Tag Archives: Super Leeds

RIP Edna Newton, 94, Leeds United Superfan Since the 1930s – by Rob Atkinson

Edna

Leeds United superfan Edna Newton, who died this week aged 94

Whenever I hear the word “superfan”, I usually think of Gary Edwards, the Kippax painter, author, playwright and all-round good guy who has famously not missed a Leeds game for more moons than most of us would care to count. I was lucky enough to sit a couple of seats away from Gary on the Kop for a few seasons, and I was in awe of his longevity and dedication, as well as his legendary hatred of man u, the Pride of Devon, which complicated his life as a painter to the extent that he’d refuse to paint anything red, but would strip red paint for free.

Gary’s out on his own in many ways, but today I learned of another United superfan who, for sheer length of service, puts even Mr Edwards in the shade. Unfortunately, the reason that I became aware of Edna Newton is that she has sadly passed away this week at the grand old age of 94. Having accumulated that many years, Edna has probably earned her long, last rest – but it does seem a great shame that she won’t be around to witness the long overdue return of her beloved Leeds to the top flight.

Still, as a season ticket holder for 64 consecutive years, Edna had seen it all, and doubtless had many tales to tell of John Charles (I knew John, she said, he was a smashing fellow), the Don Revie era and much more from the chequered history of the Greatest Club in the World. Her achievement was such that even a legend of the stature of ex-Arsenal striker Ian Wright took time out to tweet “Rest In Peace Edna”, which is a pretty nice touch.

Fans are probably still the least appreciated part of a game that would not be half the spectacle without them – yet, every now and again, sheer loyalty and devotion above and beyond the call of duty, over literally decades, will be recognised and acknowledged. Such is the case with the late Edna Newton, and deservedly so. She stands comparison with any other Leeds fan and has her own place in the pantheon of United legends.

RIP Edna Newton (1924 – 2018)

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Leeds United, Club and Fans, Could Have Done Better Over Jay-Roy Grot – by Rob Atkinson

The Don – fostered family atmosphere at Leeds

In a week hardly short of news stories about Leeds United, one in particular stands out for any fan of the Elland Road club who remembers how the first faltering steps to greatness were taken under Don Revie in the sixties; how, in short, football’s greatest family club was built. So, while I could have written this week about the arrivals at Elland Road of quality recruits for the campaign ahead, I will resist that temptation.

Instead, let’s look at Joe Urquhart’s recent Yorkshire Evening Post revelations about the struggles in his Leeds career so far of a young man called Jay-Roy Grot who, at the tender age of 20, is going for a year on loan at Dutch side VVV-Venlo. Grot, a young colossus of a man at 6’4”, arrived at United last summer from NEC of Nijmegen, snatched from under the noses of Italian giants Fiorentina. Sadly, the lad’s first year at Leeds did not go well, and his confidence has suffered. The loan away from United is designed to remedy that, in the hope of seeing him return stronger in the future.

All well and good, but a look at the role of club and supporters in this less than creditable tale might be instructive. The Elland Road support has been notorious since well before Revie’s time as “a hard crowd to play for”. They’re a crowd of extremes. They can get right behind their team, lifting them to peaks of effort and attainment. But, for the individual who is struggling to put a foot right, it can feel much less encouraging, with the terrace critics sometimes launching in even before a ball has been kicked. Young players of great potential can nevertheless find themselves dismissed as “crap”, and persecuted accordingly, should they fail to hit the ground running. Such was the shattering experience of Jay-Roy Grot.

Back in Revie’s day, before the term “pastoral care” had gained much currency, it was nevertheless a big part of the foundations of the Super Leeds side that grew up as a band of brothers to carry all before them. Revie saw to it that off-field problems would not get in the way of his team’s success on the park; his charges were looked after and nurtured. When the boo-boys got to a young and cherubic Billy Bremner, Revie supported and shielded him. If a player’s wife had a baby, there would be flowers from the Don, or a box of chocolates to celebrate a girlfriend’s birthday. No detail was too small, no problem too trivial. Revie looked after his lads and their families, and they repaid him by becoming legends.

Now, with the constant recent managerial changes at Elland Road, there seems to be no such continuity of care. The sad loss of Lucy Ward from her health and welfare role a few years back created a gap in the Leeds United system that remains arguably unfilled. These heartbreaking words from young Grot make for uneasy reading: “I am not someone who makes friends easily. And that also broke me up in England. Cooking, I had no problems with that. But coming home every day to an empty house, I had a hard time. I did nothing, nobody knew. I also had little contact with the other boys in the beginning”. The uncomfortable truth of the matter is that both fans and club could and should have done better in the case of Jay-Roy Grot and, going forward, they need to take this on board.

We must aim for less of the destructive booing from fans, less ignorant haranguing on Twitter, with more awareness and support coming from the club. This is not rocket science, and it’s simply not acceptable for a young player to feel as isolated as Grot evidently did. Maybe Leeds United should just ring Lucy Ward and beg her to come back? In the sad absence of the late, great Don Revie, Lucy is probably the best option.

RIP Paul Madeley, the Rolls Royce Footballer who Only Wanted to Play for Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Paul-Madeley-993215

RIP Paul Madeley, Leeds United’s “Rolls Royce” legend

Another star from the Super Leeds galaxy has left us, with the sad death of Paul Madeley at 73. Paul was the archetypal Mr Versatile, a man whose ability to excel in a number of diverse roles possibly even counted against him as he was less likely to pin down a regular starting berth in a team of superstars that carried all before them. For a team like that to be able to call on a man like Madeley was a godsend – we can only be thankful that “the eleven Pauls” were never far away whenever a gap appeared in the ranks due to injury or suspension.

Really, after that,  there are few words. We all know what Paul was all about, we know he’d have walked into just about any other side at that time, we know that he was preoccupied above all else with playing for Leeds United – to the extent that he told his manager he’d be happy to sign a blank contract and let his boss fill in the amounts and the term of the agreement. Contrast that with the prevailing attitude today, and it’s clear that we were lucky enough to have a real diamond for so long in Paul – and clear also  that we have just lost a genuine legend.

It’s appropriate really that we should take a short break from wondering which football mercenaries we might be recruiting for the season ahead, in order to raise a glass to the memory of Paul Madeley and his legacy of decency, service and loyalty. A better servant to the club he loved you will not find, and I say this in the full knowledge that his team-mates were from the elite end of the stars of that time. That Madeley’s name is a watchword for the qualities listed above, when his contemporaries at Elland Road could also be described thus, says so much about his status in the pantheon of Leeds United legends.

Versatile, dedicated, unselfish – irreplaceable.  RIP Paul Madeley, 1944 – 2018

From Milk Crate to Press Box, 42 Years at Leeds United’s Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

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Sitting where Frannie Lee wouldn’t dare – within right-hook range of Big Norm

My Elland Road history is one of a gradual progression that has seen me following the varied fortunes of Leeds United from many different vantage points within that famous old stadium. I started out in the much-lamented Lowfields Road stand, its venerable roof famously braced by cross wires to stop it being blown away by anything above a stiff breeze. My spectating debut was in the funny little “shelf” area that ran the length of the stand between the terraces below and the seats above. I attended a good few games there, with our Gray and, solemnly in charge, my Dad – who saw that our match-day equipment included milk crates for us kids to stand upon, thus enjoying some sort of view.

When I first started going to Elland Road independently, I stood on the Lowfields terraces, but found the passion and buffeting of that experience a little too much – softie that I was. So the next move was to the Boys’ Pen, in the North-East corner of the ground. I stayed there until a ticket mix-up meant that I faced a choice between missing a League Cup tie against Everton, and braving the rigours of the Kop. I screwed up my courage to make my debut on that mighty and cacophonous hill – and never looked back. From that time on, I was a dedicated Gelderd-Ender and the Kop years represent my golden era of United support.

When the Kop went all-seater in the wake of Hillsborough and the Taylor Report, it never felt quite the same to me, and I sympathise with those who never experienced the thrill and surge of a packed Gelderd. One moment I’ll always remember is when Dave Batty scored against Man City early in our League Title season of 1991/92. As Batty himself later admitted, he was never much of a goal-scorer “but, against City, I were prolific”. Over a hundred games after his previous goal, at City in the late 80s, Batts hit the back of the net against the same opponents in ’91 – and at the Gelderd End, too. The whole stadium erupted in joy unconfined; I believe injuries were sustained on the Kop that day but, trust me, nobody felt any pain. It was a magical moment, the stuff from which legends are woven.

When my time on the Kop came to an end, my attendance at Elland Road growing less frequent, I became something of a nomad, taking in the view from the South, West and East of the stadium.  I was getting older and more curmudgeonly, less able and willing to tolerate the stresses of a packed crowd, or of bored kids making me get up and sit down all the time as they passed to and fro. I was becoming my grumpy Dad and, frankly, it had ceased to be fun. I was even considering a flirtation with Ponte Collieries, though my heart and soul belong to Leeds and always will. I just couldn’t hack it any more; I’d never got over the loss of the terraces, not that I’d last five minutes there, these days.

But now I’m back, a habitué of the press area courtesy of semi-regular Leeds United newspaper columns and, though I say it myself as shouldn’t, what has become a pan-global blog. Finally, I’m finding myself somewhat cossetted in experiencing an environment a bit kinder to middle-aged sensibilities. Last Saturday, I watched the Ipswich Town match beside one of my heroes, Norman Hunter, a legend of the Don Revie era at Leeds. I was utterly star-struck, but Big Norm was chatty and amiable – until the game started. Then he was kicking every ball, totally absorbed in the action, grievously upset at every United mistake (and there seemed to be a lot). It was an education for me in terms of what an old pro expects of the current crop, with the desk in front of us taking some punishment as Norm fulminated away. On my other side was erstwhile press-box doyen Don Warters, former Leeds United correspondent for the Yorkshire Evening Post. As Norman stumped off just before full-time, on his way to do his corporate bit in one of the lounges, I remarked that he didn’t seem too happy. Don grinned and replied, “He never is”.

I guess such hyper-involvement and the severely critical outlook goes with the territory for those guys who’ve been there and done it, especially at the level Norman, Billy and the rest played. But still, looking on the bright side – we did win on the day to stay top and, despite a couple of awayday blips recently, we’re still doing quite well overall. The football has been genuinely exciting so far this campaign, a real pleasure to watch and even to write about. What’s more, it’s a great view among all the scribes, the club kindly provides sandwiches, coffee and other such civilised comforts – and the company is amazing. All in all, just when I thought I was coming to the end of my Leeds United journey, it’s really wonderful to be back at Elland Road.

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Lowfields Road

Lowfields Road stand, towards the end of its life – but with the “Shelf” easily identifiable

The Day the Leeds United Glory Trail Began – by Rob Atkinson

The first trophy for Revie's Boys

The first trophy for Revie’s Boys

Today was the day, 47 years ago, when the Leeds United glory trail started with victory over Arsenal in the League Cup Final at Wembley on March 2nd, 1968. It was a scrappy game between two sides not overly keen on each other – but it was settled by what was, literally, a dream of a goal.

The triumph of the Whites in the shadow of the twin towers that day marked the start of what was to be an honour-laden six years or so for Revie’s troops. In that time, they completed the domestic honours set with two League Titles, the FA Cup in 1972, and a Charity Shield. On foreign fields, they won two Inter-Cities Fairs Cups – as well as being robbed in the finals of the two other European competitions, as is copiously documented elsewhere. By the time Don Revie left for an ill-fated spell in charge of the England team, Leeds were indisputably the number one team in England; but their time at the top was done – the all-conquering squad, having matured together, was on the point of breaking up.

My tribute to the accepted first eleven of Revie’s genius squad is reproduced below. It’s one of three poems I’ve had published on FootballPoets.org and it makes specific reference to Terry Cooper‘s Wembley premonition. The Castleford lad, destined to be hailed as the best left-back on the planet at the World Cup of 1970, had dreamed for three successive nights of scoring the winner on that day so long ago.

When the dream came true, in the 18th minute of a dour encounter, there was a slight tinge of controversy. Arsenal ‘keeper Jim Furnell, backed by most of his team-mates, claimed that he had been impeded at a corner by Leeds’ Paul Madeley and Jack Charlton. But when the ball dropped twenty yards out, Cooper made a clean connection and cracked the ball into the back of the net for as good a Wembley winner as you could wish to see. After that, Leeds shut up shop (it’s known as “parking the bus” these days) and saw the match out to collect the first major silverware of the club’s history.

Thanks for the memories, Top Cat Cooper, Billy Bremner – and the rest of the boys, not forgetting The Don himself, of course. Happy days – Glory Days.

The Revie Boys

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 brave
Defying all attempts to save –
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

“Rolls Royce” Madeley, class and style
Dependable and versatile
Would walk into most other teams
But stayed to chase his glory dreams
For Leeds and England, servant true
Recognition overdue

Twelve great 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

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

 

 

Super Leeds and “The Last Real Champions” – by Rob Atkinson

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Big Jack Scores Against Sad Saints

If you should happen to be a football fan – as I am, and have been these many years, since days of yore with short shorts, middling ability and long sideburns – then you may well be in the habit of switching on the TV occasionally to watch the glitzy offerings of the munificently funded Premier League. With its incomparable array of prima donnas and fabulously wealthy superstars, prancing athletically around a pristine and manicured football pitch in the very latest state-of-the-art stadium (constructed courtesy of Meccano Inc.) – it’s a far cry from the heyday of The Football League, Divisions One to Four.

Back then, men were men, refs were nervous and physios routinely cured ruptured cruciates or shattered thighs with a damp sponge and hoarse exhortations to “gerron with it” – or so it seemed. Full-backs with legs of the type more usually to be found on billiard tables would careen through the mud at Elland Road or Anfield, some flash, quivering, overpaid at £200 a week winger in their merciless sights, destined to be afflicted with acute gravel-rash. Centre-backs with foreheads like sheer cliffs would head muddy balls clear to the halfway line, get up out of the mire, groggily shake their mighty frames, and then do it all over again – for the full 90 minutes, Brian. The good old days, without a doubt.

There is little that the modern game has in common with those far-off, non-High Definition times when some top-flight games weren’t even covered by a local TV camera for a brief clip on regional news. Now, every kick of ball or opponent is available in super slow-mo for in-depth analysis by a battery of experts, from a dozen different angles. The game today is under the microscope seven days a week, where then it was viewed only from afar, limited to highlights from a select few stadia every Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon. Even now, the smell of hot ironing and roast beef with Yorkshire Pud will take me back to Sabbath afternoons sat contentedly before “Sunday Soccer” as Bremner, Giles & Co dismantled the hapless opposition.

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Super Leeds

Leeds United was the team, back then. On their day, the lads would toy with their rivals as a particularly cruel cat might do with a half-dead mouse. Many will recall the spectacle of a mortally-wounded Southampton side – already seven goals to nil down near the end of the game – trying all they knew to get a touch of the ball as their tormentors in white passed it effortlessly between themselves, brazenly flaunting their catalogue of flicks, reverse balls and sublime long passes. The game was long since won and all Leeds’ energies were palpably focused on a very public humiliation of their exasperated victims. Some thought it was in poor taste, a shoddy way to treat fellow professionals. Leeds fans remember it 40 years on as the ultimate statement of an undeniably top team, proclaiming to the nation “Look at us. We are the best.”

This was 1972, when Leeds might well have won pretty much everything, but had to settle in the end for their solitary FA Cup triumph, missing out on the Title right at the death in typically controversial circumstances. Leeds won far less than they should have done; a combination of official intransigence, their own inherent self-doubt on certain big occasions, Don Revie’s crippling caution and superstition – together it must be said with some shockingly bad luck – limited their trophy haul to a mere trickle when it should have been a flood. But those flickering images of arrogant dominance and untouchable skill revealed also an unbreakable brotherhood and grisly determination that spoke of a very special team indeed. The resonance even today of that oft-repeated tag “Super Leeds” says far more about the status of Revie’s side than any mundane tally of trophies possibly could.

In those days, of course, the gulf in ability between Leeds United and Southampton, described by Match of the Day commentator Barry Davies as “an almighty chasm”, was just that. The gap in class was achieved on merit. It wasn’t backed up by any such gulf in the relative earnings of the men in white and the demoralised Saints, or players of any other club. The playing field back then was very much more level than it is now, when the top few clubs – in an apt metaphor for society at large – cream off the bulk of the income, leaving the rest to feed on scraps. The pool of possible Champions was consequently greater – Derby County won it that year of Southampton’s ritual humiliation, as Leeds faltered when required to play their last League game a mere two days after a gruelling Cup Final. Imagine the outcry if one of the major teams had to do that today! And ask yourself if a Derby County or a Nottingham Forest are likely to be Champions again in the near future, blocked off as they are from that status by the oligarchy at the Premier League’s top table.

There aren’t many more hackneyed phrases than “The Good Old Days” – but for those who like their sporting competition to have a wide and varied base, with the possibility of a good proportion of the participants actually having a chance to win in any given season – then the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s take some beating. Leeds United fans like to refer to their team of 1992 as “The Last Real Champions”, and a convincing case can be made for this, looking at the transformation which took place shortly thereafter, the explosion in finances for the chosen few, and the small number of clubs – invariably backed by mega-millions – who have been Champions since. Even the once-mighty Liverpool FC has been affected. Despite Leeds United’s current problems, they have been Champions more recently than the Anfield Reds.

It’s perhaps fitting that Leeds have a claim to the accolade of Last Real Champions. As Super Leeds, they dominated English Football for a decade, without ever winning their due. Now that we can look back to a turning point for the game 23 years ago when the Premier League broke away, and the cash registers started to make more noise than disillusioned fans, we can possibly consider those 1992 Champions, nod to ourselves, and say yes; they were the last of the old guard, the final Champions of the Good Old Days.

As epitaphs go, it’s not a bad one.

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

McDermott Seeks Re-birth of “Scary” Leeds United – by Rob Atkinson

Scary Leeds Salute Their Scary Fans

Scary Leeds Salute Their Scary Fans

A lot has been heard of the recent GFH mantra since the joyous ousting of Ken Bates – in an understandable effort to erase the nightmares of the Uncle Ken era from supporters’ minds, the new owners have been telling us “Forget the past – it’s all about the future”. All very well, and definitely positive in its way – but surely, a club like Leeds needs to hang on to some of its past, the grand old traditions, the glorious history?

One man certainly thinks so, and you could hardly find anyone the fans are more likely to look up to right now.  Boss Brian McDermott is setting about sorting the future out, alright – but he also has a wise and admiring eye on the past.

One manifestation of this is the restoration of a pre-match ritual that many, including myself, remember very fondly.  When I first started going to watch Leeds, you knew what to expect before kick-off at Elland Road.  The other lot would shamble out, they’d head to their allotted territory at the Elland Road end of the stadium and then kick a ball or two around between them sheepishly, aware that they had to face the Leeds United side and just about the most hostile and partisan crowd anywhere.  Then the Kop and the other United parts of the ground would start the chant “Bring on the Champions!”, before the warriors finally entered the arena.

Out they would file, United, purposeful and focused, clad all in white, muscular and determined. With not a glance to the cowering opposition, scattered in their preparatory warm-up, the Leeds United team stayed together as they arrived in the centre-circle. Here they would line up, raise their right arms in unison to salute the faithful, staying in disciplined line as each man, arm still aloft, turned to greet every section of the support to roars of approbation.

It used to make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, this telling statement of intent, this confident, almost arrogant, affirmation of superiority.  It pre-dated the “We Are Leeds” terrace chant, but that message still came across, loud and clear.  It was unique, special. It was Leeds, Leeds, Leeds alone – and there was no other team like us.

But then, it just stopped.

It probably took me a few matches to fully appreciate the awful truth that the pre-match salute had indeed been abandoned.  I was absolutely gutted; it was a time of transition and we were not the force we had been – but this betrayal of tradition, as it seemed to me, was the ultimate acceptance that the Glory Days of Mighty Leeds – Super Leeds – were finally gone.  Gone for good, as far as I knew.  Fans had much less of a voice back then; there might have been some protests, but nothing was done.

But now we have Brian McDermott.  Softly-spoken but dedicated and committed Brian, fiercely determined and one with the fans Brian.  Brian who wasted no time in distancing himself from his lifelong ambition to manage the Republic of Ireland, declaring instead that he has a job to do at Leeds United, a job he’s proud and thrilled to have and one where he’s single-minded in his resolve to succeed.

Now this new idol of the Leeds support, long-suffering and battered as we’ve been over the past disastrous decade, is giving us back some of the glorious pieces of our past we’d thought lost forever.  And he’s started with the Leeds salute as practiced by King Billy & Co all those years ago.  As a symbol of not only a new era, but a new era that is intended to re-awaken past glories and return us to the top of the game, this could hardly be more potent or evocative.  Not for the first time in his short career at Leeds, Brian has hit the nail unerringly on the head.

What can you say about a man like that, who’s come into the club as a stranger and so completely fastened on to the Leeds United legend that he knows, instinctively what we all want, what Leeds United needs.  How can you express what it means to us all?  He knows what’s needed and he acts upon it.

Results-wise, achievement-wise, we’re at the beginning of a very long journey.  There will be pitfalls on the road ahead, set-backs in our progress, times when we all doubt where we’re heading.  Money is so integral to success now and Brian McDermott will rely on his board for support as he bids to succeed.  But steps like this – just the simple restoration of an iconic tradition – speak volumes for the man and his ability to feel what it is to be Leeds.  He loved that old salute, he says.  He loved seeing them walk out like soldiers, he remembers it being “a bit scary”.  McDermott knows what makes a club tick, he’s in tune with this club’s legends.

Brian McDermott is already well on the way to becoming a Leeds United Legend himself.