Leeds United Change

Leeds United Patrick Reynolds

Leeds United, my dad and me

September 6th 1969. Leeds United 2, Manchester United 2. My first Leeds game, I was 8 years old and instantly hooked on the Whites for life. There was no fan segregation in that all standing area near the base of the floodlight; somewhere around the time George Best scored his 2nd goal of the game to put Man U 2 - 1 ahead, I got separated from my dad. The Manchester fans surged forward, showering the air with their yellow tickets, thrown in celebration. I got swept towards the front of the stand, my dad got pushed backwards.
Sometime after Billy Bremner equalized, near the end of the game with a spectacular overhead kick, Dad found me again. After checking I was ok, he asked me what I thought, had I enjoyed the match? As I was the youngest of 3 sons, the previous 2 having shown no interest in football; he looked both happy and relieved when I told him I'd loved it and asked if we could come here again.

I never realised how easy it was then to be a Leeds fan. Or that I'd just witnessed some of the best players in the world, going head to head in one of the greatest games I'd ever see. The years that followed it always seemed to be Leeds in the FA Cup final, or playing for the League title on the last game of the season. We were always in Europe, back then I thought we always would be.
11 days after that game Leeds won their first European Cup match of the season 10 - 0 against SK Lyn Oslo. My team, the Champions of England.

Dad came home from the last match of that season disappointed. Leeds had lost the FA Cup final replay 2 - 1 to Chelsea at Old Trafford. Both the final and the replay had seen some of the most violent 'tackles' I can ever remember seeing in a football game. Leeds were tarnished with the 'Dirty Leeds' tag throughout the Revie period and at times we were deserving of the name. But to single Leeds out at this time was just plain wrong, there were plenty of other teams capable and willing to play that way. There weren't plenty of other teams around who could skilfully play you off the field as well.

On May the 6th 1972 Leeds won the FA Cup at the third time of asking. Back then the FA Cup meant a lot to every team, with no Champions League rewards for teams who fail to win anything. I watched the whole day with my dad, team hotel, cameras on the team bus, going mental when Sniffer planted his diving header into the net, watching all the interviews afterwards, while the boys celebrated and drank a pint of milk.
On May the 8th, 2 whole days after that Wembley game, the FA made Leeds play their last game of the season, away to Wolves. We lost 2 - 1 and another potential double winning season ended on a sour note.

The following season Dad and me watched as the Sunderland goal led a charmed life and Leeds lost the FA Cup final 1 - 0. Dad was reflective about it, Sunderland worked hard as a team and it wasn't meant to be. He was in a less generous mood 11 days later when we lost the European Cup Winners Cup final 1 - 0 to AC Milan. He knew something wasn't right about that game at the time. I didn't understand back then that everything wasn't above board and honest.

It was worse a couple of years later; on May 28th 1975 we both watched on telly as Leeds lost the European Cup final 2 - 0 to Bayern Munich. This time both of us knew there was something strange about the referee's decisions.
History has since shown that in 1973, one bent referee and a suitcase full of Italian Lira was the price of a Cup Winners Cup final. In 1975 the price of a European Cup final was one bent referee and a suitcase full of German Marks.

Both my dad and me have always considered Leeds to be the 1975 European Champions and the '73 Cup Winners, cup winners. What I don't understand in the years since is why UEFA haven't shown any bottle over this and other 'bought games'. I seem to remember Marseille being stripped of a European title. Ben Johnson was stripped of his Olympic sprint title for cheating. Lance Armstrong lost 7 Tour de France titles, so why are AC Milan and Bayern Munich still allowed to hold trophies that they won by cheating?
Leeds should be acknowledged as having won all three of the European competitions.

Something changed in my dad after that night in Paris. He never went to see Leeds play again. He was still a fan and we'd still talk about the team, as I kept on going to Elland Road, but he'd lost his belief that all teams were starting on a level playing field.
Leeds never got back to the FA Cup final and I'd long ago realised just how unbelievably good the team I'd first seen play was. To experience relegation was a total shock. Sgt Wilko brought back some of the glory, briefly, but it was Manchester United, not Leeds United, who were destined to rule the roost in England for the next couple of decades.

My dad, Terry, died this week. He was 85, which isn't a bad age to reach but I wish he could've gone on for a few more years. Seen his beloved Leeds competing in the top flight again. Even in the last week of his life I was chatting to him about Don Revie, born in 1927, same as my dad, married in October 1949, same as my dad. Even with his memory as poor as it was, he still remembered the Don. While he slept I listened to the visitor and patient in the next bed over talking about the upcoming Leeds games and whether Morison would turn out to be better than Becchio. Not much in that LGI ward made me smile, listening to them did.

We've just lost 2 - 1 at home to Huddersfield and our chances of returning to the top flight this year look pretty non-existent now. Sometimes I wish I could support someone else, be a glory hunter and wear my Man United/City/Chelsea colours with pride, but I can't, because Leeds United are my team. One day we'll be back...one day. I just wish Dad could've stayed around to see it.

I love you Dad and I love that you made me a Leeds fan.

Patrick Reynolds


1 Comment

that was superb ,perhaps my team (Coventry) will grace the top flight again with yours.

– Dean Nelson, July 13 2015 at 20:07

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