Glory for Leeds as Wilkinson’s team are crowned champions of England but title party was the beginning of the end for Sterland
May 2, 1992, saw Norwich City come to Elland Road as a sell-out crowd celebrated the Whites’ first top-flight title since 1974 and the Don Revie era.
A goal from Rod Wallace saw United sign off with victory, but it was the previous week where a 3-2 victory over Sheffield United had helped secure the trophy from the clutches of Manchester United. The Old Trafford club would go on to finish second, with Yorkshire neighbours Sheffield Wednesday in third.
The next day the Leeds players celebrated with an open-top bus ride through the city, to crown an unbelievable season for Howard Wilkinson’s side.
Our picture on the right shows the United players celebrating their title triumph, all smiles and enjoying the moment.
But it was the beginning of the end for one of Yorkshire’s favourite footballing sons, Mel Sterland.
The former England right-back spent 10 years at Sheffield Wednesday, before a brief stint in Scotland where he won the league title.
He then returned south of the border and was reunited with his former Hillsborough manager Wilkinson.
Sterland was a key member of that Leeds team which won the First Division trophy, but was forced to watch from the sidelines for the last 10 games with an ankle injury which would eventually force him to retire from the game in 1994.
In his superb autobiography, Boozing, Betting & Brawling, written with the help of Yorkshire journalist Nick Johnson, Sterland recalls a visit to White Hart Lane in that championship-winning season.
“I went off in the 70th minute and my replacement, Jon Newsome, scored one of the goals in a 3-1 win which took us two points clear at the top,” he wrote. “That turned out to be my last appearance of the season as I was forced to watch the last 10 games from the sidelines.
“We played Sheffield United in the penultimate game of the season and I was in the stands at Bramall Lane on crutches.
“I was loving it because we won 3-2 and it looked as though we were going to win the title.
“Manchester United still had to play so we had to wait for the title win to be confirmed. I was at home drinking champagne that day because I was confident we’d win it.
“To celebrate the title win, we went on a victory parade around Leeds in an open-top bus. It was a great time and you don’t forget days like that.
“It was so frustrating being out of action towards the end of the season because I just wanted to play. I was having that much trouble with my ankle, I had painkillers, put ice on it and had ultra-sound. It was the start of a nightmare.
“I ended up having four operations on my ankle after a tendon came off the bone. When the inevitable happened and I was told I had to quit playing, it was the worst feeling in the world.
“The money I was on wasn’t bad, but I just missed out on the real big money in football. I retired just when the Premier League started and Sky Sports started pumping millions into the game.”
Sterland, who is still a regular on matchdays at Hillsborough, played with some great players at Wednesday and Leeds, including Eric Cantona. But it was a ginger-haired midfielder from Scotland who impressed him the most.
“Gordon Strachan was in the veteran stage of his career, but he was still doing the business,” said Sterland, who earned his only full England cap back in 1988 when he played in a friendly against Saudi Arabia. “I’d have no hesitation in saying that Gordon was the best player I ever played with. He just loves football and was so dedicated, the way he looked after himself.
“Gordon took seaweed tablets and he brought them in for the rest of the players to take. Most of the players were on them. I took them for about two days, but they were absolutely disgusting.”
One of the few players to have won the league title in both England and Scotland, Sterland is still a fans’ favourite.
Despite being a generation apart from the millionaire lifestyle afforded to today’s Premier League stars, he readily admits he wouldn’t change a thing about his career.
“People ask me whether I wish I’d done things differently in my life,” he writes. “But I can honestly say that I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d swear that on a bible.
“I’ve loved every minute because it’s been fantastic and exciting. After coming off a scruffy estate, I’ve won medals and played for my country.
“I’ve travelled the world and if it wasn’t for football, I wouldn’t have done that or had what I’ve had.”