David Batty: Whatever Happened to the tough tackling midfielder
A no nonsense anchor midfielder, David Batty spent most of his playing time shielding a back four, selflessly shunning the limelight whilst more skillful players would take prominence. It was perhaps it was this functional effect on the match environment that brought more admiration for this his skill set from his managers more than the turnstiles.
Born in 1968 in Leeds, England. Batty would later join his local sides youth ranks before gaining promotion to the main team in 1986.
Known to be incredibly fierce and combative it may surprise some to know that the no-nonsense northerner played with wild abandonment, a disconnect from the sport we all love.
As detailed in ‘The Last Champions’, Dave Simpsons book detailing Leeds United’s winning title charge in 1992, the late Gary Speed mentions enviably how Batty actually didn’t really like football at all. Only getting into the sport on a count of his dad’s love of the game, this seemingly enabling Batty to approach each match in a carefree fashion.
It didn’t stop fellow tough tackling Leeds legend Billy Bremner from seeing him as a bit lightweight, to build up Batty’s strength, the player would reportedly call him into his office every morning to drink sherry with a raw egg stirred into it.
Prior to his silverware success, Batty helped Leeds earn a promotion to the second division in 1989-1990 and finally to the first division (pre the Premier League rebrand) in the 1991-1992 season.
He was sold to Blackburn Rovers in 1993 as then Leeds manager Howard Wilkinson required funds to rebuild his team.
At Blackburn Rovers, he suffered a foot injury which kept him sidelined for much of the title winning season of 1994-1995. He made only five appearances and famously rejected a winner’s medal as he felt that his contribution was on the lower side.
He was available for the Champion’s League the next season, however a nightmare strip to Spartak Moscow led to the midfielder’s infamous clash with Graeme Le Saux.
With the pair both challenging for the same ball on the left side of the pitch, Le Saux, surprising to many not least Batty, swang for his teammate.
Exiting their debut Champions League season with a whimper. Batty would later move to Newcastle United.
Despite having the reputation as a tough tackler, he had never been red carded for his entire career before moving to The Magpies. He received a number of early baths henceforth in a number of matches, but the most prominent, interestingly enough, was an incident with Garry Flitcroft of Blackburn Rovers.
After a clash between the two players, Batty threw a punch, and he was immediately red carded. He then shockingly shoved the referee as he headed out of the pitch. He was handed a six-game ban for his acts.
Batty late returned to Leeds United in 1998. Playing alongside young, talented attacking individuals such as Alan Smith, Harry Kewell, Gary Bowyer and Michael Bridges, the centre midfielder proved a perfect foil for his more skilful teammates to bomb on.
It’s was these qualities that led Glenn Hoddle to selected Batty for his World Cup squad. However the tournament would end in huge disappointment after the Leeds born midfielder would miss in a second round penalty shoutout against Argentina. Whilst a few waded into the player for becoming the scapegoat, many praised Batty for his bravery in stepping up at such a crucial moment.
Batty would later experience better success after his England disappointments, helping Leeds make the latter stages of the Champions League, form that encouraged the then England manager Kevin Keegan to recruit the player for his World Cup 2000 campaign. Sadly luck with have it that injury would force Batty to miss the tournament finals.
When O’Leary was sacked by Leeds in 2002 Batty found himself out of favour with the clubs replacement Terry Venables, after picking up an injury in a game against former club Newcastle United on 7 January 2004, the player was forced to retire from the sport at the age of 36.
He has been praised by many for his work-rate, unselfishness and ability to provide a platform for the more talented players in the squad to perform.
After retirement, Batty has rarely been involved with football ,only getting involved in charity matches played by retired professionals.