If this was 1973, what a fixture this would be, and it was, but Leeds won back then, nil to three, in front of a crowd of 27,513.
Dirty Leeds. Northern bastards. Tetley bittermen. They never won anything fairly said Brian Clough; cheats the lot of ‘em. They should have put their medals in the bin. And this is why you have to love a fixture against Leeds United today. The weight of such history can’t be lifted and why would you want it to be.
Everybody hated Leeds United in 1973 and, if we have an opinion, a lot of us still do. In these times of image and branding, Leeds United still retains a strong hold on the minds of supporters because of what they were forty years ago. That all white home kit, that so 1970’s curvy LU badge, the garters on the socks and those players, Bremner, Lorimer, Norman ‘bite ya legs’ Hunter, ‘Sniffer’ Clarke , Gray, Madeley, Jones, Reaney and Cooper. That Leeds United defines a time and place, the nasty early 1970’s of IRA bombs, the three day week, power cuts, industrial unrest, Baader Meinhof, tank tops, platform shoes, Chicory Tip and the Wombles. Leeds United with all their nastiness were a reflection of the age; a footballcentric Clockwork Orange. In their stark white kit they were the ruthless professionals who replaced the likes of the homely Matthews and Finney; Leeds United was the monolithic new Arndale Centre that swept away the Victorian streets, and the teased coiffure and the feather cut that usurped the plastered down Brylcreemed pates of the 1950’s for ever. Efficient, impressive, modern, but ugly and lacking a soul.
Of course in Ipswich we never had an Arndale Centre; we had the Greyfriars Shopping Centre but the locals ignored it and didn’t go there, and only moaned about it, so a bit like Ipswich Town today really.
And then there were the Leeds supporters; how the Sunday papers loved the stories of smashed up trains and pubs and bovver booted rampages through the streets, but Manchester United and Chelsea and West Ham supporters were no different, they were all a bit lairy back then, that was the fan culture before ‘fan culture’ existed, before it was labelled, sanitised, branded by TV as the theme for betting adverts and the larky back drop to Super Sundays. Leeds supporters have a bad reputation still, their coaches were parked right outside the away stand today so they could befoul as few as possible of the streets of Ipswich with their short vowels and bile and phlegm. Because they sing continuously whatever the score, Leeds United fans are an oddity in Ipswich, the locals don’t understand and stare cow-eyed, mouths agape. Ipswich Town is a football club where most of the crowd have forgotten or have simply never known how to support their team. In Ipswich people don’t seem to know that showing support by shouting and singing is actually what they should be doing. They think they should just sit quietly, not cause a fuss. It makes a difference. How else are the players going to know if anyone really cares about the result, there’s got to be more to the beautiful game played well than just a win bonus, especially when your ordinary weekly wage is so bloody vast in the first place.
In Ipswich, the club’s fan base was built up in the 1970’s, probably reaching its zenith in 1975 as Town epically overcame Leeds United in a third replay to reach their first ever FA Cup semi-final. (None of this penalty shoot-out bollocks back then; it’s like the FA just wants to get the whole thing over and done with now, roll on the close season.) Courtesy of Bobby Robson the team was ridiculously good for a small provincial town. Ever since Robson departed in 1982 the Town have at best been middling, and when Roy Keane became manager they became virtually unwatchable. Those fans from the 1970’s have stayed loyal to the Town however, but people don’t age disgracefully in Ipswich and the silent silver-haired majority in Churchman’s now look on impassively, saving themselves in case they have to boo at the end. The young fans have no role model to follow and like when they see monkeys shagging at the zoo, pre-pubescent boys turn to their dads and ask what the Leeds fans are doing. “Just watch the game son” is the likely reply.
Misunderstanding their past Leeds United wore white shorts and yellow jerseys today and there was no stylised LU to be seen on the club crest, or garters on their socks. But to be fair, it is no longer 1973; thank the time space continuum for that, but I imagined how it was and I think the Leeds fans did too. Pantomime villains they may be, but it would be a crappy pantomime without Leeds United, as it sadly often is at Portman Road when your best days are Behind You!
Footnote : Had Bobby Robson not died in 2009, the day of this Leeds game would have been his 84th birthday. Consequently, in the 84th minute of the match there was a minute’s applause for Sir Bobby; a sort of birthday greeting sent out by Town fans to beyond the grave; the idea apparently of local radio person Mark Murphy see tweet @MarkGlennMurphy. An awkwardly sentimental idea, because people don’t really have birthdays once they’re dead, it is also flawed because, as my wife pointed out to me, if it is to be repeated after Saturday 18th February 2023, games will have to routinely start going into extra-time; I’m not sure the Football League would agree to that, but you never know. If anyone thought Sir Alf Ramsey was deserving of the same sort of post mortem birthday greeting then I regret to tell you that that particular funeral barge has already sailed because he was born in 1920 and so would already require at best Manchester United style time added-on but more probably, that hard-to-sanction extra time.
Oh, and finally, if you are at all intrigued by the Leeds United of the 1970’s and haven’t already read it then be sure to buy, borrow or steal (depending on lifestyle choice) a copy of ‘The Damned Utd’ by David Peace, it is an excellent novel and one of the very best books about football.