A long time ago in a world far, far away I remember sitting in the press box at Halifax Town as my dad reported on the match. That was in the days of the old Third Division. I was born in Halifax and moved to Bradford when I was two. Watching Bradford Park Avenue in World Cup winning year, their best player by almost exactly a million miles was Kevin Hector, although I did see the classy Johnny Haynes and Allan Clarke when Avenue played Fulham in the F.A. Cup.
I moved to the famous metropolis of Drighlington in 1968 and soon began watching Leeds United. Not many stars of other sides played well against that Leeds team; apart from one magical minute when he scored two goals, George Best was almost always kept quiet by Paul Reaney. Paul Madeley had a similar damping effect on Bobbie Charlton. Jimmy Greaves, the finest goalscorer I have ever seen, scored a great opportunist goal for Spurs in their 3-1 defeat. Momentary flickers of greatness. Cryuff and Neeskens did very little in the Elland Road leg of the European Cup semi-final whilst playing for Barcelona. Perhaps surprisingly, the visiting player who impressed me most at Elland Road was the gutsy and skilful Mike Summerbee.
There have been many memorable occasions watching football so it is not easy to pick out the best. Although I was fortunate enough to see Leeds win the Cup in 1972, I would probably rate higher the two Championship titles achieved by the Revie boys. The best team after 42 games truly is the best in the land. For me, their greatest team performance was against Tottenham in the Cup on the way to Wembley triumph.
Sadly, there is no doubt which has been my worst experience watching football. When 56 people die and another 265 are injured at a game, it truly puts everything else into context. May 11th1985, Bradford City v Lincoln City. After such an awful experience, football has never been quite the same again and has put me completely out of patience when I see fans, in close-up on the huge TV screen, weeping in inconsolable grief at not winning this trophy, narrowly losing out on that title, or even – dread the thought – being relegated. So what?
I was a member of Leeds Football Writers’ group, contributed to Leeds, Leeds, Leeds the club magazine, have appeared in Four Four Two and done a bit of radio work as well. More recently I have been contributing weekly pieces to www.clarkeonenil. Over the years I have also been involved in producing and publishing several books on football, including Fanthology (as contributor and editor), Doolally (contributor and publisher) and Black Catalogue (contributor and publisher).