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Soccer - Jimmy Adamson - Leeds United - Elland Road

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On This Day (25 Oct 1978): Adamson resigns as Sunderland manager to take over at Leeds United

Shock and anger took over on Wearside as Sunderland manager Jimmy Adamson hightailed it to take the job at Leeds United following the resignation of Jock Stein!

Photo by PA Images via Getty Images

The similarities between the recent departure of Alex Neil and Jimmy Adamson back in 1978 are actually pretty stark.

Like Sunderland’s team of today, Adamson’s side in 1978 were on the up.

The club had put a lot of faith in a younger crop of players in the hope they could become the backbone of the squad for years to come - similar in some ways to the model that has been introduced by the current hierarchy.

For those reasons, the departure of both of these managers caused some upset and disappointment, such was the upward trajectory that the club found itself on.

And on this day in 1978, Adamson upped and went to top flight Leeds United at a time when promotion was still a distinct possibility.

Soccer - Football League Division Two - Sunderland Photocall - Roker Park Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images

Sunderland had started the season quite positively, and it looked like we were in the promotion mix when he left the club for Elland Road in October of that year.

It was a major blow to the team.

Despite missing out on promotion in the 1977-78 season, Adamson had built a strong, youthful squad.

He was good at boosting the confidence of his younger players - something that Gary Rowell spoke about when chatting to RR many years later:

Jimmy Adamson was a new manager and wanted to put his stamp on the team. He liked to bring the youngsters through – he always had faith in young players.

So, three of us came through – me, Kevin Arnott and Shaun Elliott.

It was quite a young team; Joe Bolton was only a couple of years older than us.

It was Jimmy who put me in the team and said ‘look, barring injury, you’re a first-teamer now’, which was great. He was great at giving confidence to young players and a brilliant coach as well.

Jimmy struggled to deal with the older players - alienating some of them, like Tony Towers, who had left after mysteriously being omitted from the key final game of their relegation season at Everton.

His apparent insistence on buying ex-Burnley friends of his was also something that frustrated fans.

In spite of this, progress on the pitch was slow but noticeable. Sunderland fell short on promotion but finished the 77-78 season with five wins out of six, leading to high hopes for the following campaign.

Soccer - Football League Division Two - Sunderland Photocall Photo by S&G/PA Images via Getty Images

Their form was in fact decent - with the team hovering around the top six with only three defeats in the first twelve games. This form - along with the prioritisation of building a squad with younger players - was likely what brought him to the attention of Leeds.

Adamson’s departure caused confusion and anger. Whilst not the most popular at the time, the way it was dealt with - and the fact the club chose him over Brian Clough - certainly did not endear him to the fans as he left so quickly.

His assistant Dave Merrington took charge for a little bit before joining his boss at Elland Road in what was a sorry episode for the club.

Eventually, the popular Billy Elliott took over as long term caretaker. Failing to win any of his first five league games proved costly - although that spell brought a terrific victory against Everton, who were joint top of the first division.

As for Adamson at Leeds, the club won 31 matches and qualified for the UEFA Cup in 1979 under his stewardship.


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