Dirty Leeds

by Robert Endeacott
Tonto Books, £7.99
Reviewed by Duncan Young
From WSC 277 March 2010

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Dirty Leeds is an enjoyable read on some levels, but almost certainly not those envisaged by the author. With its provocative title and its projected first person narrative it seeks to inhabit the same niche as The Damned United by Robert Endeacott’s friend David Peace. However, whereas Peace’s Brian Clough offers a coruscating examination of the motivations of a well-known historical figure, Endeacott’s Jimmy O’Rourke simply reels off a history lesson through the eyes of a fictional would-be apprentice.

Endeacott goes to a lot of trouble to set up O’Rourke’s back story as a teenager desperate to play for his beloved Leeds being brought up by his ailing gran in the streets around Elland Road, but then ensures our guide to the Don Revie era gets no closer to its core than casual work as a ground staff assistant. That vantage point allows O’Rourke to succeed at what Endeacott mostly gives him to do, which is to deliver lengthy and curiously emphasised descriptions of Leeds’ campaigns in the Sixties and early Seventies while occasionally giving us a brief update on his own predictable career-blighting injuries or his gran’s decline.

The book opens promisingly with an engaging portrayal of interviewer Eamonn Andrews ambushing Revie for his 1974 appearance on This Is Your Life dovetailed with Jimmy’s first encounter with the Don, still just a player, while seeking his autograph 13 years earlier. We go on a training run with Jimmy as Revie begins in management, but 25 pages in the novel succumbs to the enthusiastic schoolboy descriptions of matches and team news that before long choke the whole enterprise. It’s 35 pages and three seasons later before the reportage is interrupted by more than a couple of para­graphs of Jimmy’s story and that balance continues for the remaining nine chapters.

The longer accounts of individual matches are at their best strongly evocative of their time and could serve as an excellent catalyst for personal reminiscence or an entertaining way for a young fan to learn Leeds Utd folklore. Before long, however, their sheer weight suffocates any ambitions the book had to emerge as a genuine novel. Even then, a semi-final defeat can merit a blow-by-blow account over three pages while action in the 1969 title decider at Anfield rates only a handful of lines referencing newspaper reports. You have to read a further few paragraphs past unnerving images of bricks through coach windows and David Harvey and Johnny Giles watching Rosemary’s Baby before discovering what the outcome of the most important match in Leeds’s history to that point actually was.

By the end, the book’s title seems more an exercise in window dressing than anything that genuinely embodies the work. Early on it’s made clear a couple of times that Jimmy thinks the “Dirty Leeds” tag is a bit unfair and that’s the end of the matter. We don’t get enough of a look at the city to decide whether that might serve as the focus instead and in the end you are left with the feeling that if the book had been called “My Leeds United Scrapbook and Me” it might have sold more copies to more people who would have genuinely enjoyed it.

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Comments (21)
Comment by deebo 2010-03-01 00:14:01

I found miserable Duncan Young's review on Dirty Leeds about as enjoyable as his previous forays into writing about Leeds, in other words, not at all. For someone so negative and unable to take the good with the bad, I am suprised he follows football, least of all, Leeds United, if in fact he is a Leeds supporter.

Anway, in the interests of balance, maybe a less synical Leeds supporter can give you a review of the book?

To start with, it is a shame that this book is always going to get compared to David Peace's "Damned United". In some ways, its a natural comparison, Peace and Endeacott are contemporaries, and indeed very good friends and both have tackled the same football team (Leeds United) and blended fact and fiction.

But let's make this very clear: each writer is attempting something very different here. Peace attempts to step into the mind of a man (Brian Clough) while Endeacott's novel attempts to capture the aura of a team (Leeds) and the era of their greatest success, viewed through the eyes of a besotted young fan.

Probably one of the hardest things about writing about football, is your audience has usually made up its mind about your subject before they turn a page, and as a writer, your own bias is often hard to conceal. Whereas Peace's (a Huddersfield Town fan and writing as Brian Clough) novel paints unflattering pictures of Leeds United and its players, Endeacott (a life long Leeds supporter) goes the more complimentary path with his heroes. So I guess what I am trying to say is, if you love Leeds United, then you might have found "Damned United" as I did, a hard read at times, while "Dirty Leeds" is a very pleasant one.

If you are expecting another "Damned United", then you might be disappointed. That's not meant to sound critical, either. Its just that they are different books in almost every way. But if you would like to read a tender and affectionate look back at one of England's best ever teams, and follow the highs and lows through the eyes of character who is there through it all, then you will love this book.

And I don't think that Endeacott should be apologetic for this either. He has been writing fiction based on Leeds United long before it became vouge (read his excellent novella 'One Northern Soul' to see what I mean), and is unashamedly a Leeds supporter though and through. He lived and breathed the Revie era through his father (a member of the grounds staff at Elland Road for 26 years) through his fellow fans, and through the team itself. "Dirty Leeds" is very much a blend of all of these experiences, both personal and shared.

So this book isn't an attempt to be a "Damned United". And it isn't attempting to be a factual account of everything that happened during the Revie years either (although its pretty bloody accurate throughout). But it is a well written and thoroughly enjoyable walk through the Revie years, which is, after all, what Endeacott was attempting to write. In that, he has succeeded wholeheartedly. Robert loves Leeds United, and the Revie era, and wants you to share in that. If that sounds as good as it did to me, to you, then you will enjoy this book.

If, on the other hand, you prefer to wallow in misery and focus on the negatives of your team as Duncan Young does, then maybe sitting in a dark room and sulking might be a better way to spend your days.

Comment by imp 2010-03-01 22:44:13

So deebo, are you an Endeacott family member, or just a good friend? It's just that your response has that air of having taken this review very personally. By all means write your alternative view, but launching a personal attack on Duncan Young, for what seems to me a very fair and balanced review, robs your own opinion of any credibility and leaves a lingering taste of three day-old Yorkshire Bitter. (Actually it might taste better if you left it standing for three days.)

Comment by RamseyWhite 2010-03-01 23:18:13

I might have taken Duncan Young’s review seriously if I actually understood what he was on about at times. His over elaboration of certain words just clouded the issue which in my opinion is unacceptable for a person charged with making a book review.
Is is blatantly obvious by his unbalanced remarks that Young is not a Leeds fan otherwise we would have judged the book somewhat differently.
This book is written by a normal Leeds fan that just happens to be blessed with a writing talent. What Young fails to realise is that the market for ‘Dirty Leeds’ is predominately for Leeds fans.
As a Leeds fan brought up in the Revie era I can personally relate to the many references on matches here & as such the accuracy was uncanny, it was like being transposed back to that time which I thoroughly enjoyed.
The use of personal experiences was cleverly interspersed with a detailed account of certain matches which in my opinion made the book even more enjoyable.
I also liked the association of World events which were cleverly aligned within the specific Leeds United season.
There was also plenty of detail which was new to me such as some of the ridiculous superstitions that Don Revie had.
The book also characterised the emotional turmoil in the personal life of Jimmy O'Rourke when face with the death of his beloved grandma which many of us can relate to in real life.
The end of the book relates to a very poignant message about Harry Reynolds & rightly so, as a young supporter at that time he certainly inspired me to get behind the team with his moral lifting half time speeches.
For anyone who had the privilege to see this great team during this period then this book is a must read, I can guarantee you will not be disappointed.
For the younger generation of Leeds fans who have lived through many barren seasons supporting Leeds then this book will give you an insight into when LUAFC were at their best & feared throughout Europe. The book certainly brings out the dogged determination of the Leeds United team of that decade which should have won more trophies but for FA prejudices & blatant match fixing.

PS And before Young bothers to ask, No I am not related to Robert Endeacott.

Comment by RamseyWhite 2010-03-01 23:49:26

You write your comments in Word & then paste in the thread but your apostrophe's appears as ?
Why is this

Comment by imp 2010-03-02 01:13:17

Nope, still not persuaded. I'll give you a D for your book report though, lad.

Comment by deebo 2010-03-02 04:09:06

Have YOU read the book imp? Didn't think so. Quite why someone is commenting on a comment of a review of a book he hasn't even read, I don't know. Unless you were drawn in by the word 'Leeds' and are one of the many people who take more interest in our team than thier own.

And no, I haven't taken the review personally. Just took issue with the predictable comparision to Damned United, and the reviewer's negative approach to all things Leeds. I just think he needs to have a Coke and a smile and cheer up.

Anyway imp, if you want to fish, fish elsewhere….


Comment by RamseyWhite 2010-03-02 13:36:16

I am pleased Mr Young that you thought so highly of my book review that you thought a D marking was appropriate.
As your own review barely warrants a D- , I take this as a complement, thank you.

Comment by imp 2010-03-02 14:02:01

I am not Duncan Young, I am Ian Plenderleith. And you're correct, based on Duncan's review, I shall not be bothering to read 'Dirty Leeds'.

Sorry RamseyWhite, I meant to give you a D , but for some reason the 'plus' symbol disappeared.

Comment by imp 2010-03-02 14:44:17

And again. D Plus. That is, better than a D, but well below a C. You're welcome.

Comment by RamseyWhite 2010-03-02 19:34:29

Sorry Imp I thought you were Duncan Young in disguise.
Can I just ask why you take Mr Young’s review as gospel.
I find it strange that someone can have such strong opinions when you have not even read the book, unless of course you were actually related or a close friend of Mr Young.
By the way your cheap comment on Yorkshire bitter is so petty & imature that I doubt if anyone will ever take you seriously.

Comment by imp 2010-03-02 22:49:44

No strong opinions from me here (except on the utter shiteness of Yorkshire Bitter). But the signs of a club message board-inspired campaign are obvious – the whining, righteous tone, the personal attacks, and the clumsy writing are all giveaways.

Comment by deebo 2010-03-03 03:49:46

Ian, I can understand why you feel the need to leap to the defence of your WSC colleague. But I am sure he can argue his own case. It seems you are the one embarking on the petty message board-inspired campaign. I suspect the only reason you felt the need to get involved in a review about a book about Leeds is your own deep seated insecurity as a Lincoln City fan.

Again, why do you feel the need to comment on a comment about a book you have not, nor intend to read. You say that the review seems very fair and balanced, yet you admit to not having read it. So how can you make that claim? Do you not see how stupid that sounds? I have been reading Duncan Young's material in WSC for years now, and stand by what I wrote.

Are you WSC writers getting so far up your own backsides that you are above criticism? Get over yourselves. A great many football fans are put off by the perceived snobbery that comes from some of the writing in WSC, and you are doing no service towards dispelling that notion.

Can I not take issue with a review on WSC and state my opinion? Is this not what this message board is for? Or are we supposed to only praise the clever and witty musings of the columnists and take their word as football gospel?

You seem to take great pleasure in writing bad reviews: http://www.thesmoke.net/flatlanders/WSCbookreviewswebpage.htm
So maybe I am not surprised that you find Young's review 'very fair and balanced", compared to some of your efforts.

I would have thought someone who writes himself, and takes great pride in praise of his work (judging by all the comments you have saved on your website) would not be so quick to shoot down other writers. But if you prefer the schoolboy route of sniggering at your own witty criticisms of other people's work, then I guess that is up to you.

And just because you have an issue with Leeds United, it shouldn't stop you enjoying the fabulous bitters we make in Yorkshire. That really would be a shame.

Comment by imp 2010-03-03 13:16:08

Thanks for the spot-on psychoanalysis. At Lincoln City, insecurity is a way of life. There are two generations of Leeds' fans in my family, several of them with season tickets, so I have no beef with the club at all, though they're no more my favourites than they are of anyone else who doesn't support the club. We have such fun conversations at family gatherings.

We use reviews to help us reach a judgment on the hundreds of books we'll never get to read. I doubt this one would have been on my list even if the review had been glowing (though I did enjoy The Damned United). The fact that the book title was dishonest already indicated to me I wouldn't be expending time and money on DL. I've not been attacking the book (because, like you say several times over, I haven't read it), I've been defending the review.

Now you have every right to post your counter-review, and I have every right to defend the author of that review against unwarranted personal attacks. That's the great thing about internet democracy. I don't think DY needs to defend his review, because it stands up on its own. It's also out of order to attack WSC writers for defending each other (if that's really how you want to see it – and even if you do, it's hardly a crime) when you were sent here by the book's author from a message board and specifically requested by him to post a more positive review.

I wasn't slagging off Yorkshire beer as a whole, by the way. Just Yorkshire Bitter, which is indefensibly bland. I'm a Theakston's man, myself.

Comment by deebo 2010-03-03 23:51:56

First off, I was not send here by the author from a message board specifically to post a more positive review. I can write my own reviews, thanks. I am a long time subscriber to WSC, and read the reviews each month. But feel free to keep clouding the issue.

I do know Robert Endeacott from an internet forum, as do hundreds of other Leeds fans, but to suggest that he would solicit a good review from me or anyone else to post on here insults him, myself, and WSC. Thats actually a pretty shameful thing to say mate.

You go on to suggest the title is dishonest? I really don't know why you are still on here having a go at a book you HAVEN'T read, and your motivations are really coming into question. Again, how can you defend a review, when you haven't read the book?? I still don't understand this??

Maybe you guys start to believe your own hype a bit too much, but a review is ONE persons opinion, and they can help US to reach judgement. But what it feels like you and Young are doing, is passing unfair judgement on a book, and one of you hasn't even read it.

If you don't like the book, fine, but to have not-so subtle digs at it, like questioning the title (Dirty Leeds? Its what everyone calls Leeds? It started in that era… oh wait, you didn't read the book). I happen to think the title is catchy and also a fine way of showing that Leeds supporters have reclaimed the phrase, just as Arsenal reclaimed "Boring Arsenal".

So go ahead, Defend a review that took an hour to write, over a book (you haven't read) that took months upon months of hard research, then months upon months of hard work to write. It just makes you look biased and stupid. You are defending a review, I am defending the actual book. A book I read, enjoyed, and given to other people as gifts.

Writing about football is extremely difficult, and I would think you and Young would have a little more respect for a hard working writer like Endeacott. There are a small handful of writers trying to do what he is doing (writing football fiction) and I would have thought the proudly independant WSC and its writers would be standing by people like that, not having a go at them from the safety of the internet?

If you go back and read my review, instead of trying to score cheap points on a forum, you might have understood better the issues I had with Young's review, and still do. And yes, I still say he is miserable when he writes about Leeds.

As for Theakston's, you are well behind the times. Black Sheep is the only real Yorkshire beer brewed in Masham.

Comment by Pinocchio 2010-03-04 04:21:26

I agree with Imp, The Leeds slacker deebo needs to understand that you dont need to read a book to comment on it, thats for nerds and writers… keep your fancy words and constructive wit for the ladies deebo. Imp's ball's dont roll for no Leeds lad!

Comment by imp 2010-03-04 13:30:00

Deebster baby, I know that you know Robert Endeacott from a Leeds forum – I can google too. In one thread he invites users to go to WSC and post reviews on this page. I don't think there's anything wrong with that at all, by the way. He seems like a stable bloke, unlike his rabid defenders. But you could have been more honest about why you came here given that you were so heated about me having the audacity to defend a fellow WSC contributor.

Anyway, keep venting on this crucial issue – block caps, double question marks and all. I'm sure it's helping you work something through. Mate.

Comment by deebo 2010-03-05 01:28:24

Oh dear.

Duncan Young's review was miserable, and I thought it was unecessarily critical. That is the crux of my argument. What is yours?

I would have thought a long time contributor to WSC would not be trying to score cheap points over someone on this forum. You are coming across as a crass bully who refuses to address the valid points I have made.

I am defending a book I care about while you continue to try to cloud the issue, with little whittisisms and sidesteps. I actually sent a scan of the review to the author (which I received in my subscription) and was waiting for it to come online to comment. Where is the problem with that? I can assure you that I don't need to fight battles on other people's behalf. This is MY issue with the review, and always has been.

The comment you are refering to on our forum said although there was space to comment, the author wasn't going to as he would be biased. Go back and re-read it if you are not sure. Where was the invitation to defend his honour? Thats right, you just made that up. I'll just add that to your asinine comment that the title was dishonest.

Anyway, there doesn't seem much point in continuing trying to make a valid point to someone who just changes the subject and engages in semantics. You are the prat who is having a go at people for defending a book that they liked a great deal, while you are taking issue with people critising your mate's review, and then fishing for arguments, despite not having a leg to stand on. AS YOU HAVEN'T READ THE BOOK. Oh look, caps again. Happy??

Thanks for my new nickname, add a G to your name for yours.

Comment by imp 2010-03-05 03:23:39

Wait a minute, am I filled with "deep seated insecurity", or am I "a crass bully"? I'm confused.

Also, I can't find "little whittisisms and sidesteps" in my coaching manual. Was this some failed tactic responsible for taking Leeds down to division three?

Did I mention that I haven't read the book? Will you still be angry if I keep admitting that I haven't read the book, and that I don't intend to because the review told me all I need to know?

Will it calm you down if I tell you that I'm one of Leeds United's anonymous new owners, and that I can promise you Champions League football at Elland Road within five years?

Comment by Pinocchio 2010-03-08 01:17:37

LOL, Imp you lost the argument…Live with it mate, no shame in that; thats how you learn. I am just surprised for someone who gave their true identity and is an avid blogger and writer would act so childish… I assume Imp, you put your name thinking you were witty and it would add weight to your comments but it backfired as you come off as a pseudointelectual…

Comment by imp 2010-03-08 19:04:02

Indeed, with my professional reputation destroyed and my ego in tatters, it's hard to see how I can possibly go on for another single day. Look out for my posthumous novel, 'Death By Leeds'.

Comment by Pinocchio 2010-03-08 22:37:56

LOL..This is fun; it’s like listening to an upset child trying to antagonise those around him though everyone just finds it adorable…

Yes, yes your professional reputation is destroyed *snigger* so you are going to write a new book called "'Death By Leeds' " then what imp?