Daily Archives: 24/02/2015

Definitively Leeds: Jon Howe’s Evocative History of Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

Elland Road is the only place for us

The Only Place for Us: An A-Z History of Elland Road – Home of Leeds United Hardcover – Illustrated, 12 Feb 2015 RRP £19.99

No matter who you support, no matter at what level of the football pyramid your club might play, one thing at least unites pretty much all football fans. Whatever strife and disagreement exists between devotees of different teams, we all have that one place outside of our own four walls which we see – seldom or often, on TV or in gritty reality – and beholding it, we simply think: home.

For Leeds United fans, this is as true as it gets anywhere. Elland Road is one of those iconic stadiums, one that – despite makeovers, haphazard additions and acres of cream cladding – still manages by its very eccentricity to retain a feeling of history and tradition about the place. As a Leeds supporter, you feel this; you have a sort of kindly sympathy for less fortunate football followers who must needs worship at more anonymous altars. Some have moved grounds, helplessly led by their club’s whim. Some have seen wholesale meccano-style rebuilds, leaving nothing of the history or feeling of the place. Some labour under the indignity of seeing that second home incongruously renamed after a frozen-fish packaging company or some grisly payday loans outfit. Not at Leeds – not yet, anyway.

Feeling all of this is one thing; seeing it laid out before your greedy eyes, in brilliant depth of factual detail and wonderfully-described, lovingly-written anecdotal account – that’s something else. And The Only Place For Us: An A-Z History of Elland Road, this mighty new tome by United fan Jon Howe, really is something else. It effortlessly, comprehensively fills a large gap on any Leeds United fan’s bookshelf. Many are the club histories, with their passing nods to the development of Elland Road. Many are the ghosted autobiographies, bringing us the players’ memories of performing on that familiar stage. But never before has the place been so forensically examined, its history so assiduously chronicled. The book knows that the fans adore the stadium, it acknowledges that affinity between supporter and structure. It sets out to feed that yearning for more detail, more history, more about the place itself and all its quirks and idiosyncrasies. And what it serves up is a veritable feast.

Read the book from cover to cover, or dip into it at random; this is a book that can be devoured or sampled. The reader is taken back in time to a long-ago period when the stadium we know was merely a playing field, canted round at ninety degrees to sit with its sidelines along Elland Road, only the barest of facilities to be enjoyed by hardy supporters and one rickety stand. The Peacock pub is there, the landscape is familiar; but in a series of poignantly evocative photographs we see our club’s home gradually take shape from these rudimentary beginnings.

Those photographs – a joy in themselves. Bones of stands exposed by fire; metal bones of new stands rising out of the earth, waiting to be dressed in concrete and wood or plastic, old terracing, earthen banks, modern cantilever construction. It’s all there and the well-researched text is beautifully illustrated by these glimpses of the past as much as by the vibrant colour in the pictures of more modern days.

I read this as a fan and a lover of the Elland Road stadium. It’s my home too, my place of worship. I thought I couldn’t possibly love it more; but I was wrong. To know you is to love you, so they say, and I know Elland Road so much better now, its history and its inextricable links with the Club itself. Jon Howe’s book does that for the reader; it elevates the appreciation of something already well-loved. Anyone who has a Leeds fan in their life; someone deserving of a real treat – you could hardly do better. And, I’d venture to suggest, it’s a book with something of interest to offer on a broader basis; any football fan would surely find it fascinating.

Strongly recommended.

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The Revie Boys: Super Leeds One to Eleven – by Rob Atkinson

Super Leeds

Sprake, the Viking, error-prone
Costly gaffes are too well-known
But brilliance too, in Budapest
Gritty show, Fairs Cup conquest
Outside the fold now, Judas jibes
Allegations, fixes, bribes

Reaney, swarthy, lithe and fine
Clears a rocket off the line
Always there to beat the best
Georgie, Greavsie and the rest
Speedy Reaney, right full back
Repelling every new attack

Top Cat Cooper, number three
Once a winger, then set free
From wide attacking, made his name
The best left back of World Cup fame
Scored at Wembley, League Cup dream
Got the winner for his team

Billy Bremner, black and blue
Red of hair, Leeds through and through
A tiny giant for the Whites
Semi-final appetites
Beat Man U, not once but twice
Billy’s goals, pearls of great price

Big Jack next, our own giraffe
World Cup winner, photograph
With brother Bobby, Wembley day
The lesser Charlton many say
Was Jack; but for the super Whites
He gave his all and hit the heights

Norman Hunter, hard but fair
Tackles ending in mid-air
Studs on shinpads, bone on bone
Take no prisoners, stand alone
With enemies strewn at his feet
Angelic Norm, that smile so sweet

Lorimer, the rocket shot
Lethal from the penalty spot
Lashed the ball from distance great
Fearsome pace he’d generate
90 miles an hour clocked
Keeper left confused and shocked

Clarkey next at number eight
A predator to emulate
The  greatest strikers anywhere
On the ground, or in the air
One chance at Wembley, snapped it up
Leeds United won the Cup

Mick Jones, the workhorse, brave and strong
Graft away the whole match long
But frequently a scorer too
A hat-trick blitzing poor Man U
Five-one, in nineteen seventy-two

The Irishman at number ten
Giles, a leader among men
Skill and strategy, world class
Struck a devastating pass
John and Billy, midfield twins
Hard as nails – for who dares, wins

Eddie “Last Waltz” Gray out wide
Beats three men in one sweet stride
Jinks and shimmies, deft of touch
Didn’t seem to matter much
Who might face him, come what may
Eddie beat him anyway

Eleven players, clad in white
Internationals, as of right
Ready to play, and battle too
Many the victories, losses few
Leeds United, Revie’s boys
Strength and power, skill and poise

Left with just sweet memories now
But even critics must allow
A squad of many talents great
Where every man would pull his weight
Cut one and find the whole team bleeds
A club United; Super Leeds

 

 

Leeds United to Miss Out as FA Introduce Selective New “Joker” Rule – by Rob Atkinson

I heff het...enOUGH of losink. I em playink - our JOKER in all games now.

I heff het…enOUGH of losink. I em playink…our JOKER in all games now

It hardly comes as news to the fans of Leeds United, long used to English football’s tiresome habit of “playing favourites”, that there is some perplexity in the corridors of power about the inability of the “most popular club” to win the league title. Since a certain choleric Glaswegian shuffled off into the sunset to brood over old feuds and current grievances, the supply of plastic EPL titles for Club Popular has dried up somewhat, much to the chagrin of the suits. Needless to say, that most popular club is not located in LS11 – the Whites of Elland Road occupy a ranking at the other end of the adulation scale, with the game’s administrators being accustomed to wrinkle their noses slightly if forced to acknowledge Leeds’ existence, affecting a rather pained expression, as if they were suffering patiently in the presence of some noxious odour.

No, the “most popular” – naturally – are the club I joshingly if not exactly fondly refer to as the Pride of Devon – due to their vast appeal to the more insecure type of West Country glory-hunter. But they’re all the rage in parts of London too, this lot – as well as Wales, Ireland, Milton Keynes, Barnsley, for God’s sake – and not to mention great chunks of the Far East and even isolated neighbourhoods in less salubrious areas of Manchester itself. 

The dilemma faced by the game’s rulers appears to be a matter of clear and present danger to those earnest men in their sober garb, as they brandish calculators and contemplate massive markets, domestic and foreign, previously of great productivity, with bale after bale of tatty replica Sharp, AIG or Chevrolet shirts being demanded every high day and holiday by precocious Man U-supporting spoilt brats. Having expressed concern over the poor form of the EPL Golden Boys, the Premier League CEO Richard Scudamore is now rumoured to have come up with a foolproof plan to redress the balance and get away from the current, annoyingly level playing field in English top flight football. The Chief’s idea is the product of much serious thought and an increasing awareness that the problem of Man U’s chronic lack of dominance is not going away anytime soon. Now, Scudamore has allegedly been inspired by the popular summer evening silly games contest of the mid 1970s, It’s A Knockout, to come up with a novel solution to a thorny problem.

Uncle Stuart - butter wouldn't melt

Uncle Stuart – butter wouldn’t melt

For those of us of a certain age, that evocative theme music is just so reminiscent of long summer evenings when we were young; coming home from playing football on the village green, hot and dusty and pleasantly tired, ready to sit down, relax – and enjoy some more seemingly innocent fun as good old “Uncle” Stuart Hall treated us to his dulcet tones, his manic laugh – but thankfully not the gift of his intimate acquaintance. Genial old rugby league fart Eddie Waring bumbled about in the background, sounding ever more like a Mike Yarwood impression of himself, joining in with Hall for the title of maddest chortler. It was quintessential family entertainment, or so it seemed in those pre-Operation Yewtree days.

Happy days, for some. But the appeal of It’s A Knockout was – thankfully – more down to the nuttiness of the games and the rules, than any peculiarities of the show’s host. The contests were between a number of teams representing various obscure towns around the UK. Massive costumes figured heavily, huge false heads on them which would put Joe Royle or even Wayne Rooney to shame, colourful, crazy, hilarious. There was water, there were custard pies, there were enough card-carrying prats to ensure pratfalls aplenty – it was hilarious, playful anarchy – and the presenters could be heard crying with mirth as the participants struggle gamely. Nobody was too bothered about the scoring system – and yet it was one bizarre element of this which may now restore Man U to what the suits see as that troubled franchise’s rightful place at the top of the English game.

The idea is that Man U – at their own discretion – will be able to “play their joker” whenever the need arises. It’s important to emphasise that this is not a reference to the team selection and the appearance in a Man U shirt of Angel di Maria or the latest “next George Best”. Rather, it is a maverick twist to the scoring system of any particular game – whereby the team playing its joker will have any subsequent score doubled.

Scudamore is believed to favour a refinement of this system, seeing the Man U joker double the value of any goal scored, rule out any goal against them, or produce a penalty on demand, regardless of where play happens to be on the field. It is envisaged that this would enable even a team managed by a total incompetent – or “onbekwaam” as Mijnheer van Gaal’s compatriots would say – to prevail in most games. Theoretically, at least, the return of the Pride of Devon to the summit of the game would be assured – and the Theatre of Hollow Myths would once again ring to the rafters with songs of West Country and cockney triumphalism.

One important feature of the new system is that – surprise, surprise, Leeds fans – it would not be open to all teams, as that would merely introduce an annoyingly random element whilst maintaining what is seen as an undesirable status quo. The conditions of entitlement so far envisaged are extremely stringent; only clubs who can demonstrate that every single one of their FA Cup ties since 2005 has been televised live on TV – even when they’ve played no-hopers at home (Exeter and Cambridge, for example. Or Leeds United…) – will have the option of “playing their Joker”. It has been concluded that only one club, based just outside Manchester, would fall within these parameters. Coincidentally, the identity of this randomly selected club would fit in precisely with Mr Scudamore’s idea for the future of the game.

Scudamore is said to be delighted with his plan. and hopes that its introduction will be a new start for English football, with better times ahead for all – unless you happen to be a fan of Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City – or indeed any club that lacks the postcode M16 0RA.

Louis van Gaal, 83, is an extreme embarrassment.