Let’s forget about all that unpleasantness at Liverpool and think about Leeds United on Saturday. To get some insight on the game from a Leeds point of view, I’ve interviewed Dirty Leeds author and lifelong Whites fan Robert Endeacott.

Robert is a novelist who penned One Northern Soul and it’s follow up No More Heroes, which told the tale of a young Leeds fan growing up in the seventies and eighties.

Dirty Leeds is Robert’s new novel, which chronicles Don Revie’s reign in charge of Leeds.

Rob, welcome to TottenhamBlog. How long have you been attending games at Elland Road and do you remember the details of your first match?

Cheers, thanks for asking.

My supporting Leeds is all my Dad’s fault, he was an avid fan right from his childhood and then he got a job on the Elland Road ground staff when I was 5.

My first march was at Elland Road when I was 4, but I have not the slightest clue who was playing (aside from Leeds, obviously). In fact, he took me to the game more to get me out from the house and annoying the hell out of my Mum than to watch a game of football, which I could barely see over the perimeter wall. I do have vague memories of my Dad smuggling me in without paying, but don’t quote me or else the chairman will be after us, even if it is 40 years on.

I imagine you’re still coming down off the high of beating your rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford. How did it feel to win that game after so many dark years?

A great win and fully deserved, and it’s always nice to beat them – it’s not that much of a rarity y’know! The team did us proud and so did the supporters – I didn’t honestly think we’d win but I did sort of know that the team would put up a good display. I wasn’t expecting it to be so magnificent. But Dan, listen mate, despite the massive support and the great excitement and the good press we’ve had, its getting out of Division 3 which is the ONLY thing that really matters to us this season. I’d be surprised if many Leeds fans view it differently.

Has the win knocked Leeds off their stride a little? I notice that you haven’t won a match since.

Drawing at home to Wycombe was a disappointment, so yes, I think it did. The Exeter defeat wasn’t that much of a surprise, I heard a few Leeds fans saying they expected us to lose it and the Carlisle game in the Johnstone Paint Pot was actually a decent game. We were rightly losing by half time but I really think we improved big time in the second half. We ended up losing 2-1 but the least we deserved was a draw. Credit to Carlisle, I don’t understand how they’re so crap in the League, they’re a bit of a bogey team for us at home. It’s only half time in that tie, we might have a sniff of Wembley yet.

Are you pleased that Jermaine Beckford looks to be staying on until the end of the season, or would you rather have cashed in on him now?

Yes, I’m pleased he seems to be staying at least till the end of the season, but I’ll believe it when that damned transfer window shuts.

Beckford is likely to be available on a free transfer in the summer. Do you think that he’s good enough to play at Premier League level?

I’m not a qualified coach and I can’t tell the future, but I’ll say this about him: – he’s fast as hell, good with both feet, he’s got great individual skill and he scores some lovely goals. He needs to work on his finishing and his attitude and team-play though, and he needs to toughen up as well. He has a lot of potential but is he too old to change his ways and improve his game?

He is disappointing in the air, but on the deck he’s been great to watch as well as infuriating at times. I am surprised someone in the Prem didn’t gamble a couple of million on him before. If he must leave then I wish him well and I would like him to succeed at the top. I’m not sure he’s consistent enough but he has a couple of special aspects to his game. I still hope he stays though!

Are you confident of going up this season? Is Simon Grayson the man to take you all the way back to the Premier League?

In Simon we have faith and we trust completely. Seems a proper good bloke. Level headed, intelligent and passionate for Leeds to succeed. We’ve had a little blip, and I mean little, and it might even get worse next week, but YES, if he gets the backing from the hierarchy at Leeds, there is a lot of potential at the club and Simon G is very good at getting the best out of most players I think.

Tell us a bit about Dirty Leeds. Did David Peace’s The Damned Utd motivate you to tell the other side of the story?

No! But let me make it clear – I love The Damned Utd book (don’t ask me about the film. Go on then, ask me: Answer = I think it’s pretty crap, considering the book is a modern day classic, it takes some degree of ineptitude to demean it in to a film which might have been better called ‘Carry On Cloughie’). Anyway, back to the book. Contrary to what a few people might think, and a couple have actually said, I was writing Dirty Leeds before TDU came out.

They are very different books – blimey, for one thing I WISH I could write as well as David Peace – but TDU did help me re-focus on what I was writing and how I should write it. David’s a good, good mate and he was never shy of answering any questions I had for him about my book(s) and he was always willing to advise me on the style of Dirty Leeds.

Originally, I planned to write about the life of the head Groundsman at Leeds, over the era of FIVE managers, all of whom I think were fascinating men. We had The Don, then Cloughie, then Jimmy Armfield, then Jock Stein and then Jimmy Adamson – a lot of material. David gave me a figurative slap and said I was aiming too high and that I should concentrate on just the Revie era. He even wrote that in an interview in the Leeds Leeds Leeds magazine, that ‘someone’ ie me, should write about Don Revie.

I’m glad he did give me that slapping as the original manuscript of Dirty Leeds was 800 pages long, imagine how long it would’ve been had I written about the five bosses!

So, to the question again – The Damned United, in my opinion a brilliant novel if not pretty reading for we LU fans, did motivate me more, but the research and work for Dirty Leeds was already well under way. It’s success might have persuaded Tonto Books to take me on though, I can’t deny that!

There have been many good books about football, but not many novels. Do you think the success of The Damned Utd and novels like your own, could kick-start a new genre in literature?

If it did kick-start a new genre then i doubt I can take any credit whatsoever for it, but thanks for mentioning it. A woman once said to me, ‘I won’t read your book because I don’t like football’ which was a bit of a surprise. So, in the good old fashioned football way of retort, I hacked her down, dispossessed her and gobbed on her Man U shirt…

… I’m not sure any of that is true, I’ve been working too hard…

No, what I did do was tell her that I don’t like war, I don’t like drugs and murder and organised crime and aliens and ghosts and strange little creatures with big hairy feet who live in the Shire, but it doesn’t stop me reading about them. My laboured point is that I don’t care about Genre, I think there is great literature possible about any genre and any subject, if the writer is good enough or has done enough research on their subject to make it an interesting read.

Dirty Leeds isn’t just about football, it’s a rites of passage story too, about a young kid growing up in the 1960s, and it contains a lot of very personal stuff which I’ve tied in with the factual history of Leeds the club and the city and people.

Do you plan to write another novel based on football at some point?

I’m right in the middle of writing ‘DisRepute – Revie’s England’ and then following up my first two novels (One Northern Soul and No More Heroes) with Public Image Leeds (a provisional title) and without any conceit (cos I’m not conceited in the slightest) I’m still excited about writing them, and that’s a good sign. I’m also in the middle of writing an alternative history of my favourite current band The Stranglers, but it’s on the backburner until I’ve finished DisRepute as it’s a tight deadline I’m on.

Moving onto Saturday’s match, one player who might be injured for us is Aaron Lennon. What were your reflections on his as a young player, before we bought him from Leeds?

Loved him! I think most of us just knew he was going to succeed and so when we sold him – apparently he was another favourite player who we ‘had’ to sell – it was a bitter sweet situation.

I can only speak for myself officially, but if there was any way I’d nearly approve of his exit then it was by his going to Spurs or a couple of other possibles, because we knew he’d develop from being a rough diamond to being the finished product. And you had Paul Robinson and Robbie Keane then too, who I couldn’t dislike either even if I tried. Woodgate was a great player but my memories of him aren’t so pleasant as his involvement in certain incidents pretty much brought about the road to hell we were on for way too long at Leeds.

What do you make of Tottenham this season? Do you think we’ve got a chance of qualifying for the Champions League?

I just get the feeling there’s something not quite right in the team, maybe it’s not balanced enough yet, I’m not sure. Some great players but Spurs still seem prone to not only flatter to deceive, but also lacking a bit of steel in defence and central midfield – in other words, defensively they’re too inconsistent but I think you can do it, even taking into account last night’s defeat at GoLiverpool FC! To be honest, I hope you do, Spurs are one of the most entertaining teams in the Prem League.

What’s your prediction for the match? Are you going to pull off another shock?

Well, I go on a regular Leeds forum (LUFCTalk) where I predict a Leeds defeat each time, losing 2 – 1. So far I’ve been deliberately wrong every time except for the once, last Tuesday v Carlise. I don’t like seriously predicting we’ll lose, ever, but I think it might happen this Saturday.

The lads will though put up a brave performance and I think it will be close, I just worry you’ve a bit too much attacking pace up front and in midfield. I’ll be there – I don’t get to many away games any more but this will be my first visit to WHL – and in some respects I’m eager for us to concentrate on the proper big competition, Division 3 (South) that we’re in!

Finally, if you could pick one former Leeds player to improve your current squad, who would it be?

I never saw him play but I’ve met him a few times and I’ve also heard and read many a report of how blooming good and influential he was. Some Spurs fans might remember the effect Dave Mackay had on your team, well this fella was an even bigger impact for Leeds. He also undoubtedly had great influence on Billy Bremner, (the best ever football captain to have played!) and he had that fantastic never give in/hate losing/keep fighting attitude, could tackle like a demon and strike a ball sweeter than just about anyone.

Bobby Collins is that man. He’s not very well these days, so best wishes, Mr Collins.

Thanks for the chat, Dan, and I’m not alone as a Leeds fan wishing Spurs a successful season. Especially AFTER Saturday!

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6 COMMENTS

  1. Robert got it spot on with Bobby Collins, he must be as old as me! When asked, most people say Bremner was our best ever captain, but Bobby taught him everything. It was only when he joined as that Revie’s team began to progress. I think he taught the Don a great deal too.

    I also will be there Saturday but this is probably the 10th time I’ve been to WHL. It’s much better than the first time I went when “Gillzean the Glance” was king, these days you can see the game It would be a shame to move from such a wonderfull and historic place.

    You’ll beat us on Saturday, but we won’t care, and you can expect singing for 90 minutes. We’ve had our cup final when we beat the Salford Yankees and there is no pressure on us to get anything. As Robert says, its this crap division we need to get out of, an soon.

  2. Nice interview – look forward to reading the novel. My Dad took me to my first Leeds match in 1956 – and I’ve been hooked ever since. As for past Leeds players I’d like to see in the team, John Charles (and RE’s selections) apart, Tony Currie will do for me. Oh, and I expect a 1–1 draw on Saturday – or a win for us. Don’t fancy Spurs on their
    current form. Mind, I hope Robert Snodgrass is rested; I don’t want Harry to see him.

  3. Rivetting & insightful plunge into a clash that really has re-awoken the history, dreams & romance of old school cup ties. Will be very tough but ‘come on Leeds!’

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