Bygones: Eric Cantona hat-trick left Tony Dorigo in the shade at Leeds United

TONY DORIGO became used to being overshadowed when scoring important goals for Leeds United.

Wembley hero: Gary McAllister signs the ball for Eric Cantona at Wembley after the Frenchman scored a hat trick against Liverpool in the Charity Shield.
Wembley hero: Gary McAllister signs the ball for Eric Cantona at Wembley after the Frenchman scored a hat trick against Liverpool in the Charity Shield.

There was the pile-driver against Manchester City in the early weeks of the season that ended with the league title residing at Elland Road, a goal the Australian considered one of his best.

The headlines that September day, however, were all about David Batty scoring his first goal in almost five years.

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Something similar happened in a 6-1 rout of Sheffield Wednesday later that same season, Lee Chapman’s hat-trick and an outrageous dive by Gordon Watson meaning the post-match focus was hardly on the left-back’s own stunning strike.

Leeds United's David Batty

Then there was the 1992 Charity Shield almost exactly a quarter-of-a-century ago, Dorigo netting for a second time under the Twin Towers only for Eric Cantona’s first career hat-trick to make the striker the talk of Wembley.

“That was the story of my life,” joked Dorigo, when speaking to The Yorkshire Post ahead of tomorrow’s anniversary of Leeds edging a seven-goal thriller as the curtain was raised on the season.

“The Frenchman did it to me that time but before that there was ‘Batts’ with that goal against Manchester City.

“I scored one of my best that day but ‘Batts’ then scored his first goal in years and it was like an earthquake going off inside Elland Road. Incredible scenes and, by the end of the game, no-one remembered mine.

Tony Dorigo playing for Leeds United

“It was a bit like that at Wembley but I didn’t mind because we had won. And I have a lovely photo at home of me and Eric with the Charity Shield, a great reminder of a great day.”

The second Charity Shield between the two great rivals at Wembley came 18 years after the first, a notorious affair that ended with Billy Bremner and Kevin Keegan having been dismissed in what was Brian Clough’s bow as Leeds manager.

Since that infamous encounter, the traditional curtain-raiser to a new season between the champions and FA Cup holders had become something of a tame affair.

Just 14 goals had been scored in the previous 10 years and the pre-match soundings coming out of both camps hardly suggested that a goal-fest lay in store, especially amid weather so hot and humid that Howard Wilkinson later described conditions as “almost equatorial”.

Leeds United's David Batty

“We both really went for it,” added Dorigo, United’s player-of-the-year as the title was won by four points in 1991-92.

“Wembley was really hot that day and our fitness levels probably weren’t quite there. It takes four or five games of a season for that to come, whereas this was a week before the season started.

“It feels a very long time ago, 25 years is incredible. But I can still picture parts of the day.”

Fittingly perhaps considering the title of a game that now goes by the name ‘Community Shield’, both defences were in charitable mood.

Tony Dorigo playing for Leeds United

Chris Fairclough set the tone early on with a near fresh-air kick when attempting to clear that handed possession to Ian Rush.

Moments later, the red-faced United defender was relieved to see Ronnie Rosenthal get in the way of Dean Saunders and what would surely have been a simple chance at the back post.

Leeds went ahead through Cantona in the 25th minute, Graeme Souness opting to play Mark Walters and Saunders as wing-backs providing the necessary space down the Reds’ right flank for Rod Wallace to exploit and cross for the Frenchman.

Rush replied for Liverpool soon after but it was the Yorkshire side who went in at the break ahead thanks to Dorigo’s 25-yard shot taking a deflection off Rosenthal.

“My goal meant I scored at both ends at Wembley,” he recalls, “as I’d scored for Chelsea at the tunnel end a few years earlier (in the Zenith Data Systems Cup).”

Saunders restored parity 20 minutes into the second half before Cantona stepped centre stage with two goals in nine minutes.

His double meant a comical own goal by Gordon Strachan, the Scot nudging the ball over the line via three touches on the line after Mark Wright’s shot had been blocked, mattered little.

“I was really pleased Eric got his hat-trick,” says Dorigo. “He was a great player. At Leeds, on his day he could be unplayable.

“We all know what happened, in the end, with him leaving for Manchester United. But I enjoyed him as a player and a team-mate.

“Certain things he didn’t do and that was a problem in Howard’s eyes, if not necessarily ours. But he was still an incredible footballer.”

Generous defending may well have played its part in making the 1992 Charity Shield the highest scoring of the last 62 years.

But what such a free-scoring encounter did do was chime with the hype from Sky ahead of their record-breaking £304m TV deal to show the Premier League which had kicked in.

Football in this country was about to change, forever.

Leeds, however, initially struggled as the new era dawned and their title defence became the worst since Manchester City had been relegated in 1938.

An inability to win on the road – the Wembley triumph over Liverpool was one of just two away from Elland Road that season, the other being an FA Cup tie at Charlton Athletic – almost saw United suffer the same fate.

“It was bizarre what happened that season,” recalls Dorigo, who spent six seasons in West Yorkshire before leaving for Torino in 1997.

“You look at the teams who are successful and they do it year after year. But we couldn’t back up what we had done the previous season.

“No-one could put their finger on why at the time. We tried everything, even training at different times or preparing in different ways but it just didn’t make any difference.

“A few things caused us problems, including the rule change (brought in during the summer of 1992) outlawing the back-pass. The players we had in certain positions found the change difficult.

“We were also there to be shot at, everyone wants to turn over the champions. We had to deal with that and maybe didn’t. Plus, mentally, once things go against you then it is tough to get over it.

“Thankfully, our home form remained good as that kept us up. But it was bizarre that nothing would go right on the road all season long.

“Hindsight, of course, is a wonderful thing and maybe the players we started to bring in weren’t of the standard of previous years.

“We still did okay as a club but we never really challenged at the top again.”