Players such as Gary Sprake, Paul Reaney, Terry Cooper, Billy Bremner, Jack Charlton, Norman Hunter, Peter Lorimer, Allan Clarke, Mick Jones, John Giles, Eddie Gray, Paul Madeley, Bobby Collins, John Charles, Willie Bell, Albert Johanneson and Mick Bates – all managed by Don Revie. The famous Leeds United AFC – the team they love to hate, run by the man they love to hate. Thirteen years, thirteen chapters. Thirteen, unlucky for some…
Dirty Leeds is the novelisation of Revie’s thirteen year reign as Leeds manager, entwined with the tale of Jimmy O’Rourke, a local lad with the rare ambition of playing for his favourite, his only, football team Leeds United. And he is good enough.
March 1961, Don Revie plans to leave Leeds. They want him out anyway so he will beat them to it and sign for Bournemouth. The truth though, is that Leeds chairman-to-be Harry Reynolds wants him to stay as Leeds’ player-manager. It’s an offer that Revie can’t refuse, and big improvements at the club soon follow. But not on the football pitch, as a torturous two seasons sees the team sink to its lowest ever point. And then comes the arrival of Bobby Collins, heralding a slow but sure and startling recovery. By 1964, newly promoted Leeds are battling for the League and FA Cup while Revie is revered by the fans. That popularity is uncommon away from West Yorkshire however – to many, he is ruthless, corrupt, bizarrely superstitious, and obsessed with money. His and the club’s reputations are not helped by the tag ‘Dirty Leeds’, inadvertently given them by the FA in a misleading report. Despite Leeds’ miraculous rise, Revie becomes one of the most maligned men in the history of sport.
Eleven year-old Jimmy O’Rourke lives next door to Leeds’ Elland Road stadium. His mum died when he was a baby and his father fled, leaving Jimmy’s grandma to look after him on her own. Jimmy, inspired by the success of local boy Paul Madeley, trains twice a day as well as craftily using the club’s facilities thanks to the generosity of Ces, the head groundsman, and his assistant John. At fourteen, playing well for a ‘pub’ team, Jimmy’s progress is monitored by various club scouts until at fifteen he gets a trial with Leeds, the chance he has dreamed about. He plays well in that trial and his prospects of success look genuinely good. But it all goes nightmarishly wrong when he is violently fouled by an opponent. His leg and ankle are broken. He has to endure torturous pain and a long lay off from playing football. The club doesn’t abandon him though and he is eventually given casual work with the Leeds ground staff. Physically and mentally he slides into depression, finding pain-killing solace in booze, much of which he gets for free from Aitch, the generous, sympathetic landlord of the Old Peacock pub on Elland Road.
April 1974, Leeds manager Don Revie, his team about to win the League Championship, is the unwitting subject of Eamonn Andrews’ This Is Your Life programme. Revie is forced to look back on his life. Jimmy O’Rourke tells his story at the same time.
Dirty Leeds covers major events in the lives of Don Revie, Jimmy O’Rourke, Leeds United and the city and its people. It is the famous players, memorable matches and battles, jibes, allegations and insinuations. It is pollution, high-rise and redbrick squalor, cobbled streets, tainted landmarks. It is truths and lies, friends and enemies, saints & sinners. Dirty Leeds is a secret history of Leeds.
Original review can be found here