League One Leeds is the story of Leeds United’s three seasons spent in the third tier of English football. An illustrious club who had never fallen so low, their journey through League One would become the most chaotic period in Leeds’s history and the drama started before a ball was kicked.

An unprecedented 15-point deduction that plunged the Whites from promotion favourites to relegation fodder set the tone, as the club’s fortunes undulated wildly over the course of three bizarre seasons.

Record-breaking winning runs, long barren spells, FA Cup defeats at Histon and Hereford, victory at Old Trafford – this is a football story that twists and turns all the way through to a hair-raising finale.

The book is written through the eyes of the author and features exclusive insight from Simon Grayson, Jermaine Beckford, Jonny Howson, Bradley Johnson, David Prutton, Casper Ankergren and Luciano Becchio, whose first-hand experiences are interwoven with his own.

The result: a riveting account of a fascinating period in Leeds United’s history.


(Publisher: Pitch Publishing Ltd. August 2022. Hardcover: 256 pages)

Book Review: We’re not Leeds, We ARE Leeds by Dave Rowson

From the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, European football was a regular attraction down at Elland Road, as Leeds United won the Fairs Cup twice (also runners-up once) but included controversial losses in the finals of the European Cup Winners Cup (1972/73) and European Cup (1974/75). Apart from an appearance in the UEFA Cup in 1978/80, the Elland Road faithful had to wait until 1992 before European football became a regular fixture down in LS11 once more.

Author of We’re not Leeds, We ARE Leeds, Dave Rowson had gone to the infamous 1975 European Cup Final against Bayern Munich in Paris with his father, as a teenager, so beginning his connection with trips abroad to follow his team, and which Dave was to pick up again in 1992/93.

We’re not Leeds, We ARE Leeds, charts a number of trips undertaken between 1992 in Stuttgart and concluding in 2002 in Florence, where the UEFA Cup tie against Hapoel Tel Aviv was played. Now if as a reader you are expecting an analysis of the games or indeed details about the tourist sites of the various locations across Europe for the fixtures, then you will be disappointed.

Instead this is the tale focusing on the tales and travails of members of the Leeds United Supporters Club, Harrogate and District Branch, (of which the author was a founding member), as they follow their team in a European A to Z from Anderlecht to Zurich. Given this, the book provides a useful background on the history of the branch and a number of its members for reference, who loom large in the stories that unfold.

These trips abroad were not the official trips organised by the Elland Road club, but instead were organised by Dave Rowson, gaining the nickname ‘Rouse Tours’, with those going wanting more time before and after the fixtures in the various locations. This time was usually spent finding the cheapest accommodation, bars and nightlife in general (and of course getting to the games – most of the time!), which leads to, as can be imagined, a variety of mishaps and at times ingenious and not so genius ideas.

Yes, the book contains tales of alcohol fuelled episodes, which in its most extreme case led to the author being in the wrong place at the wrong time in Germany, but underpinning it is also a story of friendship, loyalty and what it means to follow your team. Indeed, the title of the book We’re not Leeds, We ARE Leeds, was borne out of the 1998 trip to Maritimo, where, as ‘Rouse’ informs readers, “it was a statement that summed up how we all felt about following Leeds. How it truly felt to be a Leeds fan amongst the Leeds family at some far-flung away game in Europe.”

This helps to explain one of the two reasons the book was published. Firstly, with Marcelo Bielsa getting Leeds back into the Premier League, fans hope that the next step will be seeing European football return under the lights at Elland Road and therefore the book is in part, “for those who have not had the pleasure of following Leeds in what they have missed and what could await them in future.” The second is that a donation will be made from book sales to Alzheimer’s Research UK as part of a campaign to raise funds and awareness of Alzheimer’s and in particular the plight of ex-QPR and England international Stan Bowles. More details can be found on the Facebook page @StanBowlesHarrogateLUSC

You can buy the book via the following link: DB Publishing


(DB Publishing. April 2021. Paperback 192 pages)

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2014/15: Capital One (League) Cup – Leeds United v Accrington Stanley

Arriving at the ground an hour before kick-off with the intention of grabbing a pint and having a leisurely read of the match programme, I was greeted by the sight of the East Stand turnstiles not open and people stood outside in the rain. There were puzzled looks all-round as time ticked closer to the 19:45 start with the gates still locked and no communication as to what was happening. Then just before 19:00 some turnstiles were opened, although no explanation was forthcoming as to what the problem was. But hey why should that happen, we’re just the paying customers…

Having lost their opening Championship fixture to Millwall, Leeds made a number of changes with Stuart Taylor, Lewis Cook, Gaetano Berardi, Tommaso Bianchi and Matt Smith coming into the starting eleven. Like their hosts, Stanley also lost their opening day fixture, 1-0 to Southend United and manager James Beattie made two changes to the team with Jordan Mustoe and James Alabi coming into the side.

Razzle-dazzle at Elland Road

The game was effectively over by half-time with two excellent finishes from Leeds new boy Souleymane Doukara. The Championship side played some neat passing football and dominated their League Two opponents. However, there were times that Leeds looked less than composed at the back and in midfield Bianchi was often wasteful with his distribution. The second-half was a pretty ordinary affair and it wasn’t until Accrington pulled a goal back on eighty four minutes that the game came to life. More drama came just before the end of normal time when Gaetano Berardi was sent-off for a poor challenge and meant it was an anxious last five minutes of time added-on.

So no banana skins for Leeds, instead a first competitive win for Head Coach Dave Hockaday and progress to the Second Round. However, the faithful at Elland Road will be more concerned about collecting Championship points, starting with a win against Middlesbrough this Saturday. Oh and hopefully the gates will be open on time…

Book Review: The Last Champions by Dave Simpson

If you wander into a bookshop and look at the section on Leeds United AFC, the shelves will invariably be loaded with titles which hark back to the Revie era and the exploits of his teams of the 1960s and 70s. Whilst those trophy winning days at Elland Road put the West Yorkshire club onto the footballing international stage, they were not the last Leeds team to bring the League title back to LS11. In 1991/92 under Howard Wilkinson, Leeds took the First Division title by four points from Manchester United, yet the story seems to have been fairly much passed over. In The Last Champions (Leeds United and the year that football changed for ever), Dave Simpson has brought that extraordinary season to life.

Simpson currently writes for the Guardian and had before that written for Melody Maker, with his previous foray into books a title about the band The Fallen. Away from music Simpson contributed to the official club magazine LeedsLeedsLeeds.

In terms of this book, The Last Champions, the title reflects a number of facts that at the start of the 2012/13 season still hold true. When Leeds United won the First Division title in 1991/92 it was the last time before the monster that is the Premier League took over the top division of English football and therefore Leeds will always be the last First Division Champions. Howard Wilkinson is the last English manager to win the title and that season was the last occasion when Leeds United were the Champions of England; who knows when these two facts will alter?

In telling the story of ‘Sergeant Wilko’ and his team, Simpson seeks out the players and staff who were part of that incredible season. Therefore the majority of the book features chapters which are set around interviews with the central characters of the Wilkinson era prior to and including the 1991/92 season. These include Wilkinson, his assistant Mick Hennigan, physio Alan Sutton, board members Leslie Silver and Bill Fotherby and players such as the late Gary Speed (to whom the book is dedicated), Vinnie Jones, John McClelland, Chris Kamara, Mike Whitlow, Chris Whyte, Lee Chapman and Jon Newsome.

The various chapters provide interesting anecdotes from within the dressing room, the training ground and ‘on and off’ the pitch. However, there are a number of themes that emerge time and time again. Wilkinson is portrayed as a disciplinarian who drilled into his players the benefits of organisation and structure in training until it became second nature on the pitch. He was also seen as ahead of his time in areas such as match preparation including a more modern approach to diet and nutrition for players. However, Wilko was by no means perfect and some players questioned his man management skills, in particular the manner in which so many of the squad left Elland Road. What also comes through is that in comparison with the current Premier League era ‘stars’, the players back then were just ‘ordinary’ guys, with many of them today doing ‘regular’ jobs.

Simpson also seamlessly weaves in his own story of growing up in Leeds and his attachment to the club. He admits as a child, he “…never really liked football…” because of his uncomfortable experiences of playing the game in the school playground. But, after seeing Leeds beat Arsenal 2-0 in October 1974, Simpson “…was hooked immediately…” However, his first love music still tugged at his heart strings and as football in the late 70s suffered at the hands of hooliganism and racism, so he swapped Elland Road for various music gigs. It wasn’t until Wilkinson arrived in 1988 that Simpson returned to LS11 to witness the revolution that saw Leeds take the Second Division title in 1989/90 and the top prize just two seasons later. He ends the book with a brief look at the first season of the Premier League and the end of the Wilkinson era.

This book is a fine tribute to the period Wilkinson was in charge at Leeds and the players and staff that saw them crowned as English Champions. Simpson’s journalistic style, one which never loses the feeling that he a fan, makes this a fascinating read, which is difficult to put down. There is also something ethereal and melancholic about the book. Whilst the pages celebrate that period of the Wilkinson era, the words and images have an underlying feel of a time gone-by. Perhaps it was because it was the last season prior to the Premier League and for Sky football never existed before that point and consequently those last First Division Champions are merely ghosts from the past. Football has become a different beast in the Sky era, where money is ‘king’ and the players, like television hold the clubs to ransom. Like Simpson, I remember growing up and watching football in the 70s when it was affordable. For many nowadays that is not true and that is a sad fact.

For me the pictures also say so much. The images used within the book are not colour or on glossy pages, but are black and white, with a grainy quality; unassuming and understated. Finally, check out the images used on the sleeve of the book. On the front the Leeds team celebrate with the trophy, most of whom are caught in the moment of triumph. Then look at the faces of Gary Speed, David Batty and Mel Sterland. These three seem somewhere else. Maybe the picture has just caught them off guard? What were they thinking about? On the back, Wilkinson is seen walking away (back to the camera) carrying the Championship trophy with Elland Road empty. To use a melancholic musical refrain, “those were the days my friend…”.



To read an interview with Dave Simpson and another review, please click here.

Book Review: After Extra Time (‘Dirty Leeds’ Uncut) by Robert Endeacott

This book is an absorbing mix of fact and fiction that details the factual life of Leeds United and the fictional life of a young Leeds fan throughout the Don Revie era. The fictional life of Jimmy O’Rourke is set amid real events both at the club and in the city of Leeds which adds context to the footballing narrative of Don Revie’s transformational time as manager of the club from 1961 to his departure to take up the England manager’s post in 1974.

Through the life of Jimmy O’Rourke we see that the ‘Dirty Leeds’ tag applies more to working-class life in Leeds in that period than a description of the football team’s ethics as the city starts to implement the Clean Air Act to reduce air pollution; a particular issue for populous industrialised cities at that time. Jimmy and his Gran show us the dour existence and steely determination of working class citizens of 1960s Leeds and, as much as you will be moved by the seemingly endless mishaps and footballing heartache that was, ironically, Leeds Utd’s most successful period, you will also find that the author handles events in Jimmy O’Rourke’s life such as aspiration, injury and bereavement in a very touching and believable way. These, like the character itself, are described in a very ‘Leeds’ style (far from melodramatic, quite matter-of-fact; no-nonsense yet not without feeling).

Thankfully the book doesn’t preach on football matters, nor does it avoid controversial incidents or resolutely argue the innocence of Leeds United or its fans but it quietly and unassumingly (in that ‘Leeds’ style) puts the key events into perspective. Crowd trouble (a grenade at Millwall is my favourite), on-field misdemeanours and allegations of bribery are evident throughout the Football League and teams other than Leeds suffer the type of fixture congestion that not even today’s TV companies could dream up.  As a consequence, without overtly defending Leeds, the book highlights the fact that the FA had much more to deal with than a few raincoat-clad middle-aged men with comb-overs arguing with a ref on the Elland Road pitch after a controversial West Brom goal.

The book clearly sets out to honour not only Don Revie but also less well-known characters that helped build the team, the club and its facilities; Harry Reynolds the Chairman and Ces Burroughs the Groundsman are revered by the author who clearly has some knowledge of their lives and the role they played at the club. It is here however that the book lets you down slightly; this knowledge leads you to mistakenly believe that you will subsequently receive some previously unknown detail about the club or the goings-on inside Revie’s office that would shed new light on the well-known events of that time.

The additional 50,000 words that the author has re-instated from the first ‘Dirty Leeds’ book give this unabridged edition more detail and texture and it flows through this historic and turbulent period with all the footballing information you need (without being reduced to a dry account of each season), and with a simultaneous view of real life in and around both Elland Road and the city of Leeds. It is a comprehensive review of the Leeds United’s Don Revie era but is written with imagination and emotion. Whether a Leeds fan or not, my advice would be (in that ‘Leeds’ style); read the book, it’s not bad at all.


Paul Gowland