Bygones: I didn't want to leave Leeds but chairman said I had to go, recalls Ian Snodin

IT is not every day that arguably the two best teams in Europe embark on a tug-of-war to sign a footballer plying his trade in the second tier of English football.

Ian Snodin, pictured playing for Leeds United in August 1985.

Rewind the clock 30 years to the new year of 1987 and that was the scenario facing Ian Snodin, presented with the sort of mouth-watering choice that any aspiring player would have hankered for. Or so it would have seemed for Leeds United’s midfield dynamo.

Kenny Dalglish and the late Howard Kendall beat a path to his door at a time when Liverpool and Everton were fighting like the squabbling siblings that they are, with the rivals at the top of the First Division.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Winning the race to sign Snodin, who had made considerable waves during a stint at Elland Road which has spanned just 18 months, was not quite as ferocious as the no-holds-barred action of a Merseyside derby.

But it was not too far behind even if Rotherham-born Snodin – working under the manager he loved in Billy Bremner who gave him his first chance at Doncaster Rovers – really did not want to leave Leeds, in his heart of hearts.

Yet, in the final analysis, money talked for the United hierarchy, at a time when Leeds were toiling in mid-table of the old Second Division, with the charms of the red and blue half of Merseyside ultimately proving persuasive.

A battle royale ensued between both ends of Stanley Park at a time when Liverpool was the footballing capital of England, with Manchester and London getting left behind.

It was Everton who won the day to sign ‘Snod’, bringing him in for a hefty fee of £840,000. So Snodin’s love affair with the Blues began – with the Yorkshireman making lifelong friends with some of the most revered footballing names of the Eighties at a club who played hard and socialised hard, too.

The move across the Pennines proved protracted in the extreme but despite having trepidation about moving to Merseyside, those doubts were some extinguished as he was welcomed into the bosom of the Evertonian family.

On the circumstances of his move, Snodin, who was brought to Elland Road by then Whites manager Eddie Gray for £200,000 in May, 1985, said: “Everton and Liverpool came in with bids of £650,000 and then £750,000 and it was me who told Billy I didn’t want to go to either club, to be honest.

“But when both raised the bar to £840,000, I think it was taken out of Billy’s and my hands and the chairman Leslie Silver said: ‘you’ve got to go.’

“So I had to go. But I felt I was also doing the club a favour as well because I thought that with the money they were getting for me – which was good money at the time – they could have bought in three or four players to push higher in the league and hopefully get promotion back to the First Division.

“But, in the end, Billy didn’t get that much money in fairness. But everyone saw what happened when Howard (Wilkinson) took over, he got the money and took Leeds up and, hopefully, some of the money Leeds got for me went towards that.”

Snodin’s time at Leeds may have been relatively brief, but it made a clear impact upon him, with Gray beating off interest from his former team-mate and then West Brom manager Johnny Giles to win the race to sign the highly-coveted midfielder from Doncaster – where scouts regularly packed out the directors’ box at the old Belle Vue.

Snodin admitted to being distraught when Gray was shown the door at Elland Road, but the pain was tempered when Bremner took over the reins – with the legendary Scot being a real mentor to the young midfielder.

“I was absolutely devastated when Eddie left Leeds. Eddie was one of the main reasons why I signed. To be fair, I tried having a word with the chairman telling him that.

“But, obviously, they’d made their minds up. But if there was one person who I’d have wanted to take over from Eddie, it would have been Billy Bremner.

“Billy was an absolutely massive influence on my career – massive. He was like a second father to me and had me in at Doncaster when I was only 16. He made me club captain at 18, so I had the utmost respect for him.

“He couldn’t do enough for me and I couldn’t do enough for him on the field.”

Snodin continued: “I had a great time at Leeds, even though it was pretty short.

“Billy was fantastic. From the first day I signed for Doncaster until his funeral, I’ll never forget him. He was unbelievable to me and what he did for his career.

“Not only that, he’s was a world-class footballer – and to me, a world-class person; he was just like a dad to me.

“What a player. Even if there was five inches of mud at training, he’d turn up with a pair of trainers and we’d have long studs on and he’d still have better balance than any of us!

“I remember my medical at Leeds lasted two days. And after signing for Everton, I thought it’s going to be the same and so meticulous.

“But I was literally there half-an-hour. It was a case of ‘you have turned them (Liverpool) down and you are signing no matter what!’ No matter if I’d walked in on one leg, I think he’d still have signed me!

“I only had 18 months at Leeds, but loved every minute of it. I became club captain under Billy, which was a great honour and had a great rapport with the fans in the short time I was there.

“I hope I did okay for the supporters at Leeds. I know they didn’t want me to leave and, to be fair, I didn’t.

“There’s no better place in the country than playing at Elland Road when it’s packed.

“The fans were a credit to the club and the city when I was there – and still are – taking thousands of fans to every away ground even though were down the leagues.

“We weren’t really challenging for honours or amongst it (at the top), when I was there and were mid-table.

“But I just used to love running out at Elland Road, the white kit was special and I thoroughly enjoyed my time there.”

“Although I didn’t want to leave, it was a great choice to have – Everton or Liverpool – and if I hadn’t done so well at Leeds, they wouldn’t have come in.

“It was a massive decision. Both clubs were as good as each other at the time. To be wanted by both was fantastic, they weren’t just the top two teams in England, but probably the top two teams in Europe at that time.

“I chose Everton. In my eyes, it was the right decision and always will be to this day – although a lot of people said I made the wrong choice. But I totally enjoyed my time at Goodison.”