Rarely before has counting to four proved so troublesome.
Yugoslav defender Jovo Simanic made only one appearance for the first team during his time with the German club, and played for just eight minutes – but it was enough to knock Stuttgart out of the Champions League.
Already 3-0 up from the first leg of their first round tie against Leeds, Die Roten had been in all sorts of trouble in the return match at Elland Road, somehow clinging on to progress on away goals despite losing 4-1 on the night. The Germans celebrated; Leeds trudged off, devastated that their European campaign was over after battling so valiantly, and so soon after their league title triumph.
Beginning of the twist
But that wasn’t the end of it – far from it. Clubs were allowed to field three foreigners in European matches, and Simanic’s introduction from the bench had unwittingly taken Stuttgart over the limit. Fingers were pointed at the German club’s general manager Dieter Hoeness, and coach Christoph Daum (who was duly dubbed ‘Christoph Dumb’ by the British press).
Daum became surprisingly adept at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory; eight years later he was appointed as Germany’s new boss, only to be stripped of the role before he had even started after being exposed for using cocaine.
Alerted to Stuttgart’s mistake with Simanic, Leeds contacted UEFA and soon the result at Elland Road was declared null and void. The Germans admitted their oversight, calling for a “merciful ruling”.
Stuttgart president Gerhard Mayer-Vorfelder stood by Hoeness and Daum, but added: “If a mistake like that had happened in a commercial organisation, the board would have to be fired straight away.”
UEFA’s decision was to change the result of the second leg to a 3-0 victory, which made the aggregate score 3-3. A play-off would have to take place at a neutral venue to decide who would progress – Barcelona’s Camp Nou, some distance south of both countries, on a Friday night nine days after the second leg.
“I’ve absolutely no idea why it was at the Camp Nou, it was a little bit of a random decision,” says Jon Newsome, who played in the Leeds defence that night. “But we were all pleased.
“It’s nice to look back and think that, although we didn’t actually play Barcelona, we played at the Camp Nou in a European Cup tie.”
It was certainly a more glamorous venue than Scunthorpe, where Leeds had been due to play that week in a postponed Coca-Cola Cup clash. Meanwhile, Gary Speed, Gary McAllister, Eric Cantona, David Batty and Tony Dorigo were all given permission to report late for international duty.
This night in Barcelona
In some ways, this luck was something that had eluded Leeds over two legs of the original tie.
“Stuttgart were representing Germany, so they were going to have a good side – as with most teams playing in the Champions League at that time,” says Newsome, of the days when only one club qualified from each country.
“It was just a bit of a mad half-hour for us in the first leg in Germany, where they scored three goals. I wouldn’t have said then that Stuttgart were a far better team, but to come away winning 3-0 they had obviously done their homework and a good job on us.
“But we did an even better job on them back in Leeds. They felt the brunt of it. Elland Road was absolutely bouncing that night.
“That was one of the best performances I think a Leeds team had ever given. We’d put this brave performance in, won 4-1 and just missed out on the away goal. We thought we were out.”
Naturally, there was controversy over the punishment handed out by UEFA. In this case, both clubs felt aggrieved.
“It was a bolt out of the blue,” Newsome recalls. “The day after the game we’d got wind that they’d played a foreigner too many, it was all going to UEFA, and something was going to be done.
“Then we were told through the management that there was going to be this one-off game, winner takes all.
“At the time there was a bit of disgruntlement. The board and the management at Leeds felt if Stuttgart had fallen foul of the rules by playing too many foreigners, then rather than giving them a second chance in a one-off game, they should have been thrown out of the competition and we should have gone through instead.”
There was further tension before kick-off at the Camp Nou.
“On the night there were a few little incidents that made you think they didn’t really want us to go through, and weren’t very happy about us having another chance,” Newsome said.
“It was just daft things. We went out to warm up before the game and they wouldn’t give us any footballs, then Stuttgart came out and got more balls than you could shake a stick at.
“You felt Leeds and Stuttgart weren’t being treated equally – that was how we felt anyway. Whether it was true I don’t know. Possibly UEFA felt some sympathy to Stuttgart, but those little things before the game fired us up. It worked for us.”
Stuttgart were captained by defender Guido Buchwald, the 1990 World Cup winner. Eike Immel, Michael Frontzeck and Maurizio Gaudino – all later to become Manchester City players – were also named among the 16-man squad that night. The game was shown live on ITV, for which Leeds earned the princely sum of £200,000.
Remarkably, the English champions didn’t win a league game away from Elland Road throughout the entire 1992/93 season, on the way to finishing 17th in the Premier League. Indeed, that night at the Camp Nou, boss Howard Wilkinson opted to bring Newsome into his line-up as an extra defender.
“I don’t know how many Leeds fans made the journey but there were a few,” Newsome remembers. “The crowd was 20,000 or something like that, but in a 100,000-capacity stadium it was like playing a reserve game.
“We knew what we had to do, though. It was a big game for us. We’d been given a second chance. You’ve experienced being knocked out and the bitter taste that leaves, and you don’t want to experience that again.
“Gordon Strachan scored to put us ahead but then Stuttgart equalised from a right-hand side cross.”
Andrei Golke’s leveller didn’t deter Leeds, however, as an unlikely hero stepped forward. With 14 minutes left, Wilkinson introduced Carl Shutt in place of the ineffective Cantona.
Shutt had largely been back-up to the likes of Lee Chapman and Rod Wallace at Elland Road – but just a minute after his introduction he made his way into Leeds history, latching onto Dorigo’s pass and forcing his way past defender Gunther Schafer before firing low into the net.
“Carl’s goal is well remembered,” Newsome says. “There aren’t many lads from Sheffield who can say they’ve scored in the European Cup at the Camp Nou.
“At the end of the match it was just a big celebration. We had the second chance and we’d taken it.
“One of my fondest memories was the payphone in the dressing room, in the days before mobile phones. After we’d celebrated and it had calmed down, I picked the phone up and rang my best mate from the dressing room, putting in 100 pesetas in one peseta coins.
“We were put on a midnight curfew by the manager, but I think it was a little bit tongue in cheek. We ended up going out and having a few drinks. Steve Archibald was living out there after playing for Barcelona and he came to the hotel, took us out and showed us a few of the sights.”
Having made the most of their reprieve, Leeds faced a Battle of Britain with Rangers in the next round. But it proved to be the end of the road for their Champions League hopes after a 4-2 aggregate defeat, and within weeks Eric Cantona was sold to Manchester United.
“I thought we’d done really well at Ibrox, coming away having been beaten 2-1 and thinking we didn’t deserve that,” says Newsome, who later played for Norwich before returning to Sheffield Wednesday. He is now a motor dealer in Sheffield.
“At Elland Road we had a real go, but Mark Hateley scored a 25-yard volley over his shoulder into the top corner. It was just one of those games when you thought it wasn’t your day. We were devastated.
“But that era at Leeds, to win the league at a club with so much history, in a one-club city; it was a fabulous time.”