Tag Archives: The Damned United

Blatant Leeds-Bashing Exposes Amateur Face of Sky Sports   –   by Rob Atkinson

Sky Sports resident has-been Don Goodman

Sky Sports resident has-been Don Goodman

No writer worth his salt – not even a humble blogger such as yours truly – rushes into print with a knee-jerk conclusion based upon sketchy evidence. So you may take it as read that I have ample justification for what I’m about to say. I can point to instance without number of the kind of thing that most recently happened in the live transmission of Huddersfield Town‘s home game against my beloved Leeds United – indeed, I’ve had occasion to mention it before in the course of this season so far.

So I am absolutely entitled to say without fear of contradiction that Sky Sports‘ coverage of Leeds is characterised by shoddy amateurism, blatant prejudice and a naked desire to cater, not to fans of the Whites, but to the large anti-Leeds constituency out there, who pay their subscriptions and want to see their most-disliked team properly hammered, on the pitch, off it, or ideally both. It’s a huge market of clueless haters – and BSkyB evidently know which side their bread is buttered.

The Huddersfield game contained all the usual ingredients; an undertone of desperate desire for United’s opposition to do well (typified by the rising cadence of anticipatory excitement if the home side managed a shot on goal or a dive for a penalty appeal); a less than sympathetic interpretation of the refereeing decisions on the day, the over-riding assumption being that Leeds got all of the breaks; last but not least, the presence of Sky Sports’ very own anti-Leeds hatchet man in Don Goodman, someone who can always be relied upon to see every facet of any game in a distinctly anti-Leeds light.

The game’s most notable early incident was a clash of heads between Leeds defenders Scott Wootton and Liam Cooper prior to a United corner. The incident was serious enough for Cooper to be knocked unconscious; Wootton fared better, but can hardly have been unaffected by such a harsh meeting of minds. Once Cooper had been replaced by Sol Bamba, with Wootton able to continue, the game proceeded. Over the remaining time in the first half, Wootton committed two challenges which were definitely late and inaccurate – not something we’re unfamiliar with, even when the lad’s head is as clear as it ever gets. Goodman was quick to criticise after the first foul, for which Wootton was booked. “Cynical”, he pronounced, making no allowances for Wootton’s legendary clumsiness or the quite probable after-effects of the Cooper incident. It was noticeable that a couple of studs over the ball challenges on Leeds by Huddersfield drew no criticism, just something bland along the lines of “no malice in that”.

Wootton’s second badly-timed challenge in quick succession had both commentators calling for a second yellow and United down to ten men. Technically, they had a point; the ref could easily have booked Wootton for a second time. But it’s just as possible that he was making allowances for the clash of heads incident, as well as the fact that, on both occasions, Wootton might be said to have been going for the ball, but simply not good enough to get anywhere near it. And the fact is that, seconds prior to Wootton’s second foul, there was a blatant push on Lewis Cook that went unremarked by the commentators and unpunished by the officials. Anyway, these things happen in football and the talking heads are extremely choosy about what they pick up on. Several agricultural Huddersfield challenges during the game passed by with no action from the ref and no adverse comment from Goodman. Late in the game, there was a blatant kick out at a Leeds player by one of the Tesco carrier bags – Goodman just mumbled something about frustration.

The biggest single example of frustration on the day, though, was Goodman himself. He was still whinging about Wootton’s presence on the pitch as the United defender played a long ball down the line, for Stuart Dallas and Chris Wood to combine before Dallas crossed brilliantly to put the first goal on a plate for Mirco Antenucci. A fine goal, which lacked any description of the build-up as Goodman was still riding his hobby-horse. When he recovered from the disappointment of seeing Leeds score, Goodman could only bemoan the fact that “Football is unfair, life is unfair.” So it is, and the very best of hard cheese. The fact is that this embittered ex-footballer only seems to see injustice when Leeds benefit from it.

For the rest of the game, the resentment about Wootton remained a theme, with the only variety provided by snide remarks about United manager Steve Evans being unable to predict his own future beyond the final whistle. Don Goodman’s contribution to a great day for Leeds and for the long-suffering United fans was to carp, moan, bitch and ultimately resort to needless speculation about the prospects of a man who seems to be relishing his task in the Elland Road hot-seat, as well as getting stuck into that task in his own inimitable style.

Ironically, there was scope for some really informed comment if the amateurs behind the microphones had only identified and acted upon it. Some robust challenges went unpunished in the game and, yes, Scott Wootton could easily have seen red before half-time. Most of the officials’ energies seemed devoted to off-field transgressions of the mildest variety. Antenucci got himself booked by taking off his shirt after the first goal, revealing a yellow undershirt with a birthday message on it. Players keep doing this, and they keep getting daft bookings for it. There’s little discretion for refs to do otherwise, and that’s a cause for concern, being ridiculous overkill on the part of the powers that be.

Similarly, the fourth official‘s  main preoccupation, so it seemed, was to stop Steve Evans celebrating after each goal. What a joyless, clueless, ignorant approach to running a game full of passion, commitment and occasional explosive joy. So what if Evans cavorts on the touchline? So what if Antenucci, or any other player, dispenses with his shirt after scoring? Nobody died, after all – and I’d rather see some of the studs-up thugs getting their rightful bookings than this pettifogging, spoilsport obsession with punishing people, simply for celebrating. These annoyingly-beige people might one day succeed in taking all the spontaneity and all the passion out of the game – and where, pray, will we be then?

This sort of arse-about-face set of priorities was and is something that commentators would do well to highlight, given their prominent public platform. But, no. They’d rather take the easy road of showing their true colours – i.e. anything but yellow blue and white when Leeds United are in town. It reflects poorly on Sky and their hatchet-men of choice; it shows them up in a distinctly amateurish and prejudiced light – and it’s happened so many times now that many Leeds fans I know have stopped even laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. They’re rightly annoyed that Leeds are singled out for such treatment – especially from a has-been nonentity like Don Goodman.

It would be wonderfully surprising and uplifting if BSkyB could eliminate this shoddy flaw in their production values, so that the commentary at Championship games might perhaps approach the quality and sheer professionalism that characterises most of their excellent football coverage. But I won’t be holding my breath. Leeds-bashing has long been a national sport, in the media and among rival fans – and Sky all too clearly have their markets to cater to, including that rather large anti-Leeds contingent I mentioned earlier. Still, it’s annoying for those of us who keep the faith and know that Leeds United is a proud and historic name still. And it’s a great pity that Sky, for all their glitz and gloss, continue to employ bitter little men with bitter little minds to sully that name where and when they can.

‘Twas ever thus though, way back to the days of the Don’s Super Leeds. It’s much more “in yer face” now, that’s the thing, with cameras at every game and Leeds-haters well infiltrated into every branch of the media. They should be aware though, that we know the bitter whys and the commercial wherefores of what goes on – and we won’t put up with it in silence. Certainly not on this blog – so think on, Goodman & Co. We’re watching you, so just mind your step.

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Graham Salisbury Not QUITE the Worst Ref Ever: Top Five Leeds Official Hate Figures – by Rob Atkinson

Webb:  Not as Bent as Michas or Kitabdjian

Webb: A Sad Loss to the Pride of Devon – Yet Not as Bent as Michas or Kitabdjian

Just to put into a proper context Graham Sainsbury’s dreadful performance as match referee for Leeds v Brentford, I thought I’d highlight some famous instances where Leeds have signally failed to get the rub of the green over the years.

Despite the fact that, currently, it’s the elderly and bewildered dotards of the Football League itself girding their withered loins to deal our club a death blow (with the current batch of refs, Clueless Sainsbury among them, seemingly happy to help) the focus here is on the men in the middle rather than those clueless suits at the top. I’ve had no compunction at all about naming and shaming – these gentlemen should really be in the stocks, getting mercilessly pelted with the finest and rankest of rotten fruit and veg.

So here we go; in reverse order of spectacular bentness and/or incompetent buffoonery, these are the Top Five candidates for “Injustice of the 20th Century”:

No. 5:  Wolves 2, Leeds 1  –  8th May 1972  (Ref: Bill Gow)

I’ve placed this as least serious from a refereeing point of view because – in the crucial penalty incident – Mr Gow was unsighted and badly let down by his linesman J C Collins of Macclesfield, an inexperienced official who apparently “froze”. It does seem to have been a blatant handball and a definite penalty though – in a match where Leeds would win the Title and therefore the “Double” if they could avoid defeat. Tellingly, Mr Gow got home that night to be greeted by his wife saying “It looked a penalty on the telly.” My main culprits for this game are the callous officials of the FA and Football League, who insisted a tired team should play a title decider a mere two days after a gruelling FA Cup Final against Arsenal. Leeds did not even get to celebrate their Cup triumph, heading straight off to Wolverhampton with their battered and wounded bodies and their missing heroes. It was a shoddy affair that you could not envisage these days. Respected “Guardian” writer Eric Todd described the uncaring treatment of a gallant Leeds side as “scandalous”.

No. 4:  Leeds United 1, West Brom 2  –  17 April 1971  (Ref: Ray Tinkler)

No doubts about the culprit here. Ray “Bastard” Tinkler’s face as he walked off the Elland Road pitch after this display wore a tellingly apprehensive expression; that of a man who knew he was heading out of a storm and into a typhoon. The game turned on an offside call – or more accurately, two of them. Already one down against opponents they’d been expected to beat easily, Leeds were pressing hard. A victory was vital in the race for the Title, anything less would pass the advantage to Arsenal. Then, Norman Hunter gave the ball away on halfway with most of the Leeds side committed forward. The ball bounced off Tony Brown into the Leeds half where a clearly-offside Colin Suggett was loitering as the linesman flags for the free-kick.Tony Brown continued his run when Tinkler failed to blow in response to the flag, passed the ball to Astle – also in an offside position – who scored. A season’s work, in the words of Don Revie, was undone in a few mad moments. Barry Davies, commentating for the BBC, memorably remarked “…and Leeds will go mad.  And they’ve every right to go mad..”  Strong stuff from a sober professional. In the wake of the crowd disturbances that ensued, Leeds were forced to play their first home games of the following season away from Elland Road, a sanction that led to points being dropped, and probably contributing to their narrow failure to win the 1972 title as well. So Mr. Tinkler may well have done us for two Championship crowns. Cheers, Ray – you utter, utter git.

No. 3:  Chelsea 1, Leeds United 0  –  FA Cup Semi-final at Villa Park  29 April 1967  (Ref:  Ken Burns)

The classic FA Cup Semi: two fine teams, not at all fond of each other – the fashionable Kings Road fancy dans of Chelsea against Don Revie’s battle-hardened stormtroopers. Or so the Press would have it. Chelsea were ahead late on, a fine goal from Tony Hateley being the difference. Leeds thought they’d drawn level when Cooper scored, but the effort was chalked off for offside, despite vociferous complaints from the Leeds players who swore blind that Cooper had come from an onside position. Then, a free kick 25 yards out. The ref took some seconds organising Chelsea’s defensive wall, and then caught the eye of John Giles – a commonly-accepted signal for the free kick to be taken. Giles rolled the ball to Lorimer, who smashed it into Bonetti’s net. Leeds were joyful, Chelsea despaired – but referee Burns ruled the goal out, ordering a retake because Chelsea’s wall was not far enough back – a technical offence against Leeds. As the commentator declared, “They’ll have to look through the rule book backwards to find a reason.” The retaken free-kick came to nothing, and Leeds were out of the Cup in the cruellest circumstances.

No. 2:  Bayern Munich 2, Leeds United 0 – European Cup Final, Parc des Princes, Paris May 28 1975 (Ref: Michel Kitabdjian)

40 years on, this still sticks in the collective craw of Leeds United fans. 40 years on, we still sing “We are the Champions, Champions of Europe” in ritual protest. Two blatant penalty shouts in the first half, the guilty man on both occasions was Der Kaiser, Franz Beckenbauer.  First he handled blatantly in the area, and then a “scissors” tackle on Allan Clarke – you wondered how anyone could fail to give either.  Leeds were completely outplaying Bayern, drawing sympathy even from the English TV commentator who was bemoaning the lack of a more even contest.  Then in the second half the ball falls perfectly for Peter Lorimer just outside the Bayern penalty area.  Lorimer times his volley superbly, and it flies into the net, beating Sepp Maier all ends up.  Then confusion as the goal seems to be given, until Beckenbauer urgently directs the ref to speak to his linesman.  More confusion, then the goal is disallowed.  Bayern score twice against a demoralised Leeds near the end, and the European Cup is snatched from the hands of Revie’s old guard; the triumph that was to crown their careers torn away in the most dubious fashion imaginable.

No. 1:  Leeds United 0, AC Milan 1 – ECWC Final, Salonika, Greece 16 May 1973 (Ref: Christos Michas)

This is the Grand-daddy of bent matches, a game almost universally acknowledged to have been as straight as a corkscrew, allegations of bribery, the referee banned by UEFA afterwards – and still the 1973 Trophy is written into the extensive honours list of AC Milan.  Justice, as they say, is a gag.  Peter Lorimer on the match: “It was wholly, indisputably and wretchedly bent…”  Johnny Giles was out with an injured hamstring, but he’d been working for the media and had heard that the ref was “in Milan’s pocket”.  His gloomy view before the game was that it was one Leeds United wouldn’t be allowed to win.  Three minutes gone, and Milan are awarded a free-kick, a decision that could charitably be described as dodgy.  A weak shot takes a cruel deflection on its way into the Leeds net, and it’s 1-0 early on.  From then onwards, it was a story of United pressure thwarted by thuggish challenges from the Milanese, decision after decision going against the increasingly frustrated and demoralised Leeds team, two, possibly three good penalty shouts waved away by Michas, and inevitably the game finished with Milan leading by that early goal, collecting the trophy to hoots of anger and derision from the outraged Greek crowd who cheered the defeated Leeds side as they limped round on a lap of honour “after this most dishonourable of matches.”

There has been a petition to UEFA with a view to overturning the result in this wretched blot on the history of the game, awarding the trophy and medals retrospectively to Leeds.  UEFA did nothing.  I even started a second petition myself as, since the original effort in 2009, Christos Michas has died and is therefore not in a position to have his tender feelings wounded by justice being done.  So it seemed appropriate to try to revive the matter – after all, why should UEFA be permitted to sit complacently on such a scandalously unfair outcome? But it’s Leeds, so it’ll take a lot more than petitions to right this and other wrongs.

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Leeds have frequently been the victims of poor decisions and examples of prejudice against them over the years.  They are still, to the best of my knowledge, the only team to concede a goal to the background of the referee punching the air in celebration – supposedly of a good advantage decision, but really?  Would it happen if the victims had been Man U?  In 1987, an FA black-tie junket broke out into cheers of joy when news arrived of Leeds’ Play-off Final replay defeat against Charlton.  We appear to be hated by dopey prats everywhere.

These are the five most blatant examples I could find of occasions when “The Damned United” have suffered at the hands of officialdom, referees in particular.  I’m sure there are many less famous instances, and I’d be interested to hear the recollections of others. More recent examples could include retrospective action against Lee Bowyer which ruled what was our star man that season out of a Champions League semi-final against Valencia (check out a blatant handball for the first goal in the away leg, too) plus a dodgy re-examination of an incident involving Jermaine Beckford at home to Millwall in a vital League One game as we were going for promotion.

It’s a well-known saying in the game that bad decisions, like bad luck, tends to even out over time so that all teams are more or less equal in the long run.  I think any Leeds fan who has even a passing acquaintance with the club’s history would have a wry grin at that one. This weekend’s travesty of a refereeing performance can only strengthen the feeling that the whistle-happy pillocks really do have it in for us; yet, on reflection, it does seem fair to say that Graham Sainsbury, or even Man U fanatic Howard Webb, pictured at the top there, is very small fry indeed, when compared to the Rogues Gallery detailed above. However bad things are now, let’s comfort ourselves with the thought – they’ve been worse in the past!

Mirror Reports Brazilian International is Latest to Quit Leeds – by Rob Atkinson

Brazilian midfield genius Embargo - leaving Leeds

Brazilian midfield genius Embargo – leaving Leeds

In yet another Elland Road exclusive, the Mirror can disclose that the latest high-profile star to turn his back on the troubled West Yorkshire giants is expected finally to depart the club today.

Your Sensational Soaraway Mirror (Ed: is this soaraway thing OK, or is it already in use??) has been keeping a close eye on developments at Leeds over the past few months, and has been able to keep their long-suffering fans up to date with what is rapidly becoming a summer of humiliation for the once-mighty “Lilywhites” (check if this is actually Leeds, or just Spurs or someone – Ed.)

Only yesterday, we reported the latest in a series of embarrassing cost-cutting measures, with players being required to bring packed lunches, wash their own kit, pay to train and hire the stadium for home matches whilst coughing up for travel and overnight stays on away trips. Your ever-reliable Mirror* has also charted the inevitable departures from the club, faithfully reporting the exit of Ross McCormack to Newcastle, Norwich and Fulham for a fee of £6m, £8m and ten MILLION pounds.

Now, in the most worrying development yet, the Mirror understands that the transfer of Embargo, a tricky Brazilian international playmaker, is set to be confirmed today, in the latest shattering blow to the crisis-torn club’s already slender hopes for the coming season. The burning question is: how much more are the worried fans of Leeds United actually prepared to take??  (Ed: could we stretch this to a double-page feature – really take the piss? Who is this Embargo anyway, has he figured in the World Cup??)

With the loss of Embargo, the Leeds midfield options look to be severely limited. In an interview which took place yesterday in the head of our Chief Sportswriter, Oliver Scum, ex-Leeds star Eddie Lorimer stated: “It’s ridiculous. We were going to build a team around Embargo, and now he’s going – and we’re not even being told where.” (Ed: maybe ditch this bit and make up a Norwich connection??)

Whatever the outcome of this summer’s wheeling and dealing, it seems certain that, for Leeds United – shorn of their world-class, globally celebrated Brazilian midfield genius Embargo (Ed: steady on, old boy – we don’t even know who he is yet) – this is going to be a long, hard season, culminating in relegation, bankruptcy, administration and flats being built on the site of a demolished Elland Road. (Like it, like it!! – Ed.)

Yes, it’s party time at the Mirror. Help us celebrate folks – buy tomorrow’s paper with its 28-page pullout on “The Death of Leeds United”. Yippee!!!!

* Mirror: means of seeing everything back-to-front and the wrong way round.

Super Leeds: The Last Champions – by Rob Atkinson

Stand Up For The Last Champions

Stand Up For The Last Champions

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 heads, and then do it all over again – for the full 90 minutes, Brian, giving it 110%.  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 Billy Bremner and Co dismantled the hapless opposition.

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 passing.  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, Don Revie’s crippling caution and superstitions – 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 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 title of The Last Champions.  As Super Leeds, they dominated English Football for a decade, without ever winning their due.  Now that we can look back with misty eyes to a turning point for the game 21 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.

The Pride of “The Damned United”

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Was ever another phrase so obviously coined with one intention, only to be taken up and brandished with pride to the completely opposite effect? Author David Peace – a Huddersfield Town fan – has described his book “The Damned United” as “an occult history of Leeds United.” The word “history” in this connection is somewhat optimistic – the book is decidedly fictionalised, and the point of view is the imagined perspective of Brian Clough as he struggled through his 44 days in what could fairly be described as enemy territory. The book was a success, met by a measure of critical acclaim. The film it spawned was of more dubious quality, famous for the lengthy list of goofs on its Internet Movie Database page, and widely regarded as particularly one-eyed in its depiction of personalities and events, none of which bears much resemblance to actuality.

It is the tag though – that Damned United tag – which seems set fair to achieve iconic status, and not with the intended pejorative effect. With a typical sense of gallows humour, devotees of the Elland Road club have taken the label and made of it a badge of honour, waving it under the nose of the millions who despise Leeds United as a symbol of inverted defiance. We Are The Damned United, they say – do your worst. The tiresome recycling of allegations about Don Revie, the endless litany of “Dirty Leeds” myths and the omnipresent attitude that the West Yorkshire club exemplify all that is shady about football, all of this is held up to ridicule as those who love the club glory in the new name. Sod the lot of you. We are Dirty Leeds, The Damned United, and we are proud. It’s a unifying message, the foundations of a siege complex that can rally support behind any popularly-hated institution. It’s an assertion of individuality, of a refusal to conform to the cosy standards beloved of media and Establishment. It takes gritty character to be a Leeds fan in the face of such universal hatred, and those of sufficient character know they’re part of something unique and special. We Are The Damned United.

It’s also had the welcome effect of reclaiming a measure of ownership and identification with that word “United”. It’s highly doubtful that Town fan Peace could have foreseen or desired that effect, but there it undoubtedly is. For decades, the press, the football establishment in the UK and elsewhere – and of course Man U themselves – have been unrelenting in their efforts to corner the term “United” exclusively for the Salford-based franchise. It’s been an important marketing tool, a vital part of the attempt to sell the myth of The Biggest Club In The World™ (Copyright © The Gutter Press since the late 50’s) to children of all ages from Devon to Singapore. It’s seeped into the public consciousness like the subliminally insidious selling technique it is, and of course the tat-consuming, replica-shirt-buying, Sky-subscribing suckers have fallen for it in their millions. But now there is The Damned United, inextricably linked with Dirty Leeds, and suddenly that formerly football-related suffix isn’t quite so exclusively Man U any more.

Dirty Leeds The Damned United

The contrasting psyches of the Leeds United and Man U support is an apt illustration of how the two sets of fans have embraced such polar-opposites in terms of club and image. The Man U fans desperately want that monopoly of terminology, they need to believe the press-powered fairy-tale that there’s “only one United”. The motivation for being identified with what they are always being told is the “biggest and best” has a Freudian compulsion at the back of it, a sense that there is an inadequacy which yearns to be compensated for, an insecurity which needs bolstering. There are people like that everywhere, victims of society, and so you find Man U fans all over the place, as common and undiscriminating as flies. Leeds fans, on the other hand, tend to support their team – where the connection isn’t simply local and tribal – for reasons of perverse pride. It’s a manifestation of defiance and a refusal to be categorised as a commercial target group. The pride is palpable, and the negative image of the club feeds this. Sod you lot. We Are The Damned United. The emergence of such a potentially iconic label was not good news for Man U-inclined inhabitants of armchairs everywhere, and again, this is not an effect the author would have counted as one of his aims in producing his work.

Thanks, Mr Peace. You could hardly have aided our cause any more effectively, and Dirty Leeds have gained from the exposure in popular culture. The book may have been an attempted exposition of Clough’s state of mind as that complex character negotiated his time in purgatory; the film may have been an amusing romp through the mythical hinterland that borders but rarely intrudes on the territory of actual fact. But the label will probably out-live the pair of them, and will flutter bravely and proudly in the vanguard of the Leeds United juggernaut as it – eventually – thunders its way back to The Top.