn’t finish bottom, their incompetence marginally eclipsed by Leicester’s. Also features some sensational mutton chops.