Every fan base across the country wants to see a youngster come through the academy and breakthrough into the first team. The majority of youthful talents fall by the wayside due to the cut-throat world that is football, some make fleeting appearances before dropping down the divisions and others establish themselves as players who make a sound contribution – and then there is David Batty.
Batty was born and bred in Moortown, Leeds in December 1968 and in his early years Leeds were a force to be reckoned with as they competed at the top end of the old Division One and their die hard fans enjoyed several European tours. Unfortunately, by the time Batty was old enough to appreciate the game those days were gone and in 1982 Leeds dropped into Division Two.
In July 1985, three years after their relegation, Leeds spotted the talented Batty plying his trade for Tingley Athletic and snapped him up on the now old fashioned apprentice contract; two years later a local lads dream came true as he penned a professional contract.
Fast forward to November 1987 and Batty made his debut aged 18 years old when he started in the centre of midfield against Swindon Town; Leeds won the match 4-2 and the Elland Road faithful instantly warmed to their latest home town graduate.
The First Stint
After an impressive first outing, Batty found himself a pretty permanent fixture in the middle of the park during the rest of the 1987/88 campaign as he racked up 21 further starts and one sub appearance. Despite his relatively diminutive frame, Batty continued to endear himself to the fans with his combative style of play and, although Leeds only finished in seventh place, his individual displays earned him international recognition with his first under 21 cap, which came in May 88.
Batty’s first whole season as a fully recognised pro ended with a 10th spot finish but the following year things took off and Batty earned his first piece of silverware as Leeds won promotion to the top tier of English football, winning Division Two in the process.
With the step up undoubtedly a large one a youngster may have been forgiven for struggling to cope with the pressure but Batty seemed to thrive on it and his ability to win and recycle possession proved a huge asset as Leeds finished fourth. By this point, Batty had several England youth and England B caps under his belt but shortly after the 90/91 season ended Graham Taylor gave Batty his full international honours.
In the next campaign, Batty upped his performance levels once again and ensured his name would be part of Leeds folklore forever as his tenacious midfield work was an integral cog in the Leeds machine that was crowned Champions of England.
It would prove to be his last real contribution before heading on to pastures new after a tough season – for the club – in the newly established Premier League.
Life After Leeds
Batty signed for Blackburn Rovers in October 1993 and he was their standout star in his inaugural season scooping the Player of the Year award. The next season saw Blackburn shock the world as they won the Premier League title but Batty missed a lot of the campaign through injury and, in true testament to his character, refused a medal due to his belief he hadn’t contributed enough to warrant one.
In the early part of 1996, Kevin Keegan came calling and Batty signed on the dotted line for Newcastle United. He couldn’t help them hang on to claim a league title, instead they settled for second place as Manchester United pipped them to top spot and the following campaign was similar. Batty made 32 appearances and was hugely popular with the Magpies fans with his defensive style a great compliment for the attacking style Newcastle played with at the time.
Away from the club scene, Batty also represented England 42 times, which is no mean feat. Unfortunately, most supporters will remember his international career for one reason only – missing the crucial penalty against Argentina in the round of 16 tie at France 98.
Just five months after the low moment of the missed penalty and Batty was leaving Newcastle; Leeds would be home again.
Fans flocked to see the unveiling of their returning hero; Batty labelled the move a ‘dream’ and ‘Batty’s coming home’ was sung from the stands.
Batty had gone full circle. He had burst on the scene as a youngster with no fear and, after a reluctant five years away, he was finally back where he belonged.
When Batty signed he cited how important his experience would prove to a young but talented side and he formed part of the team that achieved four consecutive top five finishes. Batty was a key part of that continued success with his willingness to do the dirty work meaning offensive talents such as Harry Kewell, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Mark Viduka could focus on breaking the opposition down.
Unfortunately, football isn’t always fair and Batty’s love story doesn’t have the happiest of endings as his game time gradually reduced and injury forced his hand but one thing is for sure, David Batty, you are a legend.