In 1988 Leeds United Football Club was rooted to the bottom of division two. Relegation into the third division looked to be on the cards for this once great Yorkshire club. The man given the mission of halting the terminal decline was manager Howard Wilkinson. Incredibly, just four seasons after arriving at Elland Road his team would be crowned Champions Of England. Wilkinson’s managerial feat has been recognized in the new Amazon Prime documentary – Do You Want To Win?
The title of this documentary came from a question asked by Howard Wilkinson to his players. “Do You Want To Win?” It epitomised the managers' no-nonsense approach to football. At Leeds United Wilkinson would set out to prove ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard’. But first, the manager had to dismantle the culture of failure which had engulfed the club. Beginning with the players who no longer wanted to win.
During the documentary, a picture emerges of how Wilkinson was able to build a winning team. The talented youngsters David Batty & Gary Speed were mentored by seasoned professionals Gordon Strachan & Gary McAllister. Both Strachan and McAllister feature heavily in this documentary. The two Scottish internationals give insightful commentary on their time at Leeds. The films funnier moments come via the interviews with Vinnie Jones. The hard-man enforcer had signed from Wimbledon to help Leeds kick there way out of division two. Once promotion was secured, Vinnie became surplus to requirements. He talks with humour and candour about his time at the club. Recalling how he became so frustrated by his lack of playing time, that he held a shotgun to managers head! Not surprisingly Vinnie was sold to Sheffield United shortly after the incident.
In their second season, Leeds enjoyed a phenomenal start to their league campaign. Losing just one game between August and December. A record matched by another club – arch-rivals Manchester United. Ferguson’s side were the darlings of the media and cost twice as much as Wilkinson’s team. Towards the tail end of the season, it seemed like Manchester United had gained the upper hand in the race for the title. Nevertheless, a shock defeat at Old Trafford against Nottingham Forest gave Leeds United a glimmer of hope. They piled on the pressure on Manchester United with wins over Coventry and away to Sheffield United. Fergie’s side could not rally themselves to the challenge. Manchester United lost their penultimate game of the season away to Liverpool. Leeds United and Howard Wilkinson had done the impossible – they'd won the league!
As the documentary is keen to point out, Manchester United didn’t ‘throw away’ the title. Leeds United won it with a mixture of guile and grit. When the crunch games came, Leeds wanted to win more. I have to admit, as a Manchester United supporter this documentary was difficult to watch. But as a football fan, I found it compelling viewing. If you enjoy sporting documentaries, you'll find this one fascinating.