My Bremner Square Tribute to my late, Leeds-supporting Dad – by Rob Atkinson

Dad and me – part of the fabric of Elland Road

Just over 44 years ago, my dad ensured that I’d be saddled with a hopeless devotion to Leeds United for the rest of my life. He did this by the simple expedient of purchasing tickets for “the two biggest games of the season”. There they were, these seemingly innocuous but actually life-changing pieces of paper, artlessly displayed on the dining room table – my initiation to the Elland Road experience. Liverpool first, on Saturday April the 5th 1975 and then, the following Wednesday, I’d see Leeds United take on the mighty Barcelona, Cruyff, Neeskens and all, in the European Cup semi final.


As I’d never even shown the remotest interest in attending a football match, it’s fair to say that my dad was taking a bit of a punt on me enjoying myself. For all he knew, I could have sulked through both matches; certainly he could never have foreseen the extent to which this sudden treat would alter my outlook and priorities.


Strangely, just as Dad was introducing me to a lifetime of United fanaticism, his own passion for the club was about to decline. It’s almost as if he was preparing to hand over the responsibility for supporting the club he’d loved since he was a teenager, even though my first few years of being a proper Leeds fan were spent in his company. Dad didn’t seem to handle the waning of the club’s fortunes too well – after all, he’d seen the flowering of John Charles’ genius in the fifties, then he’d gone all the way through the Revie era of Super Leeds as United carried all before them, winning everything to become football legends.


Those were pretty tough acts to follow, and my dad became perhaps a little impatient with the lesser breed of players who were my new heroes. Eventually, I started to go to Elland Road on my own, and I’d come back waxing lyrical about Tony Currie, Arthur Graham, Brian Flynn or Ray Hankin. For me, it was all still bold and new, and I savoured the unique atmosphere as I graduated from Lowfields with my dad, via the Boys’ Pen to the Gelderd End Kop. I’d inherited the mantle of the family’s United fanatic, and Dad seemed almost eager to trade terrace for armchair and take a more passive role.


Still, he stuck with it for the first few seasons of my Leeds United worship. This was pretty considerate of him, as I brought Leeds United no luck at all. In that first game, we lost at home to Liverpool 2-0 and, although I saw us beat Barcelona on that memorable Elland Road night, with Billy Bremner scoring my first ever “live” Leeds United goal, my record in the league was dismal over the next couple of seasons. Dad must have thought of me as a Jonah – I never even saw United score another goal, let alone avoid defeat, until I started going to the match on my own in August 1976. In the meantime, we lost to the likes of Liverpool (again), Norwich and Sheffield United, all of which defeats I assumed to be my fault, and I think Dad agreed. But I was not discouraged; I was hooked and that was it. When I eventually saw us win in the league, 2-0 against Derby with goals from Eddie Gray and Trevor Cherry, I was delirious with joy and, to this day, every detail of that game is sharp and clear in my memory.


I know that Dad often regretted making a Leeds fan out of me, he was even on about it on my wedding day. He thought I could have spent my time more productively, maybe in playing him in the fiercely competitive Scrabble sessions which he adored – and, on the odd occasion, I’ve found myself agreeing. But overall, it’s been wonderful and, having journeyed from a milk crate vantage point in the middle “shelf” of Lowfields to my present perch on the West Stand Press gantry, I can’t imagine a life without United.


Now, over four years since Dad passed away, I’ve finally managed to make him a permanent part of Elland Road with a “Father and Son” stone in Bremner Square, as pictured above. It’s taken me a while, but at last I think I’ve found the most fitting and enduring way to say “thanks, Dad”. MOT, wherever you may be.


24 responses to “My Bremner Square Tribute to my late, Leeds-supporting Dad – by Rob Atkinson

  1. well done Rob he would have been very proud of you MOT


    • Cheers, Steven, I think the time he was proudest was when my daughter turned up on his 66th birthday just over 26 years ago. But we always had Leeds United in common since that day in 1975. MOT


  2. very touching article rob.
    my own beginnings are similar and start too, with a milk crate in the lowfields. happily, we beat the bright green wearing hannover 96 5-1 in late 1968 and i, as a wee 7 year old was hooked. i recall saying to my dad, “why don’t we let the other team have a kick?”. we still recall that conversation over a regular pint and i am lucky to have a relatively fit 89 year old to converse lufc memories with. the bremner square stone will last an age as will the memories and good times you shared with your dad.
    it never occurred to me to add my dads name to the stone i purchased and your article has left me with a pang of guilt of considerations and debts unmet…..


    • It was a belated thought on my part, but I’m really glad I’ve done it. I’m sure your dad would rather have the “pint and a chat” sessions you both enjoy, than his name on Bremner Square – I envy you that option and I hope it’ll apply for many years to come. MOT


  3. A Dickensian tale that we all feel about our beloved team Rob.
    My wife’s “why don’t you support somebody else”, is so sensible yet impossible!
    It may be time for our redemption, and we are in great hands with Mr B in charge.
    He seems almost to understand our plight??
    No more “something will turn up”!!


    • Redemption may well be in the offing; I always feel that the best advice we ever get is from our caring spouses but, in this instance, I’m glad you find your wife’s suggestion impossible! Many thanks Henry, both for the constructive and thought-provoking feedback, and also your extremely generous donation – this is the lifeblood of the blog, and I truly appreciate it. MOT!


  4. Uncle Dave

    Its never too late to say “Thanks Dad” Or Mum for that matter. Both mine are long gone but i’ll never forget my dad taking me to watch my heroes train when i was about 10? My dad wasnt a Leeds fan, he wasnt really interested in football at all? but he still took me on his day off. After training, i got Tony Curries autograph. I remember him towering above me, wearing his blue tracksuit bottoms and a beige woolly jumper! I was ‘star struck’ I cant thank my pops for encouraging me to follow Leeds United. As ive said, he wasnt interested in football . Maybe he was a secret Man United fan?


  5. I was there Rob for Barcelona. Couldn’t get my usual place in the kop so settled for Lowfields Road. Never liked watching side to side so it was strange. What a night, never forget it. Unfortunately, my son was born on the afternoon of 27th May 1975 and he has never forgotten that infamous day which to me was my Pearl Harbour.
    My dad brought me up at Park Avenue in the fifties, then it was Bradford City until I first heard the name Don Revie, the rest is history. Like you it’s in my blood, and I sometimes wish I HATED football and loved cricket instead but that will never be.
    I have wonderful memories of my dad like you and could not thank him enough for sitting me on the wall, behind the goal at Avenue. My first taste of football that will live with me for hopefully a few more years yet.


    • Great memories, aren’t they. Whoever gets sold, whatever league we’re in, however much they make us want to tear our hair out, those memories are lifelong and can’t be taken from us. MOT


  6. Sorry to hear of your sad news – it will be the 1 year anniversary of my little brothers passing tomorrow and he has a plaque there too- forever Leeds forever loved – my thoughts are with you MOT


    • It’s been a few years now – but he’s still sadly missed. It’s still raw for you mate, I’m sure – I’m glad you’ve been able to commemorate your brother this way too. MOT


  7. Life is LUFC

    I started in 1969 with Leeds. I cannot remember how but I do remember being at my friends house for the 1970 FA cup replay and her father saying if you two are going to talk go in the other room. The only sounds he heard was my friend and I giving Chelsea their marching orders off the pitch every other minute.
    I have chosen the same plaque for my brother and included myself, he’s a fanatic who keeps threatening to walk away but every year he just cannot do it. I can’t bear to see the pained look on his face as each year passes and the ear ache that goes with it..


  8. Great piece Rob.
    I’m not sure that Leeds will ever reach the heights like they did when your dad was watching from the terraces but the positivity is increasing as we approach the new season. MOT


  9. Gerry Hobbs

    Good on you Rob – very touching.
    My eldest bought a HOBBS FAMILY from Newport, Wales plaque – and very thoughtfully had it put with John Charles! What better place to be?!


  10. Jonathan Atha

    Another great article Rob. What a great concept the Bremner square plaques are. I can draw a few tenuous parallels with your own story albeit from afar. My father passed down his love/ obsession with Leeds United to my brothers and me but by then we had moved to Australia. My early memories are as a kid trying to fight off sleep to stay up and watch the FA Cup finals against Arsenal 😁 and Sunderland 😩. Dad brought us back to Leeds for a visit in 1979 and although times weren’t great on the field at that time I stayed for the season and returned every few years to do the same including the promotion season of 89-90. That year I was married to a Beeston girl and although now back living in Oz we have returned many times to see Leeds and spent many sleepless nights following from here. Dad passed away in 2016 but now also has a plaque at Elland Rd and that is the least we could do to say thank you and god bless for the wonderful gift he bestowed upon us all those years ago. MOT. P.S. Can’t wait to see Leeds playing here in 2 weeks.


    • I so wish I could be there. Oz is on my bucket list, but it’s going to have to wait a while yet. I’m so glad to hear that others who miss their dads have been able to commemorate them in the wonderful Bremner Square. MOT


  11. Just a brilliant heart warming tribute Rob MOT


  12. Very touching and heartfelt article.
    I look back and remember my first game, under the floodlights v Forest, Ray Hankin scored the winner, Peter Shilton in the Forest goal.
    Still looking for my have you Hird the news badge. (Kevin Hird, for the younger readers 🙂 )


    • I remember that game! I think Hankin had collided with Shilton shortly before, and the keeper was still dazed when Ray scored. It was Forest’s last defeat of their title-winning season.


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