On the Northern outskirts of Leeds, West Yorkshire in a place called Yeadon, six miles out of the city centre, about 150 people actually do live in a street called Football. Google it now and like me you’ll wonder how the hell you’d never heard of it before. I grew up in Leeds and I’d never come across it but it turns out the name goes back at least 100 years.
Last Autumn I gave an old childhood mate of mine, John Paynter, a lift home after he’d been DJing at The Outlaws Yacht Club, a popular café bar in the city. As we set off he announced:
“You’re going to like where I live, my street name is Football. There are plenty of roads named after former players and managers,” he explained. “but this is the only one called Football. Not Football Street or Football Close, just Football. When we bought the house my wife Jacqueline said ‘typical that you end up living on a road called Football.’ Our cat is called Shankley, he likes it here too.”
Football is a dark stoned terraced road in Yeadon best known for being the location for Leeds Bradford International Airport. Yeadon is not a hotbed of Football. Ask people about Football and Yeadon and you’ll get replies about nearby Guiseley which is a bit like asking about someone you fancy and getting told about their brother or sister.
There are a few links between Yeadon and professional football but they’re sparse to say the least: former Bradford City, Motherwell and Rangers manager Stuart McCall appears to have lived there for a while after his father, Andy, had retired from playing for Leeds United and Halifax Town. Former England cricket Captain Brian Close, the youngest man ever to play for his country, is famous for what he did with bat and ball but in the late 1940s and early 1950s he was signed as an amateur footballer by Leeds and then as a pro by Arsenal before making six appearances for Bradford City. Brian lived in Yeadon. The only truly solid link is John Hall who played on the wing 430 times for Bradford City between 1961 and 1974 making him third in their list of highest appearances. John was born in Bramley but has lived most of his life in Yeadon.
In terms of broader sporting links WG Grace was bowled for a duck here against a local side in 1877, there’s now a BMX track for budding trick cyclists and you can sail on Yeadon Tarn. If you’re looking for further adrenalin packed adventure forget about it, you’re more likely to come across an appreciation of the local drinking fountain
And yet here just off Windmill Lane at one end and across a main road from a large supermarket at the other, is a street called Football. You’ll notice it if you look for it, it’s the street with the massive black and white adidas Telstar style football painted on the gable end.
“There’s a simple explanation,” John said, “years ago, at least a hundred, there was a football pitch by the road and people would walk down it to play it. It just became known as FOOTBALL and eventually was officially named that. It’s that common place here in Yeadon that you take it for granted, you forget about it. Apart from when you’re driving up, I always look at the sign, I like it, it amuses me living here. ”
For 85 years this area has mainly been known for the airport. In the 30s and 40s they built Lancaster Bombers for the war effort here. In 1986 a concorde landed drawing crowds of 60,000 and during the 1990s and early 2000’s before it all went tits up, you’d see TV footage of Leeds United jetting off from here to Monaco, Milan or Moscow and returning home with smiles.
The street was built for workers involved in the industrial expansion of the area in the late 19 century. Almost a century on in 1978 someone suggested changing the name and a move was made by local authorities to call it Northfield Terrace but thankfully it was rejected by residents. The current homeowners are proud of the street and embrace the name.
“The football on the end wall is painted every year by a decorator who lives in the end house,” says John, “and there are a lot football fans live here. My immediate neighbour, Rachel, works for Guiseley AFC and you used to see all their blue white striped kit hanging on her washing line. She’s a Leeds fan, then in the other houses either side of us there are two Burnley fans in different houses and a split house where the dad’s Leeds and the son is Man United, me and Jacqueline support Liverpool.”
John’s wife Jacqueline is happy with the street name, she tells me: “A lot of people have named their houses after football, number ten’s house number is ‘1-0’ and another house is called Offside and so on.”
“When we came to see the house John did say he’d like to live on Football but it wasn’t a deciding factor, we liked the house, we’d have bought it anyway even if the street had a different name.”
If you’re thinking of moving there John reckons the unique name definitely adds value. According to RightMove the last house on Football went for £140,000 last summer. Does anyone every try and nick the road sign?
“Not that I know of but we do get a lot of interestingly addressed post. I get a lot of records delivered with little notes with people questioning where I live, then there’s sleeves with drawings of goalposts and little men kicking footballs. Friends buy us football related things, we’ve a doormat that’s a football pitch, table cloths, anything with a football theme.
“The other regular time you’re reminded you live on Football is when the ice cream van comes and it plays the Match of The Day theme. We’d only lived here a week when ice cream van came round and played that and it blew me away.”
For John, Jacqueline, Shankley and their neighbours Football really is coming home.
James Brown is the author of Above Head Height, a 5 A Side Life. Published in February by Quercus