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.
Original review can be found here.