Growing Up With "Dirty Leeds": Revie Ran The Club Like A Family

Long time Leeds fan Bob Endeacott talked to me about his experiences of being around the inner workings of the club as a kid...
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Long time Leeds fan Bob Endeacott talked to me about his experiences of being around the inner workings of the club as a kid...

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Dirty Leeds, I have to be honest I'd never heard Leeds called that until quite recently. I knew people considered the great Leeds United team of Don Revie's to be dirty, but to me they appeared no worse than any other team plying their trade in the 60s & 70s. Tommy Smith, Nobby Stiles, Chopper Harris, Dave McKay were all well known hardmen who put it about a bit on the pitch. None of them played for Leeds. So Leeds had Norman Hunter and Billy Bremner. It seemed every team had a bit of steel to it. That was football in the 60s & 70s, Leeds didn't just trade on grit they had the talent and flair to go with it and, when let off the leash, they could turn it on like few others, Leeds 7 Southampton 0 being the classic example of such skill.

Bob Endeacott. I read a book he wrote (as J R Endeacott) a long time ago. One Northern Soul. I was impressed. To me it was punk rock publishing. Write it, print it, get it out there. A little Rough Trade of the print world operating in the back streets of Beeston. F*ck the majors, f*ck EMI. F*ck Random House. The fact that it was good read too is an added bonus. A minor classic of the Coming of Age genre told with brutal honesty.

Fast forward several years to 2012 and I'm asked to take a look at this new book, After Extra Time (Dirty Leeds Uncut). F*cking hell not another Leeds United book! Seems everyone who ever watched a game at Elland Road thought they had a book in them and most of them have managed to get them published. Seriously, after The Unforgiven you've got to wonder why most of them bothered. But hang on, it's by Bob Endeacott (Robert Endeacott this time). Let's have a look then, bloody hell, it's a bit thick. That'll be the uncut then, I guess?

Alright here we go; kid living in the shadow of Elland Road, dreams of being a footballer, guess who he wants to play for? Cliche, cliché, cliché. Mam's dead, Dad's run out on him, Grandma's bringing him up on her own, okay, now I'm interested, the grounds men take a shine to him, let him in to the match, yeah I can believe that. Scrawny little f*cker, in shorts. I can already see him face pressed against the fences at Fullerton Park watching the 2nd division not so great Leeds training in the rain on a cold November morning. Alright, I'm hooked.

It's obvious Endeacott loves Leeds United, it shines through on every page. What might not be common knowledge is that he probably had the inside track on a number of matters, his father having worked at Elland Road, so you know he knows some stuff others might not be privy to.

Bob, tell us a bit about your father - he worked for the club, didn't he?

Certainly did, for 26 years as part of the Elland Road ground staff.  My books are part inspired by him and more so his boss for most of those years, head groundsman John Reynolds who was a splendid bloke, an exemplary boss and a very good friend to our family.  John died earlier this year, a lot of people mourned his loss.  There was also Ces Burroughs, another fine fella, he’s long gone now but I ‘used’ his and John’s influences a lot in the stories.  John was always very relaxed about me writing about him, and I’m pretty confident that Ces wouldn’t have minded either, it’s not as if I wrote anything negative about them.  I wouldn’t want to either of course.  Having said that, Ces was notorious for his ‘colourful’ language at times, so I had to do a lot of self-censoring when writing his dialogue.

Their characters in the book are my way of trying to relay ‘second hand’ the Leeds stories & folklore to readers, as it would have seemed dubious/implausible for the kid Jimmy to be telling them as if he was a significant part of it all and not just a boy. My Dad absolutely bloody loved working for Leeds when Don Revie was in charge, the stories of it all being like a big family aren’t myths, it really was like that - regardless of what your role was there, if you worked hard then you were appreciated and treated well. Revie treated his staff like friends  The pay was always abysmal for my Dad’s level but the honour of working for Revie’s Leeds always made up for that.  Literally just about everything declined at the club after Revie left, notably the spirit of family which was much more relevant than people seem to comprehend in modern football.

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Is Jimmy in any way autobiographical?

Yes, I’d struggle to write something truthfully which didn’t involve personal experiences; I’d feel like a fraud.  The hero of the Dirty Leeds Trilogy is Jimmy O’Rourke, a Beeston lad born in 1950.  I was born in ’65 and unlike Jimmy I had a good and settled upbringing despite my Mum & Dad’s very low income until I was mid-teens.  Much of Jimmy’s character is autobiographical but the same sort of thing could be said for so many Leeds kids who grew up during the glory years of Revie’s reign.  There won’t have been many lads here who played football who didn’t have ambitions to play for the club, regardless of how loopy an ambition it was.  And of course, I had a prized autograph collection as well, just like Jimmy.

Being the youngest son of a ground staff worker didn’t give me many privileges really, though I had my moments.  I tried to get down on paper the feelings of a young lad idolizing a football club and its icons, history, ups & downs and the whole atmosphere of the place and surrounding Beeston area too.  Football was a massive part of my childhood and I was desperate to authentically portray this under-privileged, ordinary kid with a special talent and ambitions & hopes that pulsed through him like life force itself.  Yes, Jimmy is fictional but his personality, his experiences and his dreams are very real.

Did you ever play for St Anthony’s?

No, I was too good for ‘em.  (That’s b*llocks, you probably realised).  I have though played an awful lot of pub football (awful being the operative word!) and whilst I was never anywhere near as good as Jimmy was, I have played alongside and against some great players, some of whom you just knew from watching them were better than loads of players who made it at lower league professional level.  And it doesn’t matter what level you play at, if you get ‘done’ by an opponent or you get seriously injured (serious for football) then you know what you’re talking/writing about.  I’ve broken a few bones playing football, always my own unfortunately.  One trait I got from my Dad was working & playing hard, though I’ve done a lot more playing in my time than he had chance to!

Are the players on the church team real or made up, based on anyone?

The main character of St Anthony’s is ‘Passy’, and he is based on a real person, a real family in fact, the Passmores who have been close family friends since before I was born.  I believe the Passmore lads were like the driving force for the St Anthony’s team for a long time.  If I’m wrong then I’m wrong, but all the lads were good players and good friends of our family too, so it wasn’t difficult incorporating that team into the story.  Again though, Passy in the book is slightly before the real Passy (Brian).  The names of the other players are made up or copied from lads I know, but not their actual characters.  All the fictional characters in the book are based on ‘someone’ or at least similar to real people.

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That bit about the Kray Twins - real story?

Well, my ‘source’ has never let me down and he is totally sure it did happen and that there was a photo in one of the tabloids soon after (possibly the Daily Mirror) of the match referee standing all pally with the bloody two of them.  He also told me that after the match, Bob English one of the then Leeds coaches/physios/trainers ripped the referee a new backside and had to be restrained before knocking the crap out of him.  To contrast that account though, I once asked Peter Lorimer about it too - he didn’t dismiss it but he did say he couldn’t remember hearing anything about it; it was 1967 after all.  I believe it and I’m not a gullible sort of person, and that’s why I wrote about it, and I’ve not had any death threats as a result.  F**k it all, it definitely happened!  However, it doesn’t quite fit the ‘crooked’ stories about Revie or Leeds that some people like(d) to spout, does it?

How long did you spend researching the book?

About two years, reading as many old papers I could find, as well as those too many Leeds books as you put it, including The Unforgiven which is a grand read.  Originally I was looking to write a story from one specific groundsman’s perspective, covering the era of FIVE Leeds bosses starting with Revie.  Blimey, I’d still be writing the bugger if I’d done it that way.  But I decided that it’s Revie’s Leeds that is a ‘part’ of me and my past, just like it is for so many other people.  Overall I enjoyed reading all those books, plus I had the pleasure (and pain) of watching tons of old Leeds matches on DVD and video, and I managed to hire a copy of the 1974 Don Revie ‘This Is Your Life’ episode too, it forms a kind of spine for the whole book.

Obvious one, I never read the original, what the f**k did you miss out?

I am reliably informed that I missed out 47,000 words, so they’ve been restored to the original text.  That works out at something like half the book added on.  Buy One Get Half On Top For Nowt.  The simple fact is, I submitted too much material to the publishers, Tonto Books.  It needed cutting down and it needed ‘cleaning up’ a bit too, there were some controversial parts to it which the editor probably decided was too contentious.  I know that publishers were very aware and very wary of John Giles’ unhappiness with his portrayal in David Peace’s ‘The Damned United’ and so I think in this case they erred on the side of caution.  I wasn’t upset by that but I did vow that if I ever got the chance to bring out the original, unabridged version then I would do it. That time is now, it’s been a financial risk, possibly reputation-risking too, but I’m feeling confident that the risks are worth taking here.  Besides, the controversial accounts mainly refer to the allegations of match fixing against Revie & Leeds, and you rarely here anyone taking issue with these things; and that’s just not on, I don’t care who you support.

Two things always prominent in my mind when I hear the accusations - 1. that NONE have ever been proved,  and 2, if Leeds really did fix matches then they were absolutely sh*te at doing it, look at the number of big matches they lost!  That’s taking nothing away from Liverpool or Sunderland’s FA Cup win, they both deserved it.  Leeds weren’t the only British team ripped off in Europe, but I would argue all day long that they were the most hard done to.  Some would probably say that there is some sort of poetic justice in that, seeing as Revie’s Leeds learnt much of their (notorious) professionalism and tactics from playing in Europe in ‘friendly’ tournaments in the early 60s.  And look who runs/ruins football at will nowadays, UEFA, ably assisted by the infallible & pure FIFA, often with our own jacka*ses getting involved.  At least the FA isn’t as crooked as those other two though eh.  Idiotic, short-sighted, nepotistic and hypocritical maybe, but not crooked!  More seriously though, I wanted to address ALL the jibes and allegations, and I wanted to answer them too; writing fiction gives me a good opportunity to do that without incurring legal proceedings.

Did you used to get in for free, attend functions etc as a kid?

Yes, I used to get in for free when I was a kid, usually in the West Stand but eventually, like you do, in the Kop as I got older and more independent.  I’m there now - not literally - a season ticket holder despite being one of what Mr Bates called a dissident or moron or sickpot.  Getting in for free seems a long long time ago; I haven’t done it for decades.  I used to go to a lot of aways back then, and I paid for them in many ways, not just financially!  I went to a couple of the staff Christmas parties when I was a nipper too.  I suspect my first was 1973 as Don Revie suddenly appeared as Santa, dishing out presents to all the kids there.  That’s the kids of the players as well as the ‘normal’ staff.  The next year was Maurice Lindley as Santa so I’m hazily presuming The Don had departed for the England ‘mare by that time.  I could be wrong though.

Anyway, that first one is where Don Revie complimented my Mum on how well behaved me and our kid (Graham) had been, and then told her that his surname was pronounced ‘Reevi’ and not ‘Revvi’.  It doesn’t seem really important I know, how you say the name correctly, but it forms an early aspect of the Dirty Leeds story.  It’s one of my favourite Leeds stories involving my Mum as she always loved telling it.  She died last year, the brightest light of my life extinguished over a few awful months, but she wouldn’t appreciate anyone getting too morose about it.  She’s probably the main reason for my writing for a (pitiful) living, she was one of the most intelligent people you could meet as well as possessing a brilliant attitude to life and to trying your damnedest to realizing your ambitions.  I got the same feeling with John Reynolds too, I hope that doesn’t sound trite.

At what point are you working from memory rather than research the record books.

It’s laborious but you have to do your research thoroughly, which for me means reading every sodding stat & report going about the relevant seasons.  It’s a pain when someone points out a mistake, which is what happened in the first edition, about a dozen times.  But that’s no disrespect to the people doing the pointing out, by the way, as I appreciate their telling me.  Fortunately, most of the errors were confirmed by one person so I didn’t feel such a prat and I appreciated him taking the time out to confirm such things as Arsenal’s socks in the 1968 League Cup final were white & black rather than white & red.  As the Dirty Leeds stories are a mix of fact and fiction, all the fictional stories are from my own memory, but I had the pleasure too of talking with a lot of great people about those days just so I could be sure I got my facts right.  Born in 1965 means it’s hard for me to work from memory of course, but there again I’ve tried to capture the atmosphere of the times, the grim & gritty ‘essence’ of 60s & 70s Beeston life, together with the hopes and ambitions of a hopeful, naïve whippersnapper!

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I hear you had Mike O'Grady and Bryn Law at your book launch, care to share anything with us?

Great night, sold a few books, was privileged to have Mike AND Bryn there, supporting me because they’re such bloody good blokes.  Mike revealed that leaving Leeds was the biggest mistake he ever made in his career and that the jibe ‘Dirty Leeds’ WAS unjust, though of course the players could and did look after themselves on the pitch.  It’s like you say Johnny, there were plenty of teams with tough players who liked to get their retaliation in first, Leeds were hardly the only ones.  Mike also said that the press, especially down south, really did hate Leeds.  Bryn showed that he’s a great emcee as well as match commentator and presenter.  I seriously was so proud to have them attend, and the disappointment of the late cancellation by Terry Yorath was easily overcome.  Eddie Gray would have attended too but he had a prior engagement, I was just chuffed that they wanted to help out, it means a lot to me.  Just the knowledge that they all were willing to help out made me feel like Jimmy O’Rourke all over again.  We had a few pints in Whitelocks afterwards, that was good fun too, though it pi*sed my mate Iain off (The Northern Monkey proprietor) because he wanted the custom.  It wasn’t my fault that he didn’t have a range of real ales on there or that the vast majority of people who attended the launch wanted to drink real ale.  I hope to try and put it right at some future launch anyway.

So is that it for Dirty Leeds or do you hope to take it further? The obvious step to me anyway is regional theatre, especially as I never think football films well. You've seen the Damned United I assume?

Yeah I’ve seen The Damned United, the film of a book I just about love.  The film?  It’s crap, but there you go, that’s my opinion and yes I am bloody biased but that’s not relevant.  The next time a film company has the chance to adapt a modern day classic, an opportunity up there with making something as good as the adaptation of This Sporting Life, someone should remind the producers of how bad a job was made of The Damned United, they can use it as a benchmark (with dogdirt on it)!  It’s Carry On Cloughie, without the entertainment.  Michael Sheen’s excellent in it though, and Jim Broadbent never disappoints.  But f*ck me, that film was so disappointing.  Regarding ‘Dirty Leeds’, I would absolutely Keegan love it to be adapted for the stage.  I do have some ideas for such a thing but you need more than ideas to make a good play, you need backers and people who can pitch an irresistible pitch.  I watched and thoroughly enjoyed the Leeds stageplays of Gary Edwards’ ‘Paint It White’ and Anthony Clavane’s ‘Promised Land’ and I’ve taken inspiration from them, so who knows, maybe something will happen.  Lots of people are enthusiastic for such a thing to happen but so far, nothing solid has happened.  I’ll be looking to make it original and spectacular when/if something does crop up though, I promise you that!

Thanks for your time Bob.

I’m not going to give the story away. Anyone familiar with football at the arse end of the 60s and into the mid-70s will know the ups and occasional downs of Leeds United during that time. But what of the protagonist Jimmy I hear you say? Well that’s why you’re going to have to buy the book isn’t it?

Bob Endeacott would probably bleed yellow, white and blue if you cut him. You don’t have to to enjoy this book. He’s graciously pledged a portion of the proceeds from his book to Candle lighters a children’s cancer charity that many Leeds United fans support.

You can buy the book here http://www.dirtyleeds.net or at any decent book shop. If they don’t have it ask them to order it.

Visit the Candle lighters website to donate here:http://www.candlelighters.org.uk/DesktopDefault.aspx