The Soul Of Leeds In 50 Moments

25 May 2011 08:25
The Soul Of Leeds In 50 Moments 50) The rewriting of history Revie's Leeds played a beautiful version of football that now makes Chelsea look like the witless second team from The Dog and Duck. Sadly, this truth has been lost by cynical London megaphones who champion the nastiness and ignore the good. 49) One Mick Jones One of the good things about Leeds fans is they do not ring up football phone-ins like 606 to air pointless views about whether their side is good/bad/not bad. Instead they contribute to websites like, which bills itself as 'football talk for Clash-city rockers' and mixes discussion of Dennis Wise with debates about Ian Rankin novels and religious fundamentalism. 48) My favourite player In the late 1970s and almost all the 1980s Leeds was not a good place. The team was rubbish, the violence fortnightly and nasty little National Front men would dole out their leaflets by the main gates. But then there was Tony Currie, an absolutely fantastic flair player in midfield, blowing kisses, sitting on the ball and basically playing the role of PT Barnum to Frank Lampard's one-trick pony. 47) Dodgy dealings and trench warfare. Fittingly for a club held in the same esteem as a bad dose of haemorrhoids by non-believers, the club was formed when Leeds City were killed off for a series of financial irregularities, including the heinous crime of paying players during the First World War. They should have got a medal. 46) David Wetherall and a tasty buffet Wetherall was a solid, dependable centre-half in a pretty average side. But on September 27, 1997 he headed in the winner against Manchester United at Old Trafford. Wins over the Rain City Miserablists are rare and so this was to be cherished. It was also the day I got married and it beat many a silver photograph frame and china soup bowl from John Lewis, I can tell you. 45) From Dullsville to the eternal city in one easy move The George Graham era was synonymous with old lags like Mark Hateley and a quite astoundingly bad centre-half called Robert Molenaar. Yet it is worth remembering Gorgeous George took Leeds to fifth in his last season. Enter David O'Leary and, briefly, it was brilliant. Against Roma in the Uefa Cup, he blooded the youngsters - McPhail, Woodgate, Smith et al. They lost but the future was floodlight bright. 44) An iconic kit Okay, so we pinched the idea from Real Madrid, but it is still the best kit this side of Spain. Blue is dull, red is showy and West Ham, Burnley and Aston Villa are interchangeable. All white is design simplicity, perfectly highlighting Billy Bremner's carrot top and Peter Haddock's pastiness. Add a purple tracksuit in the 70s and you could have been in the Tate Modern. 43) Billy Bremner and Kevin Keegan I know journalists are meant to adopt the moral high ground, but who did not get some vicarious pleasure out of seeing Billy Bremner thump Kevin Keegan in the first Charity Shield played at Wembley back in 1974? For those of us who do not wish football to become a happy-clappy knees-up round the camp-fire while Cristiano Ronaldo sings 'Kum By Ah', this is a priceless memory. Bremner got an eight-match ban, even though it was Johnny Giles' fault. 42) Chris Whyte Need I say more. 41) The sale of Woodgate In time everybody worth two bob would be flogged, but the sale of Woodgate was symbolic of the crash. There followed a farcical press conference when Terry Venables grimaced and bore it manfully. That said, Venables' later claim that he had no chance at Leeds because he was a southerner was suspect. His failure to win over the fans may also have had something to do with his team being useless. 40) The cult of Alan Smith Smithy was the new Batty, a teak-tough Tyke who you could identify with more readily than Tomas Brolin. If you want to become a fans' favourite there is no better policy than being born near the ground and scoring with your first ever touch against Liverpool. Timing his tackles by a sundial, Smith was a terrace star for a while, even if he never had Harry Kewell's skill or Mark Viduka's strike rate. 39) The departure of Alan Smith Smith's departure cut deeper than those of Cantona and Charles put together. Why? Because Smith was big on badge-kissing and had said he would stay with the club if they went down. Cheap talk. He jumped quickly and then justified moving to Leeds' most detested rivals by saying they were not technically a rival because they were not in the same division, and that one day in the future he would come back. When Leeds were playing at a level to suit him of course. Sod off, you over-rated pipsqueak. 38) Badge of honour and acid house There was a time when the club badge meant something. The fabled lufc scripted logo was classy iconography, but the replacement, the smiley badge, was surely the greatest emblem football has ever witnessed, neatly bridging the generation gap from psychedelia to acid house. Certainly better than a tawny owl. 37) Professor Plum in the hotel lobby with the lead piping Ridsdale's successor was Professor John McKenzie, whose low points included chasing Harry Kewell down the M62 with a fax machine, and then meeting Peter Reid in the full glare of the press and public in a Halifax hotel to decide his future. Still, it was a fish-free reign. 36) Paranoia Pt I Leeds have become the first club to be docked 25 points in a two-tiered attack for going into administration. That the other Football League clubs - i.e the team's opponents - voted for this is beyond belief. Stitched up like kippers, the systematic destruction of the club in recent times has been used to settle personal prejudices. The League is a joke but nobody cares because of points 1-50. 35) David Harvey's Monkey The team spirit of the Leeds squad was deep-rooted. Witness this tale from Gary Sprake. "We were a happy family then," he said. "I remember David coming in the day his pet monkey committed suicide. It had put its head in the oven. David was crying his eyes out and, of course, we burst out laughing." Well, close most of the time anyway. 34) The 1996 Coca-Cola debacle How can a man go from such flat-capped glory to the dunce-hat depths of making Savo Milosevic look like a world beater? Wilko said he was emotionally disembowelled after the meek 3-0 surrender to an average Aston Villa side in Leeds' first Wembley final since Sunderland in 73. That was a posh way of saying gutted. We were grateful but he had to go. 33) Hatchet men with nice socks The introduction of the sock tag, designed by Spurs fan, former world speed-kissing champ and Roy of the Rovers artist, Paul Trevillion, was football's last great fashion innovation. Utterly pointless and enduringly brilliant, the fripperies of Revie's Leeds cemented the legend. 32) Leeds United On Trial A few days after the trial ended, O'Leary's book of the above title was published. It was crass, insensitive and badly-written. The book was in the shops and the writing on the wall. O'Leary and Bowyer, arguably the best player during Leeds' re-emergence, fell out, the team imploded and from being top on New Year's Day, 2002, drifted out of the Champions League places. 31) The mythologising of Eric Cantona Having won first and second division titles in the space of two years, Howard Wilkinson would be lampooned for selling Cantona. The fact is Cantona's importance to Leeds has been overstated. "I don't recall him scoring too many clinchers," Gordon Strachan said. He actually scored nine league goals. He gave Leeds added impetus, but nobody expected him to go on and do what he did at Old Trafford. "Eric likes to do what he likes, when he likes and then f**** off," Wilkinson said. Quite. 30) David Batty doesn't cry Leeds fans love players who dish it out but have a bit of world-weary perspective. It's a Yorkshire thing and comes from growing up in the land of sooty black buildings and Alan Bennett. So when Batty, the local hero par excellence, missed his penalty as England went out of the 1998 World Cup, we loved him for not blubbing like a baby and doing a pizza advert. "Thought I'd score," he said with bluff honesty. His dad was more honest still. "Knew he'd miss," he said. 29) Rented goldfish, borrowed time Peter Ridsdale, the chairman, had his heart in the right place but appeared freshly frontal lobotomised when it came to transfers. Pick your favourite worst nightmare from Seth Johnson or Robbie Fowler. Some would say the news that Ridsdale rented goldfish for the boardroom was the ultimate folly. Steve Guppy was apparently too cheap. 28) That man Wetherall again If dear old David had not scored an unlikely winner against Liverpool for Bradford City back in May 2000, then Leeds would not have qualified for the Champions League and just maybe Ridsdale would not have sanctioned his £100m hire-purchase of a team. Certainly an alternative and better-loved scapegoat to the usual lot. 27) Carpet bowls and bingo For all his faults, Don Revie cared about his players and their families like few managers before or since. Flowers on their birthdays (the wives) and team bonding bowls sessions (players) were the order of the day. Chelsea might have had Raquel Welch sauntering down the touchline and shouting 'yoo-hoo, Ossie', but we had Paul Madeley shouting 'eyes down'. As sophisticated as grouting, Leeds were earthy and real. The sort of club that would think a prima donna to be a top-notch kebab. 26) The best goal ever Elland Road resembled the Somme when Eddie Gray picked up the ball one May day in 1970, waltzed past a phalanx of Burnley defenders with the ball on a string and slotted home as good a goal as I have seen any player of any team score. And why not ask Gray about how he would be kicked to death by rogue defenders if you think cynicism was the preserve of Yorkshire Vikings? 25) Burning beach huts in Dorset Only Leeds fans could riot in Bournemouth, a sort of drop-in centre for terminal slipper-wearers. It was May bank holiday in 1990 and Leeds secured the old second division title on a heady weekend of Stella and Stannah chairlifts. The Leeds fans burnt beach huts and left such an impression that, after being relegated this May, Bournemouth asked for the game to be moved even before the fixtures even came out. Bittersweet. 24) The floodlights How we loved those floodlights, every 260 foot of those towering totems. They were reputedly the tallest floodlights in Europe and had many a young lad agog during foggy winter nights. Certainly, I remember spending more time in the late 80s watching the floodlights in the hope of seeing some Fred Dibnah-esque madman shin up to change a bulb than I did the team. When they knocked them down, a light went out inside every Leeds fan. 23) Paranoia Pt II Bringing in a gypsy to lift a curse supposedly plaguing Elland Road in 1971 was not textbook stuff but a good jaunt. Apocrypha says Revie actually enlisted the help of Gypsy Rose Lee, although the truth is she was a dead stripper at the time, and had she pitched up at Elland Road would have lifted anything but a curse. 22) 'The Ballad of Billy Bremner' 'Leeds, Leeds, Leeds' may have lasted the test of time, but Ronnie Hilton was the true bard of Beeston for most fans. After once working as a fitter in a sewing machine factory, the easy listening king wrote a number of classics, including the unforgettable 'Ballad of Billy Bremner' and 'Elland Road Baht'At'. 21) The hardest of hard men Bobby Collins was the pint-sized colossus behind Leeds' rise from second division obscurity to a team that lost the title on goal difference in their first season up in 1965. An igneous hard man, it went sour for him when a Torino psychopath broke his femur in the Fairs Cup. Visiting him in hospital, Jack Charlton saw him throw back the bed clothes to reveal a rusty bolt through his leg. "He thought it was funny," he recalled. 20) The League Cup Final 1968 As it was Leeds v Arsenal this was inevitably a dreary affair with plenty of malice aforethought. Terry Cooper, he of the white boots, volleyed in Eddie Gray's corner after 18 minutes to settle the match and give Revie's Leeds their first major trophy (it mattered back them). The start of the glory days. 19) Black day in Birmingham The misanthropic thuggery of some Leeds fans reached its nadir in May, 1985. First there was the fighting at Birmingham that saw a wall collapse and a fan killed. That happened to be the day of the Bradford City fire in which 56 people died. A year later Leeds fans set a chip van alight during a match against Bradford at Odsal, the rugby league ground where they were forced to play matches. It was hard to be a Leeds fan in the face of such horrors. Still is. 18) 'Marching On Together' Most clubs have crap club songs penned by Chaz & Dave or half-cut lager louts with a rhyming dictionary. Leeds' terrace anthem is actually composed by the bloke who wrote 'There's A Kind Of Hush' for Herman's Hermitts and 'It's Not Unusual' for Tom Jones. By a quirk of fate it was not unusual for there to be a kind of hush all over Elland Road in the mid 90s 17) Man thinks he is Evil Knievel The greatest pre-match entertainment in sporting history was watching Duncan McKenzie, the team's star striker, jump over a Mini Cooper at pitchside for no other reason than it seemed a bit of a giggle. Hard to believe in this age of health and safety, but McKenzie was different. Would have jumped Snake Canyon on a pogo stick if asked. 16) Fighting in the streets In March 2000, Jonathan Woodgate and Lee Bowyer were charged with GBH in relation to the savage attack of a student. The trial collapsed once and took almost two years to resolve. It was the start of the decline as Woodgate faded to a cadaver and Leeds became consumed with in-fighting and mud-slinging. It was the beastly city again, as Dickens had described Leeds. 15) Prince of Dourness and Ginger Spice Leeds fans will always be grateful to Howard Wilkinson for the signing of Gordon Strachan. The Mancs may gloat about stealing Cantona, but Strachan was the architect of the 1990 and 1992 titles and cost less than half the price. He made Vinnie Jones half-decent, mentored the young David Batty and then formed a blissful midfield with an in-pomp Gary Speed and the sublime Gary McAllister. Cheers, Alex. 14) Paranoia Pt III Robert Johnson, demonic blues singer of old, astutely pointed out that: "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean you don't have the devil on your ass." Indeed. Leeds' history is one of dodgy referees, bad press and pious condemnation. But in 1972, Leeds won the FA Cup on Saturday and were forced to play Wolves for the double on Monday. They lost 2-1. "We were the only team that won the FA Cup and never got to celebrate," Sniffer said. It's not right, you know. 13) John Charles goes to Turin When not shoring up the defence and being a giant in attack, John Charles was a part-time cabaret artiste, cutting a passable version of 'Sixteen Tons' and touring Adriatic nightclubs with a pianist and an impresario, even provoking a hissy fit from Sophia Loren because of his greater public profile. Selling him to Juventus in 1957 ensured another period of mediocrity. 12) The day we thrashed the Germans, lost and still won Having lost 3-0 in Stuttgart, Leeds needed a miracle to progress to the second round of the European Cup in 1992. On a heady night they trounced Stuttgart, a brilliant volley from Gary Speed, resplendent with his Led Zep bouffant, here, a McAllister penalty there. They won 4-1 and went out on away goals, only for the game to be replayed after it emerged Stuttgart had fielded an ineligible player. Leeds won the rematch 2-1, played bizarrely in the Nou Camp. 11) The third title The 1992 triumph was a result of that brilliant midfield and the fact that Lee Chapman could score a barrel full of goals despite lumbering around with the grace of David Harvey's home-baked monkey. That it involved Manchester United messing things up was all the more gratifying, although anyone who thinks Leeds were gifted the title might want to check out the 6-1 and 4-1 away wins at Sheff Wednesday and Aston Villa. Very tasty. 10) Barry Davies condones crowd violence Leeds were top of the table and going for the 1971 title when the most notorious offside decision not given undid them. Ray Tinkler was the ref, West Brom the visitors and Jeff Astle the scorer. There were 23 arrests, players jostled the referee and the game was held up for five minutes. "The Leeds fans are going absolutely mad and they have every right to," Davies said in the BBC box. Arsenal duly won the title by a point. 9) Paranoia Pt IV We loved Don, of course, but his habit of wandering down to his favoured lamppost of a morning did not instil huge confidence. Nor did his lucky suit. "It was so threadbare his arse was hanging out of it," Peter Lorimer said. The hefty dossiers on opponents were also of dubious value, given how good Leeds were. "It got to the stage where you'd think you were up against Real Madrid when, in reality, it was Aldershot," Lorimer added. 8) The first title Finally, after all the near misses, Leeds won the title with a record number of points in 1969. Amazingly, only three players had cost any money. Of course, the media moaned about the lack of goals scored. 7) Chokers Myth Revie's Leeds were chokers because they were going for the treble in 1970 but won nothing. Truth: Leeds were made to play five games in eight days in the run-in and the FA Cup was gifted to Chelsea by Gary Sprake and the maiming of Eddie Gray. Celtic at least won fair and square in the European Cup semi-final. 6) £312,000 well spent These days a professional player's ability to conjure up a cunning plan involves asking his PR-cum-sycophant-cum-food taster what manbag he should wear with the Burberry chav suit. In the 50s the 'Revie Plan' was the genius of a deep-lying Manchester City striker. Leeds signed him in 1958. Good move. 5) Not giving Johnny Giles the manager's job Revie recommended Giles as his successor. The players backed him. All was well. And then the board decided to give the job to self-styled Leeds-hater Brian Clough. "It had taken years to build the confidence, the attitude, the atmosphere," Giles later said "and it was all broken that summer." The Damned Cloughie. 4) "I looked into Beckenbauer's eyes and could tell they knew they were getting murdered." So said Sniffer of half-time at the 1975 European Cup Final against Bayern Munich. They were too. Even without Revie and after the trauma of Clough, they made it all the way to Paris. It would have been the best night in the club's history but for Lorimer's disallowed goal, the worst penalty decision ever, the post-match riot and the European ban. 3) Leeds 7 Southampton 0 The scoreline was pretty impressive, but the manner was imperious, summing up all the lustrous skills and arrogance that made Leeds so unpopular. Billy's back flicks, Hot Shot's, er, hot shots and the picture of Saints players like Mick Channon reduced to headless chickens. "We'd already scored six and felt sorry for them," Lorimer would claim. It didn't show. Showboating at its most merciless. 2) Sniffer and skin grafts Mick Jones to the byline, a deep cross, Allan Clarke's bonce from the edge of the box. The 1972 FA Cup Final win against Arsenal, a contest that inspired mutual blood-letting and do-it-yourself skin grafts throughout the 70s, was as good as it gets. And Sniffer? The best finisher in Leeds' history. 1) The second title At 1pm before the first game of the 1974 season against Everton, Revie entered the dressing room and told his players that he had been having a little think. "I'd like you to go through the entire season unbeaten," he said. They managed only 29 but still won the title. There has been little better football played in England since.