625 appearances between 1968-89 Inducted into Hall of Fame in 2017 Fred Webster, Joe Thompson, Eric Harris, Arthur Clues, Lewis Jones, John Holmes….for every decade and generation of Leeds fans there is the ultimate hero. Even amongst this most illustrious company the name of John Holmes stands out, his total of 625 appearances for his only club being a record that is unlikely to be surpassed.
Over twenty glorious seasons the boy from Kirkstall Road, who made his debut as a 16 year old, matured into one of the most gifted men ever to don the famous colours. Time and again he destroyed opponents with majestic, exquisitely disguised and timed passes, delicate punishing kicks or a gamebreaking score. If he had wanted to take up the mantle of goalkicker he would probably have gone close to taking Lewis Jones’ records, his 159 successes in 1970-71 being a measure of his prowess. With the ball in his hands he was quite simply a magician, cajoling his support players into the gaps of his making such was his reading of the play.
He always seemed to possess the precious quality of time that distinguishes the greats and, like the conductor of the orchestra, he called the tune in sides packed with talent. Not only that but he was capable of creating a devastating impact whether linking imperiously from full back, running wide in the centre or directing operations at the heart of the action at stand off, the position he ultimately made his own. In all he played in nineteen Finals emerging victorious on fourteen occasions. His defence was so solid that in his later years he was equally adept at loose forward or in the second row.
He gave notice of his prodigious talent on his debut in the 1968 Lazenby Cup at Parkside, Hunslet when he kicked ten goals and added a try. In total he totted up 1554 points in the blue and amber. Not surprisingly there were Yorkshire, England and Great Britain honours including an Ashes tour in 1979 and a record ten goal haul against New Zealand in the 1972 World Cup in France.
He gained a winners medal in every major competition and was cruelly denied the Lance Todd Trophy at Wembley in 1978 when many felt he had his finest hour dragging Leeds back from the brink against St Helens. When the votes were cast for George Nicholls ten minutes from time, most people in the stadium felt that Saints would hang on to win but a magnificent inside ball to Phil Cookson levelled the scores and then he conjured the most audacious drop goal on his wrong foot from a virtually horizontal position to retain the cup.
There are many examples of such heroism throughout a distinguished career which saw him awarded two testimonials. His contribution to the club and the cause was unquenchable and perhaps best illustrated in one of his final appearances when he took a virtual ‘A’ team to Knowsley Road and fashioned a sensational against-the-odds win. Just another day at the office for the incomparable John Holmes.