127: Tony Yeboah, Leeds United, Merlin’s Premier League 96 Sticker Collection

We welcome Mat Jolin-Beech to the fold and in today’s post we are transported back to a time when one Ghanaian striker redefined the term wondergoal twice in the space of two months and crossbars everywhere quaked in fear. Over to Mat.

Think of legendary Premier League strikers. Guaranteed you’ll think of Shearer, Henry, Bergkamp, Rooney, Aguero, and possibly the best of the bunch, Dirk Kuyt. Ok, ok, maybe only in Football Manager ‘08 circles then for the last one.

But, in the mid 90s, only a few years after Sky had invented football, one cult hero’s star burned bright. His name would echo across the playground whenever anyone smashed a volley in off the crossbar. “Yeboah!”

A quick YouTube search brings back childhood memories of the powerhouse striker’s premier repertoire of goals, in particular, the identikit rockets against Wimbledon and Liverpool in 1995 when gracing the crisp white jerseys of Leeds United. Adding to the glory are his classic black and white Puma Kings – boots reserved for gods. Other gems included strikes against Manchester United, Sheffield Wednesday, and West Ham. A big striker with big goals in the big games.

He arrived in Yorkshire from Eintracht Frankfurt for £3.4m in January 1995 in what must be Howard Wilkinson’s greatest ever signing. The rationale was clear. Whilst in Germany, Yeboah plundered 68 goals in 128 games, winning the Bundesliga golden boot in 1992/93 and 1993/94. His stature as a global great is further reinforced by his exploits on the international scene. A total of 29 goals in 59 caps and he represented Ghana at three Africa Cup of Nations during the 1990s. Not to be sniffed at, and this places him third in the nation's history behind Abedi Pele and Asamoah Gyan.

But, after only two seasons in England’s top flight, with 24 goals in 47 games, Yeboah was gone almost as quickly as he spectacularly burst onto the Premiership scene. In all stories, there must be a villain. For this young football fan with a penchant for the ridiculous (I am the proud owner of a 2010 England shirt adorned with that team’s best player Ledley King’s name and number – but that is a story for another time), and followers of the beautiful game in England, it is George Graham.

A clash of personalities is said to have been the cause of the fallout.  How Graham was unable to understand Yeboah’s genius is beyond me. It must be up there with his biggest blunders, above meeting a certain Norwegian agent in the late 1980s. Yeboah departed for Hamburger SV in September 1997 after playing only six times under Graham. But injuries had already begun to take their toll. Whilst back in Germany he managed 28 goals in 100 games, before a final season swansong in 2001/02 with Al-Ittihad in Qatar.

Now, the African and Yorkshire legend passes the time running an international sports agency and a chain of hotels in Ghana, as well as living with the glow of knowing he broke, and seriously wounded, many a crossbar in his career. I just hope it’s compulsory to watch all 24 of his Leeds goals on the VHS ‘Yeboah – Shoot to Kill’ – my next holiday is booked if it is. And to this day, whenever someone booms one in off the crossbar, the little kid inside me still screams “Yeboah!”


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