2014/15: Sky Bet Championship – Fulham v Leeds United (A Yorkshire Trilogy: Part 2)

Programme cover

Of all the parts of this trilogy this is the one I’m most looking forward to.

The prospect of going back to London – my birthplace, and of course to the Cottage – fills me with joy on every occasion, even when we are playing badly!

I also enjoy the train journey and no I don’t mean in a train-spotting taking down the numbers at the end of the platform kind of way, I mean the time it allows me to relax and unwind and if I so desire, just stare out the window as the scenery flashes by.

So armed with sarnies and a few tinnies I settle down for the journey. However, the train gods are not in the best mood and our departure is delayed as there are signal problems near Wakefield. Thankfully the train soon leaves and is my sign to crack open the food and drink.

I’m sharing today with a Leeds United fan who will join the train at Doncaster. He has seen his team play against Fulham in London, but that was at Loftus Road, during Fulham’s couple of seasons away from the Cottage.

The Leeds-London service is a quick one and Doncaster is soon reached as my companion for the match boards the train. Banter and beers commence and before we know it the train is pulling into Kings Cross.

Rather than dash onto the underground, we have a stroll along Euston Road towards St Pancras Station and a couple of pre-match beers at The Euston Flyer. It is a chance to check the Evening Standard over a pint for a preview of the game tonight. However, the sports pages surprisingly contained no reference to the game at Fulham and are instead dominated by Arsenal’s Champions League exit at the hands of Monaco.

It’s seems strange that a paper that supposedly has a London readership chooses not to have any coverage.

So without any team news to discuss, we head for the delights of the tube during rush-hour. Comically even though I’ve done this journey on numerous occasions I somehow manage to ensure that we are going in the wrong direction on the District Line.

Having corrected the error, we eventually find ourselves on the way to Putney Bridge Station and it is apparent from the fellow travellers in the carriage that Leeds fans have, as ever, travelled in numbers to the capital.

Evidence of the Yorkshire invasion is further confirmed by the hordes of the Elland Road faithful who fill and spill out from the 17th century tavern The Eight Bells, not far from the station.

Kick-off is fast approaching so we continue our progress to the ground as I’m keen to show off what I consider is the most attractive walk to any football ground in the world.

The walk takes you from Putney Bridge Station and under Putney Bridge itself into Bishop’s Park. The park includes Fulham Palace (a medieval former home of the Bishop of London) and a glorious walk along the Thames. Those familiar with the Boat Race will know that the historic event starts here in Putney and in the fading light the boat houses which line the far side of the water’s edge can be seen.

It brings back great memories of the years coming to the ground and walking through the park, where the changing state of the trees provided a telling reminder of the passing seasons.

Leeds fans fill the Putney End

The floodlights now break up the impending darkness and we approach the Putney End where the Leeds fans are entering the stadium. It’s a rare occurrence for them as tonight they are able to pay on the gate, whereas the usual Leeds allocation is sold out to members only. Many Southern Whites seem to have taken advantage of this as various flags from the Home Counties are in evidence.

I used to share my visits to the ground with a school friend of mine who left the UK a number of years ago to further his career in Canada. He is back in the country this week and in texts exchanged earlier this week he tells me he intends to be at the game. I don’t let on that I also plan to be down for the game, and instead am able to surprise him in the ground as we are in the same block within the Riverside Stand.

It is over 35 years since we were at school together, but we continued to go to games together into the 80s. He only visits the UK a couple of times a year and we always try and plan in a visit to the Cottage to catch up and reminisce. Tonight our embrace is as warm as ever and we chat excitedly about the game ahead.

I have always considered there is something more atmospheric about games played under the floodlights. Tonight, that mood is enhanced by the noise and number of the travelling Leeds fans, who even before kick-off running through a range of less than complimentary chants about ex-player Ross McCormack.

The teams line-up before kick-off

The game itself turns out to be a curious affair. Fulham totally dominate the opening half as a combination of the woodwork and Leeds Italian keeper Silvestri ensure the numerous chances for the home team come to nothing. Instead with just five minutes to the break, a slip at the back by Fulham allows Gaetano Berardi to cross and with the two home defenders static, Byram heads easily home to give Leeds the lead.

Fulham are caught cold early in the second-half as with only three minutes played, a Leeds corner evades all the Fulham defenders and falls to the unmarked Bamba to double the visitors advantage. Worse was to follow just two minutes later when Konstantinos Stafylidis is sent off following two rapid yellow cards. The first was for a completely unnecessary rant at one of the assistant referees and the second for a wild challenge from the Greek International.

Despite being down to 10 men Fulham continue to create chances, but as with the opening half, the woodwork and Silvestri continue to frustrate Fulham. The final insult arrives two minutes from time when a miss hit shot from substitute Antenucci seals a 3-0 win for the visitors.

It has been a smash and grab raid by the Yorkshire club and the Fulham faithful leave the ground in a state of bewilderment. Eight games to go and only six points off the drop – the three games against Wigan, Rotherham and Blackpool look like they will define our season.

The main task of the evening is now to make our way back to Kings Cross for the last train back to Leeds which we achieve comfortably. The train is full of Leeds fans and they are still in full voice as it pulls out of the capital.

My identity as a Fulham fan living in Leeds is rumbled by the immediate area of passengers and so begins a period of sustained banter. It is all good natured and there is nothing for the heavy police presence on the train to deal with.

With still an hour to go on the journey the train is virtually quiet. My companion departs at Doncaster and heads into the darkness of early morning.

The boisterous atmosphere in the carriage has given way to silence as some passenger’s energy if fully taken up with willing the train further North, whilst others slump uncomfortably against the windows or seat headrests in search of sleep.

At last we pull into Leeds and the train disgorges its sleepy cargo on the platform and into the chilly March morning. I go in search of a cab, but then have to endure a fifteen minute journey during which the driver insists on having a full blown conversation with me. I only manage nods and grunts of yes and no and am mightily relived when home is at last reached.

It’s been a great day – well, apart from the football. Tomorrow will be a tough day having to go into work with little sleep and will be made tougher by the friendly abuse that is bound to come my way from the Leeds fans in the office.

As I slip into bed and search for rest, my last thought is, what does Huddersfield have in store on Saturday?

2014/15: Sky Bet Championship Review – December 2014

This review is fast becoming a very unpleasant experience – each month my own team descends into further turmoil and despair.  December consisted of one draw in five, a single goal from open play, two calamitous own goals and the Owner forced to stand down for yachting irregularities.

Can 2015 get any worse? Oh yes it can and probably will to the amusement of the rest of the Country.

Enough about Leeds United, I can barely type through the tears. The half way point has come and gone; no more trite comments from Managers about there being ‘a long way to go’ and ‘plenty of points to play for’. The January transfer window for those without embargo’s is an opportunity to bolster promotion ambitions or recruit for the relegation dog fight.

Each contest will be as closely fought as the other – Bournemouth sit proudly on top of the pile having accumulated points and goals with alacrity. Every team will now be aware of The Cherries strengths, but can anybody stop them?  I still back thoroughbreds over course and distance and boldly take Norwich and Derby for the top spots with Middlesbrough, Watford, Blackburn and Bournemouth making up the top six.  There you go, it’s done and in ‘Black and White’ with five months of the season to go.

Ipswich, Brentford, Wolves and Cardiff may have other ideas and Messrs McCarthy, Warburton and Jackett have exceeded my expectations and I fancy those of their own supporters.  I am envious of all the above, but that’s the lot of a football fan, trade in your car, move home, change jobs, but you are stuck with your Club forever.  Even the acquisition of the abhorrent half scarf doesn’t entitle you to follow the fortunes of another…

The monthly accolades must go to Bolton and Birmingham, transformed by shrewd Managerial appointments and unrecognisable from the opening months of the season. Proof that change can and does work – whether long term remains to be seen, but the immediate future looks bright.

The first month of 2015 punctuated by FA Cup fixtures and postponements will see little change to the League positions, but will end with squad additions, departures and Agents filling their grubby, greedy pockets.

My focus is very much on the relegation scrap, three from half a dozen for me despite the proximity of several other clubs.  Those that can hit the back of the net usually escape, Fulham Reading and for my money Brighton have the fire power to do that.  The rest will be involved in a long slog, eking out points where they can and hoping fortune favours them. The reality of course might be entirely different and the quintessential game of opinions often makes you look very foolish.

Happy New Year to Championship Supporters everywhere, except the twenty three who play away from Elland Road and may all your hopes and dreams be fulfilled!


David Goodwill

2014/15: Sky Bet Championship Review – November 2014

Another International Break meant there were relatively few games played in the calendar month of November. Therefore, most sides found themselves jockeying for position ahead of the hectic Christmas period and the mid-way point of the marathon Championship season.

The latest Manager to hit the exit door was The Latics German number One Uwe Rosler, replaced by Scot Malky Mackay who is still fighting allegations of improper conduct a situation compounded by Wigan Chairman Dave Whelan’s explaining his appointment with all the tact of Alf Garnett, landing himself with an FA Charge. At least they can share a taxi to Gloucester Place and a takeaway on the journey home; I suggest neither Thai nor Chinese!

Seven of the bottom ten sides have now terminated the contracts of their chosen leader for the current campaign with Hyypia, Holloway and Evans looking over their shoulder at Brighton, Millwall and Rotherham respectively.

It’s a pleasure to report my own Club (Leeds United) completed a month without change, but then again had the Owner disqualified to ensure no semblance of stability is allowed to take root. This will ensure several more turbulent months and further expensive Legal battles for the benefit of nobody other than Rumpole of the Bailey.

The division is incredibly congested, Blackpool apart, but even they are not without hope and the immediate improvement of Bolton and Birmingham following new appointments will ensure others follow suit and teams in the top half can’t discount relegation approaching the New Year.

If anybody predicted Brentford, Bournemouth and Ipswich to be amongst the top four places in December they are lying! All three have enjoyed a fabulous month and will have designs on staying the distance and local Premier League derbies with QPR and Southampton respectively.

My own outside tip for the top Middlesbrough remain resolute and consistent and if Blackburn continue to have the luck afforded to them for much longer even the East Lancs rivalry could be resurrected in the top flight.

Many of the financial heavyweights in this league sit menacingly a few points and places behind stalking their prey waiting for signs of weakness, circling before likely flexing their muscles in the January transfer window. Wolves have regained that losing feeling they became accustomed to pre Kenny Jackett, Forest are firing again, Cardiff and Norwich are able to draw on their hugely expensive playing squads and will expect an improved second half of the season.

A short interlude from Championship chatter to bemoan the sighting of more hideous half-scarves, the latest is at the Chelsea versus Tottenham game and a worrying trend that needs stamping out of the game. Indeed, I witnessed Leeds and Charlton scarves with my own eyes for a midweek Championship fixture with 150 visiting supporters at best, but presumably all clamouring for a memento of this classic 2 -2 draw.

I’ve started to breathe again so back to the Review and honourable mention for the vast improving Fulham who have reverted to a home grown coach like many other in this division and are reaping the rewards.

I notice that Bolton are considering giving ex-Icelandic Trotter Eidur Gudjohnsen a contract at the ripe old age of 36 which made me wonder why? Surely, the opportunity should be given to an aspiring young British player rather than another foreigner looking for a last pay day. Hang on, if am not careful will be joining Malky, Dave and Massimo at FL Headquarters – then again would be a hell of a Taxi ride!

To sum up November, the Blues beat the Reds who beat the Greens who lose to the Whites who then lose to the Blues who had beaten the Reds and Brentford beat all of them!

As ever, don’t get carried away as a miserable defeat is just round the corner.


 David Goodwill

2014/15: Sky Bet Championship Review – October 2014

My enthusiasm for this review waned throughout a miserable, dispiriting month for my own club.  Not a solitary victory and of course another coach through the revolving doors at LS11. I am of course referring to Leeds United, a club which should be stamped with a Government Health Warning.

However, putting aside my pain, anguish and desperation for now I will don my impartiality hat and look back over the merry month of October. Another side to sink like a stone is Nottingham Forest; Psycho ably demonstrating that playing heroes are not always the best choice to return to former glories. I believe a top six position will still be achieved but the weight of expectation needs to be overcome.

AFC Bournemouth heads the table alphabetically and staggeringly statistically as Eddie Howe’s men gather goals and points with alarming regularity. The demolition of Birmingham City was positively rude in its execution, borne by a freedom to play uncomplicated, slick attacking football other supporters crave. The majority of clubs and opposing fans have The Cherries as low priority and I think they thrive on the small town mentality, little history to speak of but possibly to make.

Now they have reached the summit we shall see how they cope with expectation and pressure, very well I think and serious contenders for top six. Geographically, Middlesbrough couldn’t be further away, but a consistent run of results has catapulted The Smoggies to their highest League position in years and one I forecast in previous reviews. Pitiful crowds at The Riverside never seem to dampen the Chairman’s ambition for his club and shrewd work in the permanent and loan market over a period of time make Boro‘ a real force.

The panic button was pressed at Bolton, Birmingham, and Blackpool – oh and again at you know who? Fulham and Leeds appointed from within, Bolton and Birmingham successful young managers and Blackpool hired Lee Clark or Red Adair, such is the task ahead of him.  The Tangerines currently the only club adrift with a host of sides battling to join them.  Could fifty points see a club go down this year? I suspect it will.

Honourable mentions must go to Huddersfield Town & Brentford, teams traditionally living in the shadows of near neighbours now looking imperiously over their shoulders. Chris Powell is a manager destined for big things in my opinion, very possibly the first Black England manager, you heard it here first!

Away from the Championship one of my pet hates raised its ugly head again the other week, the abominable ‘half-scarves’ at Old Trafford for the Chelsea game. Football tourists sporting cringe worthy red and blue…I can’t go on…am getting annoyed.

Back to reality, Wolves and to a lesser extent Rotherham have made the step up one division with conviction and potentially none of the three promoted clubs will be returning from whence they came.  The same could be said for the three relegated sides with Norwich, Cardiff and Fulham spluttering to find form and any consistency in the toughest of leagues.

The majority of other sides take on step forward and two back or vice versa as the middle of the table is as congested as the M62, M25 or wherever you reside on a rush hour afternoon.

Another half a dozen games and we will reach the Christmas period and the January sales, the best wheelers and dealers have much to gain or lose in search of riches or sanctuary from the drop.

As always, I won’t wish supporters of other clubs the best as it would be a hollow gesture but support your team, lambast referees, moan at you Chairman and generally conduct yourself in a manner fitting of a biased, embittered loser like myself.


David Goodwill

2014/15: Sky Bet Championship Review – August 2014

The season is barely a month old and The Championship along with the Premier League has been halted by the obligatory and ludicrous ‘International Break’…

…And my credentials for voicing an opinion on such matters? For the record I have watched in excess of 1,500 games over thirty five years, the vast majority of this millennium at Championship level (or Division Two in old money), but also a brief sojourn in the third tier of English Football. My name is David Goodwill and I’m a Leeds United fan.

So to business.  As a rule, The Championship includes a host of teams fallen from the promised land of the Premier League, others trampling over each other to acquire the financial fruits promotion delivers, more happy to prevent the bigger and arrogant clubs from doing so and finally those desperate to avoid the apparent oblivion of League One.

The current season is three weeks and five games old and Messrs Robins, Hockaday and Sannino have departed and nobody is particularly surprised. Managers or Coaches are the equivalent of Mobile Phones, signed up on a two year contract but after six months you want an upgrade or replacement. The service provider or board usually succumb frightened of losing their patrons custom.

They say the table never lies; I disagree and will wager not one single club will be in the same position come May 2015. The Championship season is brutal, relentless, exhausting and for the vast majority disappointing to a greater and lesser degree. I would lose at least two clubs, four fixtures to reduce the volume of midweek games and the financial burden on the pocket of the watching spectator.

The returning messiah, Stuart Pearce has Forest aptly top of the tree despite pre-season disagreements with the hierarchy. The acquisition of multi-million pound players to an already heavily bank rolled side should see The Reds last the course and distance but possibly require a photo finish to make the winning enclosure. I will endeavour to mention each and every team on this early review and whilst not a fan of WWF I can’t deny that Wolves, Watford and Forest are the top three!

The Black Country side are proving that momentum is a huge force in any sport and one has to credit Kenny Jackett with waking, if not a sleeping giant, then a weary tall person. Sarf London is represented twice in the top six, both Millwall and Charlton under relatively new Management are putting the Blackwall Tunnel on the map for matters other than traffic delays – will it last? I don’t think so. Norwich make up the early play off positions and I doubt will leave them for the remainder of the campaign, the shrewd signing of Lewis Grabban finally providing the goals for a very talented squad.

Trying to remain objective and considered about other clubs is quite a challenge; I don’t really care for any team other than my own. On that note, I despise half scarves, applauding the opposition scoring and appreciating the referee has a “difficult” job to do. Football is meant to be one eyed, partisan, painful and ultimately end in misery and dejection for all but a few. Rant over and back to the task in hand.

The remainder of the top half reminds me of the geographical diversity of this League with Bournemouth, Wigan, Brentford and Cardiff representing the South, North, London and a foreign country respectively. All will have aspirations to remain there or thereabouts and the deeper pockets of Wigan and Cardiff should see they do well, but Burnley bucked the trend last season, so why not Bournemouth or Brentford? Imagine that Premier League fixture in 2015 – no neither can I, but they will take scalps up and down the country for sure. Derby and Sheffield Wednesday represent the plethora of sides in this division where history weighs heavy and success is craved to the point of desperation. McLaren has The Rams in the fast lane and few would begrudge The Owls to soar to the higher echelons – although once again I would.

Twelve down, twelve to go. Teams resting in the bottom half have proved before to be in a false position, Reading was one such case achieving promotion from a dire start in previous years and Brighton, Blackburn and Middlesbrough have all recruited well in my view and I expect to see them mount serious challenges as the season progresses. The ability to use the loan market is essential for these sides unable to compete financially with the parachute payments for clubs rewarded for failure.

The Yorkshire duo of Leeds and Rotherham hover above the bottom six, both with colourful characters at the helm. Who can forget the touch line dash of Steve Evans at Wembley? I for one have had nightmares ever since. His methods might be controversial, but his results are there for all to see and I expect The Millers to retain their Championship status. The last six weeks at Elland Road has seen players depart and arrive at a phenomenal rate and nobody knows where the journey will end, but most likely in disappointment, acrimony, tears and financial ruin…again.

The bottom six will have a fortnight to ruminate about their position, point fingers at colleagues and coaches reminding themselves it’s a marathon and not a sprint and use the next two weeks to reinvigorate themselves and their supporters for ‘act two’ of the long running Championship saga. Bolton, Fulham and Blackpool currently sit below the dreaded dotted line having drawn two and scored ten goals between them in fifteen games. The Tangerines require the football version of speed dating for players to introduce themselves to each other, chances are they are no match and early form supports that. Bolton look a million miles away from the side that slugged it out year on year with the big boys in the Premier League and Fulham have placed all their eggs in one Scottish basket, and who has yet to hatch.

Ipswich, Huddersfield and Birmingham have made inconsistent starts but come the end of September might all be singing the Blues! The reality of Championship life is most teams are capable of beating each other, winning when least expected and losing to relegation fodder for no apparent reason. I will enjoy my fortnight of inactivity, pretend that new acquisitions will catapult my team up the division and then bemoan the loss of former idols not fit to wear the shirt a matter of weeks ago.


David Goodwill

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…

2013/14: Pre-season Friendly – Leeds United v FC Nürnberg

My pre-season outings have so far seen me take in the ‘new start’ at Garforth Town as the team from Wheatley Park prepares for life after relegation from the Evo-Stik League North Division, with friendlies against Carlisle United and Farsley AFC.

Today is also a game which heralds a ‘new start’ as Leeds United parted company with Ken Bates on the eve of their fixture with FC Nürnberg, so ending an eight year connection with the ex-Chelsea Chairman. Since the new owners came to Leeds United they have made great play of reiterating the message that their stewardship is a fresh start, in an effort to entice back fans who stopped attending games at Elland Road during the Bates era. Therefore against this background and on a day of beautiful warm weather, my expectation was that the game would take place in an atmosphere of optimism with a bumper crowd in celebratory mood.

FC Nurnberg warm-up in front of their fans.

In reality it was a slightly different story. The attendance on the day was a disappointing 9,455, which was bolstered by a significant (and boisterous) number of fans from Nürnberg. There were some chants celebrating the severing of ties with Ken Bates, but these were few and far between on an afternoon when the Elland Road faithful were largely subdued and out sung by their Bundesliga counterparts.  On the pitch too the Germans had things pretty much their own way and Nürnberg were ahead within the opening three minutes of the game. From a deep free-kick from Japanese International Hiroshi Kiyotake, Paddy Kenny misjudged the flight of the ball and an unmarked Daniel Ginczek volleyed goal-ward. His effort was headed off the line by Luke Varney and there was momentarily some confusion before a goal was awarded. With an early breakthrough Nürnberg were full of confidence and comfortable in possession (on an immaculate looking Elland Road surface), with Kiyotake roaming freely in midfield and prompting the ever dangerous Ginczek. Leeds struggled to get any momentum going in the first half and could have conceded again from another set-piece, when poor marking at a corner allowed Emanuel Pogatetz a header. Such was the visitors’ dominance that it was nearly half an hour before Leeds had an effort on goal, but the strike from Varney was high and wide. Indeed it was the Germans who nearly doubled their advantage just before the break after a defensive mistake allowed Ginczek a chance, which was wasted as he blazed over the bar. Nürnberg went in at the break 1-0 to the good and deserved to be in front after comfortably dominating the opening forty five minutes.

Neither side made any substitutions at the break, but the second period, despite no changes in personnel had a different tempo. Within the opening fifteen minutes of the half, there was a flurry of chances as Feulner and Ginczek had efforts on goal for the visitors and McCormack and Varney responded for Leeds. There was also a bit of ‘hand-bags’ as McCormack and Dabanli tangled which sparked a skirmish in which both keepers became involved in. Once this all calmed down, both teams started to introduce a number of substitutes just after the hour mark which meant the game struggled for any flow thereinafter. However, with twenty minutes remaining, Leeds once again conceded at a set-piece. German Under-21 international Marvin Plattenhardt took the corner, which was flicked on by Berkay Dabanli to provide an easy header from just inside the penalty box for man of the match Ginczek. More substitutions took place which included a home debut for Matt Smith, but the Germans continued to look dangerous and created two very good chances late on for Niklas Stark and American International Timothy Chandler as the game went into the last ten minutes.

At the whistle, the Nürnberg players celebrated a 2-0 victory and went over to their travelling fans and acknowledged their support. For Leeds it was not the way they would have wanted to end their pre-season or begin a new chapter in terms of the club post-Bates. However, this was merely a friendly fixture and so to make any judgements as to how 2013/14 will unfold would be both churlish and unfair. Brighton visit West Yorkshire on the opening day of the Championship season and Brian McDermott will know that a win in front of a packed Elland Road will erase the memories of the subdued atmosphere of today and may be the start of a genuine ‘new beginning’.


Leeds United: Kenny, Peltier, Lees, Pearce, Warnock (Drury 63), Green (Tonge 63), Murphy, Poleon (Smith 75), McCormack, White, Varney (Hunt 63). Subs (not used): Cairns, Pugh, Brown, Norris, Thompson, Hall, Lenighan.

FC Nürnberg:  Schäfer, Chandler, Dabanli, Pogatetz, Pinola (Plattenhardt 64), Balitsch, Kiyotake (Drmic 69), Feulner (Stark 81), Gebhart (Frantz 75), Mak (Esswein 85), Ginczek. Subs (not used): Angha, Rakovsky, Mendler

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


Book Review: Does Your Rabbi Know You’re Here? by Anthony Clavane

When I was growing up, the football book market was pretty much restricted to lazy and often ‘ghosted’ biographies, where ‘the boys done good’ mentality was about as incisive as it got. Thankfully, as the early 1990’s emerged this changed, with books such as “Fever Pitch” by Nick Hornby paving the way for a better expression of the fan experience and the beautiful game in a wider context. Following in this vein Anthony Clavane wrote the Award winning “Promised Land: A Northern Love Story, which tells the tale of the rise and fall of Leeds United, intertwined with that of the City of Leeds and of the Jewish community.

Clavane has returned in 2012 with a new book “Does Your Rabbi Know You’re Here?”. The premise of this work is the exploration of, “…the role of Jews in English football’s transformation from a working-class pursuit played in the crumbling arenas to a global entertainment industry…” Clavane does so by looking at the stories of eleven key figures (although many others are detailed in the book), through three stages which illustrate the integration of Jews into English society. The eleven central characters are made up of players, fans, entrepreneurs and administrators, in a line-up that includes, Louis Bookman, Leslie Goldberg, Willy Meisl, Morris Keston, Harry Zussman, Mark Lazarus, David Pleat, Avi Cohen, David Dein, Roman Abramovich and David Bernstein. The three stages, which Clavane uses to show these pioneers influence and the journey of integration, are “the First Age”, “the Golden Age” and “the New Age”. In simple terms, the First Age relates to a period when, “…anti-Semitism was part of the public discourse…”, whilst the Golden Age was one of “…two parallel universes – the Jewish and the English, the Yiddisher world and the football world…”, and a time when Jews “…began to ride high on a wave of post-war social mobility…” Finally, in the New Age, “…the Jews finally become British…” completing “…the epic Anglo-Jewish journey from ghetto outsiders to football insiders…”

The various stories are well researched and bring to life early Jewish figures in football such as Louis Bookman, a “…Lithuanian-Jewish-Irishman…”, who left behind his Jewish family to play for Bradford City and WBA before the First World War and Luton Town and Port Vale after it. This all-round sportsman also played for Ireland at international level in football and cricket, and was an early example of a Jew who defied the clichéd image of a people who were weak and bookish.

Throughout the pages of this book, the threat of anti-Semitism is unmistakeable as Clavane details how some Jews felt compelled to play down their faith to gain acceptance and in many cases even changed their surname to avert attention. It was also shocking to read of the way that major European clubs like Bayern Munich and Arsenal air-brushed out Jewish figures in their history. In the case of Arsenal, this is a baffling stance, given as Clavane details that The Gunners used to be the first port of call for Jews wanting their football fix, before their North London rivals Spurs became the team most associated with a Jewish fan-base.

Although the author makes a compelling case for the Jewish influence in the modern game, through “…Abramovich’s wealth and Bernstein’s power…” Clavane acknowledges that “…the conflict between the values of traditional Judaism and athletic competition has not disappeared…” Indeed, he admits that he feels “…guilty for enjoying the pointless spectacle of grown men running around like meshuga (crazy)…” to this day.

Anthony Clavane brings all his experience both from his teaching background and that of journalism to create this excellent book, which is as much about social-history as it is about football. As a reader I want to engage with something that challenges me, which makes me think and at the end of it ensures I come away having learnt something. This book ticks all those boxes.



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