Full Circle: a Fan’s Journey from Super Leeds to The Last Champions – by Rob Atkinson

Super Leeds, Champions of 1974

Some of the regular readers of this blog might be aware that I’m in the process of writing a book, all about Leeds United.  I have made – ahem – passing references to this from time to time – with extremely gratifying results. The help I have received from the readership of this blog has been nothing short of outstanding.  I’ve had advice, input, anecdotes, suggestions – even donations – some of a generosity that has literally taken my breath away.

Now the Leeds United book project is a small but significant step nearer realisation.  At long last I have a working title and, if I have my way (and if the feedback isn’t too bad), then it’s the title that will eventually adorn the front cover of the finished, published product.  “Full Circle: a Fan’s Journey from Super Leeds to The Last Champions”.  As you can see, I’ve used it as the title of this blog post – and I’d be massively interested in what you kind and wonderful people out there think of it.

I’m most grateful to regular reader and contributor “Yorxman” for the Full Circle element of the title; he suggested it when I first stated my aim of writing a book about the years between 1974 and 1992, a period which began and ended with United as Champions.  A dour Yorkshireman managed us to that first title and we were inspired by a diminutive red-haired Scottish international midfielder.  Similar ingredients were in the mix for the 1992 triumph.  In between these twin peaks lay the decline of the late 70’s and the thinly-chronicled wilderness years of the 1980’s when Leeds and their army of followers graced many and varied second division grounds.  There is no shortage of material here – the difficulty lies in what to leave out.

The richness of these eighteen years resides in the fact that they were the last eighteen years of the old-style Football League Championship – the last couple of decades of the pre-Murdoch, pre-megabucks, muck and bullets game that people of my age and above – and maybe the generation after us – will remember with nostalgic fondness.  Much happened in that time, and I wish to reflect on major events that impacted not only Leeds, but the wider game.  We had Birmingham and Bradford disasters on the same day, shortly followed by Heysel and then a few years later, Hillsborough.  There were consequences for the future of football-watching; the terraces went, the fences did too.  Major events like these form a larger framework within which many memorable smaller incidents are worth recalling, especially in a Leeds United context.  I really will have to be choosy about what goes in and what is left out.

This will not be a book, however, that ends up with the reader unable to see the wood for the trees.  The main focus will always be Leeds, most of the recollections and descriptions will be of Leeds United’s matches and controversies – and of what it was like to watch our varyingly-successful or misfiring sides as fortunes waned and obscurity beckoned.  There were a number of highlights in the Tony Currie-inspired late seventies, but much of the book will concern itself with those second division outposts such as Carlisle and Millwall, Shrewsbury (where we once lost 5-1) and Plymouth (where we were hammered 6-3).  But there were good times too – many older Leeds fans look back on this period as some of the best years to follow United, and I can see their point, having covered so many miles in that decade myself, as well as being almost ever-present at a sparsely-populated Elland Road.

My intention is to start off with a description of the day the 1992 title was clinched, and then to journey back to where it all began for me, with a 0-2 defeat for the 1974 Champions at the hands of old enemies Liverpool.  Four days later, I saw us beat Barcelona, Johann Cruyff and all – and from then on I was there as fortunes faded and the club spiralled slowly downwards, before Sergeant Wilko arrived to take us back where we belonged.  The way my own life unfolded has curious parallels with the fluctuating fortunes of the Whites, so the opportunity is there for me to don some of Nick Hornby’s older clothes – not that I aspire to Fever Pitch excellence.  But the relationship between club and fan, as both make their way through turbulent times; that’s an important facet of this book.

Lastly, I’ll remember the day we played Norwich at home with Rod Wallace scoring a beauty before we received the League Championship trophy as Last Champions.  Then it was off to Leeds City Centre, City Square, the open-top bus and a swift hike to Leeds Town Hall to hear Cantona tell us how much he loved us.  A brief nod to the future that unfolded after that – and my first eighteen year journey with Leeds, the Full Circle from Champions to Champions, will be complete.  And it’ll then be time to think about a second book.

Much of this first one is already written, and the path is clear ahead now.  I even have a prospective illustrator whose fantastic caricatures can do justice to the many amazing characters that have worn the United shirt or sat in the Elland Road dugout – and even the boardroom.  So, much of the groundwork is done – but I still need a little help.  The more people who can share this blog post, as widely as possible, the more interest might be drummed up in the project.  I’m casting about for publishers, because I think the concept has a lot going for it, and I don’t want this to be a Kindle-only production.  So, if there are people out there with contacts in the publishing industry, or who might be in that industry themselves and interested in taking this project forward, then clearly – I’d love to hear from you.

I would also still love to hear from people who have recollections to share of their own ’74 to ’92 experiences, or from anyone who has suggestions to make or ideas to contribute.  As far as possible, I want this book to reflect the memories and opinions of many Leeds United fans – as many as space will permit.

To all of those who have helped in so many different ways, and have made it possible for me to get this far – I say, yet again: thank you so much.  Your enthusiasm, generosity and sheer kindness and interest have combined to make what for me has been an inspiring and humbling experience.  I always knew that Leeds United fans were the best in the world, so I didn’t need any proof of that.  But if any had been necessary, there it was, mountains of it. It’s a privilege to be able to count myself as one of you – and I hope that I can do justice to the faith that so many of you have shown in a project that means so enormously much to me.

Marching On Together – At Least Until the World Stops Going Round.

The Last Champions, 1992

The Last Champions, 1992

22 responses to “Full Circle: a Fan’s Journey from Super Leeds to The Last Champions – by Rob Atkinson

  1. RoystonLUFC

    Hey Rob, I know this sounds a bit negative but I think the title sounds a little bit terminal – like we’ve reached the end and we’re never coming back. It’s negative because I’m not – at this late hour anyway – offering an alternative. But maybe a comment can start the ball rolling and get people’s creative juices flowing. It’s just that from “Super…” to “…last” sounds as thought the story is finished and Leeds are no more. Maybe it’s just the way I’m reading it so you’re more than welcome to totally ignore me.


    • Not at all, I think that’s an excellent point and it’s something I’ll have to think about. But I feel that at this point in time, football in this country neatly divides into two epochs, pre and post the Murdoch/Sky takeover. So in a real sense, those 1992 Last Champions DID represent the end of something – but not of Leeds and I’ll have to make it clear as to exactly what I’m saying. As it stands, I’m so attached to the title, I’d rather make it work than re-think it. But that can change! The full circle thing applies to me really, more than the club; Leeds were Champions when I first saw League football and they were Champions again at my last old-style Football League game against Norwich in May ’92.

      This is exactly the kind of feedback I need – many thanks!


  2. Those early years were a real roller-coaster Rob! My family had moved to Nottingham a few years earlier and I well remember being taken to the second and third FA Cup replays v Ipswich at Filbert St; Dad parking the car way too early near Sheffield and walking MILES to Hillsborough to see us lose to Man U in the semi; getting frogmarched from the station to the Baseball Ground through the slums and seeing the front window of a pub crash onto the footpath; going up on the Mansfield Whites coach to watch us lose to Southampton in the League Cup semi when I was meant to be studying for my A-level exams; getting stick at school over the Clough thing and of course when he led Forest onto glory… Ah, bitter-sweet memories!
    My most vivid LUFC memory is of the elation that quickly turned to a life-long bitterness, from watching us on TV outplaying Bayern Munich but getting totally butchered by the referee in Paris 1975. It was many years later before I could finally watch it again but even now it’s tough to watch the dvd. Good luck with the book, I will certainly be getting one for myself, and a few more for presents, no worries.


    • Thanks mate, some great memories there, even the sad ones! I do believe you’re on my complimentary copy list, anyway. There’s a way still to go, but I hope when it eventually appears that you’ll enjoy it. MOT


  3. Looking forward to having a read of the project! Will you be releasing it as an e-book at all? I find over here in Sydney I do a lot of my reading from amazon, etc straight onto the kindle or ipad.


  4. If you want the book to have wider appeal – and I’m not saying you should but it would make you ambition of publication more realistic – “the last champions, the day football died” theme, making it about all those causes and factors that meant post 92 it was never going to be possible to win the title without mega finance – Blackburn just did it early on the cheap. Your story could then be a framework for the wider perspectives of fans everywhere and could then explore going forward what’s in store etc.. Different book I know but more commercial.


    • I quite like the “day football died” hook, but I think it might be an introductory note I could strike quite harshly at the very start of the book. It certainly sums up how I feel about the Murdoch putsch – and yet many would say that the game is in vigorous health, certainly in a financial sense. I’m minded for that reason to leave it as something to argue from the outset, rather than making it a part of the title. But again, it’s something I need to think about carefully. Many thanks and MOT


  5. I’m with royston rob ,, last champions does sound final ,, maybe something like from super Leeds to eternal champions,, titles are tricky things and I always feel a title can be responsible for half of the books sales ,, e.g The Damded United ,


    • I think I’m set on the finality of “Last Champions” – it’s a point I want to hammer home and for me that matters more than commercial appeal. I will think about this though – and I’m sure any publisher would want to have some input – for them, of course, commercial appeal is the whole point!

      Thanks as ever, Mr O 🙂


  6. Well Rob it will be Kindle only I am afraid, begging for a freebie publisher I can’t wait to slate it on Amazon, will be better off in kids section as you need to grow up to your apparently captive audience


    • This was bitter and twisted and just plain funny enough for me to allow it through, Paul “Desperate Troll” McKnockiter.

      You’re a sad and envious, frustrated and warped little man – but you do give me some laughs. Back in your box now, though.


  7. Rob!
    A friend of mine Dave Simpson has already written and published a book called `The Last Champions` about the mighty whites, might this be confusing?

    Jepo Leeds


    • I’ve read that book, and thoroughly enjoyed it. My take on “Last Champions” is that it was a phrase in common usage, somewhat akin to “Super Leeds” from an earlier age. I also thought that using it as part of a longer title would avoid confusion. Perhaps you could ask Dave his thoughts on the matter?


  8. Hi Rob

    I have been reading several of the comments relating to the title, how about “The last TRUE Champions”

    Its a pity you aren’t going back to the 60’s, 68/69 in particular I have some great childhood memories. In particular Billy Bremner grabbing the back of the net as depicted by his statue,

    I am sure Rob whatever the title it will be a great read. MOT


  9. Rob, I have some memories that are ingrained deeply from my first visits to ER, many coinciding with the 66 world cup, you will have been a nipper but no doubt hearing the folk legends of Bremner and co. People will be more than happy to help with stories of the excitement, knowing that there were trophies around the corner (that’s how it felt in 65/66 !)As for your debut game , where were you stood ? I’d just graduated to my first full season in the Kop, a right of passage I suppose, but remember the game and the excitement of the forthcoming Barca game .


    • I was in the Lowfields – in that middle “shelf” bit – on a milk crate! otherwise I wouldn’t have seen a thing. Same drill for the Barcelona match, and among all the vivid memories I have of my first two games, it’s the PA system playing Bye Bye Baby by the Bay City Rollers that really stands out (apart from Billy’s goal, of course). That track always takes me right back to Elland Road, April ’75.


  10. keith white

    Rob I’m not in the publishing field so can’t help you but as a supporter (from darkest Africa) of the “mighty whites” since the mid sixties & someone who was on the terraces in the 74/75 season & was at the Leeds v Barcelona game I’m excited with your project , wish you the best & will definitely buy the finished product


    • Cheers Keith – and thanks for taking some time out of your day to read a few of the blogs and leave comments – that’s the lifeblood of LLUUE. MOT mate


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