Andy Couzens played alongside some fantastic players during his time as a professional at Leeds United, but perhaps his fondest memories of his playing days at Elland Road came during his time with the youth team, when he and his teammates put themselves into the history books by defeating Manchester United in the Youth Cup Final in 1993.
The Man United team that Leeds and Couzens faced was awash with household names, with Gary and Phil Neville, David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and Robbie Savage all turning out for the Reds.
However, what they faced in the 1992/93 Youth Cup Final was a hungry Leeds team, who according to Couzens overran Man United to record a 4-1 aggregate victory.
It is coming up to 25 years since that triumph, where over 30,000 supporters packed themselves inside Elland Road to cheer Leeds to a second-leg victory, and the evening is still fresh in Couzens’ memory, he told FLW:
“It’s one of those things that everyone comes up to you and asks ‘did you play in the Youth Cup against Manchester United?’
“That night sort of summed up our camaraderie we had between ourselves, and as a team, it summed up how we played and how Leeds played at the time.
“We were an aggressive team but at the same time, we were very fit and technically we were very good as well. We overran Man United that night, and actually Man United didn’t know what was coming to them.
“To get 33,000 at Elland Road for the return leg, live on Sky as well, you know it was just a great night – we won pretty much everything that year.”
The season before, Leeds had beaten Man United to the First Division Title, and although the 1992/93 Premier League campaign had been one to forget for Howard Wilkinson’s side, Couzens revealed that the entire first-team were in attendance to support the Whites in the Youth Cup Final.
The 42-year-old continued: “Every single first-team player was there, they were all in the changing rooms after celebrating with us, they all came out afterwards into Leeds, they wouldn’t let us buy any drinks.
“The first-teamers really looked after us.”
From there Couzens took the obvious progression into the first-team, with the midfielder making 36 first-team appearances for Leeds, with the bulk of those coming in the Premier League.
Couzens burst into a first-team including the likes of Gordon Strachan, Gary Speed and Gary McAllister, but despite coming into a team with such household names, Couzens admitted the first-teamers made his transition to senior football an easy one: “It was an easy transition, we all seemed to get on.
“We played against Coventry and Lucas Radebe came off, he’d done his cruciate and I came on at centre-half and played really well.
“We beat Coventry and Gordon Strachan got the Man of the Match, he went up and I was sat in the changing room, it was a bit of a whirlwind really, I’d just signed a new contract, signed a contract with Adidas and you’re thinking ‘is this actually happening?’
“Then Strach comes in and says you deserve this, you deserve Man of the Match today and he gave me the bottle of champagne – there was a real spirit between ourselves, the first-teamers did really make you welcome.”