When the Leeds United players celebrated winning the championship in April 1992, they had no idea how momentous the occasion was. Manchester United, losers at Liverpool that Sunday afternoon, had now gone 25 years without winning the league. Howard Wilkinson's side, promoted just two seasons ago, could bring back the glory days to Leeds. But Wilkinson would prove to be the last English manager to win the league. In 1992, football changed beyond all recognition.
The Last Champions explores the roots of that success and the amazing cast of characters who came together to fashion the triumph. As in his acclaimed book The Fallen, Dave Simpson's quest to catch up with the protagonists of the era, from the visionary Sergeant Wilko, top scorer Lee Chapman and unsung heroes like Mike Whitlow and Carl Shutt (not forgetting Eric Cantona), sees him unearth some extraordinary untold stories.
And he finds that The Last Champions were also the last ordinary people to win the league, before the Premier League saw skyrocketing wages, billionaire foreign owners and the dictates of television taking the game away from the fans. It is the brilliantly told story of the end of an era.
In just three and a half seasons, following almost a decade in the wilderness, Wilkinson transformed a relegation-threatened second-level side into League winners. The sheer size of the achievement has finally been given the recognition it deserves in The Last Champions. To put it into context, imagine Southampton winning the Premier League title in 2013-14. That is what Wilkinson and his players achieved and it is what makes this story so special and worthy of Simpson's insightful homage.
I really enjoyed the book... it's a great read
Unbearably poignant. Simpson neatly captures football's key appeal, the way it can restore the simple certainties of childhood. These men are now postmen, pensioners, disabled, successful, travel agents and the seemingly lost. But they talk with equal wonder about their greatest season
A welcome reclamation of Wilkinson's success... breaks the mould in exploring team-building. As Simpson so wistfully explains, we shall probably never see their like again... Clearly written by a fan.