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We All Hate Leeds. That’s Why the Premier League Needs Them

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” – Thomas Haynes Bayly

In their absence, it appears that opposing fans have developed a level of respect for what Leeds United accomplished during their time in the Premier League. The club did disrupt the natural order of the Football League First Division (later the Premier League) while boasting some of the more unique supporters in English football. The Whites of Leeds United were a rival to many clubs in the league. A rivalry which was born from geography, then heightened over time.

In 2008, The Sun newspaper took a poll and fans voted Leeds United as the most hated club. Despite being out of the Premier League for only four years, the club was still first in the minds of English fans.

Just a few years later, talkSPORT again asked which club was the most hated in English football, fans answered: Manchester United. But make no mistake about it, should Leeds United ever put it all back together and earn promotion to the Premier League, opposing fans will be quickly reminded which club stirs the pot of negative emotions.

“Keep your friends close but your enemies closer” – Sun Tzu

Friend or foe…you don’t want to be too close to a Leeds supporter.

Leeds United’s fan base have failed to be humbled by their clubs fall from the top flight. The pride of the supporters is still intact. Prior to their 2010 FA Cup third round match versus Manchester United, a supporter of the Whites was quoted as saying:

“To be completely honest with you, I think we kind of enjoy being hated. It’s the kind of backs to the wall, us against the world mentality we’ve been built on, so you just learn to accept it’s part of being a Leeds fan and laugh at the clubs who hate you for no particular reason.”

Leeds is the largest English city with only one professional club and even during tough times their fans still come close to filling the 37,000 seat capacity at Elland Road while screaming, “We are Leeds!” Perhaps it’s the fiery northern mentality that is so deeply engrained into the psyche of every Leeds fan that makes them collectively feel they’re capable of creating an atmosphere that changes score lines. An Elland Road in full voice not only spurs Leeds United on, but it also terrifies the opposition.

You get the feeling that Leeds United fans know it’s just a matter of time before the club is marching back into Old Trafford, Stamford Bridge, or any other Premier League club’s home ground to commence the war of words face to face.

“Time heals all wounds” – Geoffrey Chaucer

Umm…not in the case of Leeds.

No matter which Premier League ground you enter, you’re still bound to hear the home supporters singing an anti-Leeds chant. The national loathing of Leeds United stems from the time of Don Revie’s great teams. Revie managed Leeds from 1961 to 1974. Over the course of his tenure, he created one of the most powerful football clubs in England by dragging a side on the brink of Third Division obscurity up by its bootstraps to become the most powerful football team in the country. Under Revie, Leeds never finished below fourth place. They won the First Division twice, finished runner-up five times, and won the FA Cup once (they also played in three more FA Cup finals).

The club would come to be known as “Dirty Leeds” by opposing supporters. A case study presented at the University of Leeds came to the determination that the nickname became permanent shortly after a 1963 Boxing Day match with Sunderland. Players from both clubs were seen throwing punches at each other while a Leeds player actually kicked an opponent, but no one from either team was cautioned. Following this match, the term was firmly entrenched in English footballing terminology.

Leeds were known as a tough, hard-tackling team. Former players provided insight to Revie’s philosophy at Leeds, while tip toeing around the topic of whether or not the manager told them to play ‘dirty’. Former Leeds United player Norman Hunter described a determined plan to assert his authority but not to be ‘dirty’. He said, “Revie regarded the first tackle in the game as a ‘freebie’ as the player never got booked.” According to Hunter, Revie told him “When your man gets the ball for the first time, let him know you’re there. Hit him hard and let him know you’re on his case.”

The “Dirty Leeds” label was highlighted even more during the managerial war of words between Brian Clough of Derby County and Don Revie. Clough disagreed with the physical, intimidating manner played by Leeds and the manager wasn’t shy of voicing his opinion to anyone that would listen.

The truth is that Revie’s Leeds United teams were very physical and had poor disciplinary records. But the manager was also a solid tactician who also emphasized player roles and team building. What he was able to do during his time as manager is something any manager would want to emulate. He built a family. A team that fought for each other, their manager, and their supporters. This is where the passion for the club was intensified.

It was during these times when fans around England began to hate everything Leeds. Even clubs who weren’t in the same division as United hated them and wanted to beat them. It’s one thing for a team to be good and win titles. But public opinion of Leeds was that they cheated and bullied their way to success. Combine their on the field accomplishments with an in-your-face fan base, and it’s easy to see why fans across England still hate Leeds.

Leeds United most bitter rivalry within the league is arguably with Manchester United. It’s referred to as the “Roses Rivalry”. The name of the rivalry is derived from the historic Wars of the Roses which was carried out between the House of Lancaster and the House of York.

The rivalry is described an “inexplicable” by former players and the media. But the hatred between supporters is very real. During the 70’s, when hooliganism became a real problem in English football, fighting between the firms of Leeds and Manchester United became the most violent in the sport.

In 2011, Gordon McQueen, a former player with Leeds and Manchester United, was quoted as saying, “I don’t know why the rivalry became so nasty. In my early days at Leeds, United were never a threat and the hostility wasn’t there, but it seemed to increase with United winning things and Leeds struggling.

“It has become unbearable for Leeds fans now because United have been so successful. But Leeds against Manchester United is up there with Arsenal-Spurs, Liverpool-United and it’s one that the Premier League really misses.”

“Forgive your enemies, but never forget their names.” – John F. Kennedy

Leeds United fell out of the Premier League following the 2003-04 season. The short story is the club had debt issues and tried to spend money to keep competing for Champions League positions. When Leeds missed out 2002-03 Champions League, they had to sell a number of players in an attempt to balance their books. Once the club was relegated, the financial situation only became worse. Leeds were forced to go into “administration” and incurred a 10-point penalty in the league. This resulted in the Whites being relegated again to League One. Further breaches of financial rules almost resulted in the club being ‘kicked out’ from the Football League altogether, but they were allowed to be re-admitted before the 2007–08 season. At the conclusion of the 2009-10 season, Leeds United were promoted back into the Championship and they have been there since then.

The truth is the Premier League has carried on since Leeds United was last a member. And of course, with the money being poured into the league by their enormous TV deals, no one is worried that the league’s fixture list will fail to capture an audience.

But all the rivalries within the league can’t even begin to compare with the intensity of Leeds United returning to opposing Premier League grounds. Not to forget the mind-numbing noises which would be roaring from Elland Road when top flight teams arrive into West Yorkshire.

A Premier League return for ‘The Mighty Whites’ would quickly remind English football why, “We all hate Leeds.”


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  1. LufcTyke

    January 15, 2014 at 6:17 am

    The love and passion we have for our club brings us together, the hate the other clubs have for us just makes us stronger.

    Marching On Together back to where we belong

  2. Marc L

    October 18, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Almost all clubs have quasi-human elements amongst their supporters. Not just Leeds. And whatever else can be said about them, they have stuck with it and kept up the passionate level of support even in the bad times.

    I always kind of liked them – enemies of my enemy. And also because the “Revie Plan” at the foundation of their initial successes in fact originated during Revie’s tenure at MCFC.

    • Irving08

      October 18, 2013 at 6:48 pm

      Don Revie never played the so-called ‘Revie plan’ at Leeds. The ‘plan’ entailed a deep-lying centre forward, feeding the ball to the wings. It was not in fact Revie’s plan (and he never claimed to be its author either); he just performed the deep-lying role for Man City, whom it happened to suit at the time. Leeds United, under his management never played with a deep-lying cf. Don liked to play with two front men, although it took some time for him to find the perfect pairing.

      • Legend

        October 19, 2013 at 8:16 am

        Again, good stuff Irving.

        • Peter Quinn

          October 19, 2013 at 8:21 am

          Sorry, someone signed on to my computer yesterday.

          I appreciate your post, Irving.

  3. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    October 18, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    Leeds are badly missing from the Prem. The fourth largest urban area in the UK without a top flight team and a club with massive massive accomplishments and incredible supporters buried thanks to Ridsdale and Bates. Time for Leeds to return to its rightful place in the top flight.

  4. oldlufc

    October 18, 2013 at 9:54 am

    It is a shame that yet another article fails to identify where the “Dirty Leeds” tag comes from. having been a Leeds fan since 1963 I have never heard of the Leeds University study mentioned. I do know about the ‘Battle of Goodison” in 1964 when Everton had Sandy Brown sent off and the foul count 19 to 12 in Everton’s favour but it was Lees who were called ‘dirty’. The FA publishing a list in 1964 of ‘offenders’ was the start of the ‘Dirty Leeds’ tag:

    A number of southern media types started to publish a ‘foul count’, common practice these days, when reporting Leeds games in London but the practice soon stopped when it failed to support the ‘Dirty Leeds’ tag’. Most were more upset by Revie’s famous ‘Southern Softies’ jibe, it would be called ‘mind games’ today as practiced by old ‘RedNose’ and the ‘Special One’.

    What surprises me, and what people tend to gloss over, is that during he Revie era, Revie was voted Manager of the Year twice, Bobby Collins, Jack Charlton and Billy Bremner all won Footballer of the Year Awards. And that ‘Dirtiest of the Dirty’ Norman Hunter was voted the inaugural PFA Players Player of the Year in 1974.

    I agree that Leeds were not always the prettiest to watch in the early Revie years, but it was a time whe every succesful club had an enforcer, Tommy Smith, Ron Harris, Dave Mackay all spring to mind and Arsenal perfected the ‘1-0 to the Arsenal’ style of play. Revie, heavily influenced by Leeds experiences in Europe started things like tactical dossiers that are now accepted parts of the game.

    To see the team Leeds became you need to read the opinions of people like Bill Shankly, acknowledge the reception Leeds received on winning the title at Anfield in April 1969:

    “Shankly, an incurable romantic where football was concerned and not one to bandy around accolades where they were not deserved, gave Leeds his stamp of approval.”

    Many of those who now use the ‘Dirty Leeds’ tag never saw the Leeds team under Revie and I would recommend “The Glory Game” by Hunter Davies with a whole chapter on Spurs FA Cup 6th Round visit to Elland Road in 1972.

    In the meantime, every time I hear ‘Dirty Leeds’ I chuckle and just thank myself fortunate enough to have been born a Leeds fan and witnessed one of the best football teams ever week in week out during the Revie Years.


    • Peter Quinn

      October 18, 2013 at 10:31 am

      Thanks for this comment. Good stuff.

      I was trying to determine when the tag ‘Dirty Leeds’ started. Here’s the link to the study (there are a ton of additional links in the study…it’s a long read):

      A lot of what you mentioned, I came across in different reading. The foul count was something I kept reading about. It just seems that someone at a paper started using it and slowly it was picked up on by others.

      I wanted to know when and why they first earned the nickname…and was it by the media or the fans. In my opinion, there was a media bias against Leeds during that time. I’ve never heard of a player from a club being referred to as a “scumbag” by a member of the media. But a Mirror reporter used that term in regards to a Leeds player.

      • Matt

        October 18, 2013 at 12:28 pm

        What with most newspapers being based in Manchester and of course London, it’s pretty much a fact that there was some bias vs Leeds.

        Yes they pushed the boundaries but these days that would simply be termed being ‘professional’ and using your ‘experience’ a la Mourinho’s Chelsea c. 2006 with Drogba etc.

        As mentioned Revie modernised a lot of things that are now standard practice, and of course they played some majestic football- the only shame being they came 2nd best on so many occasions in the league and in cup finals (with several blatant injustices along the way cf 1973, 1975, not to mention having to the suits at the FA forcing them to play a final league game 2 days after an FA Cup final, and unsurprisingly losing and the league with it…

        • Peter Quinn

          October 18, 2013 at 2:12 pm

          More good info. Thanks, Matt.

        • Irving08

          October 18, 2013 at 7:01 pm

          Oh god, yes, Revie was the first truly modern English manager (only Jock Stein amongst British mangers, in this respect, could hold a candle to him). No-one had ever played like us before, or could match us at the time for our sheer professionali-sm (which I admit could go a bit too far at times.) As Don himself said, if only he had let the boys off the leash a bit sooner than he did.

          • Peter Quinn

            October 19, 2013 at 8:06 am

            Really great posts, Irving. Thanks for adding to the discussions.

    • Irving08

      October 18, 2013 at 7:08 pm

      Not forgetting that Billy Bremner was the only player to be selected for the Rothman’s X1 five years on the trot (197O-75 – if my memory serves me correctl) by a panel of 26 football pundits and ex-managers. And the the only player ever to be picked by all 26 of them in one season (1974-5, when Norman Hunter fell one short !).

  5. Nick

    October 18, 2013 at 9:33 am

    I love been hated it means were still famous not like the rest of the championship

  6. Legend

    October 18, 2013 at 8:02 am

    This is how I choose to remember Leeds.

    • Peter Quinn

      October 18, 2013 at 8:24 am

      Funny you posted that clip. There’s actually a lot more to that clip.

      Before the match, Bob Tappin had predicted Leeds were going to win 4-0. His reaction when the fourth goal went in for Leicester was priceless.

      I actually referenced one of his quotes in the article. Except I just called them “The Mighty Whites”. He actually called them “The Mighty White Gods that are Leeds United Football Club!”.

      Damn I miss Fanzone.

  7. Glen M

    October 18, 2013 at 7:35 am

    No complaints from this Leeds supporter. It’s nice hearing an unbaised article on the club.

    Be warned. We’ll be back! Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!

  8. patrick hogan

    October 18, 2013 at 5:19 am

    Need to take you to task Peter. One thing that really gets up the nose of Leeds fans (and no doubt supporters of other clubs called ‘United’) is the constant reference to Manchester United as ‘United’; as if they are THE only one. Yes I know the press do it (Gordon McQueen did in your quote and he should know better) but it’s not right or fair. And as a Leeds fan I find it an insult.

    • Peter Quinn

      October 18, 2013 at 7:14 am

      Re-read the time when ‘United’ was used in the article. It was when I took a direct quote from Gordon McQueen. He referred to Manchester United as ‘United’. I can’t re-write his quote.

      I referred to Leeds as ‘United’ in the article. So I don’t know why you would be taking me to task.

      “It was during these times when fans around England began to hate everything Leeds. Even clubs who weren’t in the same division as United hated them and wanted to beat them. It’s one thing for a team to be good and win titles. But public opinion of Leeds was that they cheated and bullied their way to success. Combine their on the field accomplishments with an in-your-face fan base, and it’s easy to see why fans across England still hate Leeds.”

      • patrick hogan

        October 18, 2013 at 12:35 pm

        Quite right and apologies to you Peter. I missed the fact that the quotes continued and it was McQueen’s comments. However, it still rankles that the Southern capital based national media nearly always refer to Man U in this familiar way. Maybe because that’s who they like to be identified with championing.

        The theatre of football needs a successful loved hero – and Man U for better or worse have been cast by the press in that part; in conrtast Leeds are the necessary villain, even all these years after their demise and fall from the Premier League.

        I’l leave you with something I read years ago that a lot of fans might agree with. It was when Man U were thinking of building a new stadium as Old Trafford wasn’t big enough. Someone suggested that it should be built near the M25 so that their fans would find it easier to get home after a match there.

        • Legend

          October 18, 2013 at 3:27 pm

          Great stuff, Pat.

  9. Nav

    October 18, 2013 at 3:32 am

    Just google “Tottenham fans fighting” and have a look at the long list of events. Pots and kettles eh ? Get a grip !!

  10. andy

    October 18, 2013 at 3:04 am

    Same old boring dirty Leeds article based on the same old prejudices. Yawn yawn.

    • Glen M

      October 18, 2013 at 7:31 am

      Really? I count three parargraphs out of a huge article. Like it or not Dirty Leeds is part of your clubs history. Thank the media of that time for that.

      • andy

        October 18, 2013 at 2:28 pm

        Its history exactly which is why its so boring that it keeps getting brought up.

  11. jtm371

    October 17, 2013 at 9:19 pm

    Dirty Leeds and Revie was a Dirty Crook. GO FOREST YOU REDS!if they never make it back that would be fine.

    • lufc90

      December 9, 2014 at 5:04 pm

      You’ll never make it back either.

      • jtm371

        December 9, 2014 at 9:29 pm

        I can hope, both sides are a mess when it comes to funding. It is on my bucket list that Forest gets back to EPL before I die. GO FOREST COYR!

  12. Peter

    October 17, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    Your article fails to mention the Leeds team of the 70’s also played some of THE best football in Europe. Watch the Leeds Southampton game (7-0) from 1972 (google it).
    Barca style 40 years before its time.

    • Peter Quinn

      October 17, 2013 at 9:05 pm

      “Revie managed Leeds from 1961 to 1974. Over the course of his tenure, he created one of the most powerful football clubs in England by dragging a side on the brink of Third Division obscurity up by its bootstraps to become the most powerful football team in the country.”

      • Peter

        October 17, 2013 at 9:12 pm

        Powerful can be interpreted many ways: The “dirty leeds” stigma has always clouded the fact that on many occasions they were simply pure class.

        • Peter Quinn

          October 17, 2013 at 9:16 pm

          Understood. Not what I meant. I could go on and on about Leeds. I’m not blinded by loyalty to another club.

          I really appreciate what Revie did as a manager.

      • Irving08

        October 18, 2013 at 10:14 am

        Correction: One of the most powerful clubs in the WORLD. We were not just the best team, by some way in the UK, but over the same 10 year period, the best in Europe too (see our Fairs Cup record, for example). We were not just hard; we had more top quality players than any other team too.

  13. Dust

    October 17, 2013 at 7:41 pm




    Have you been to a game at leeds? deliberately only went 3 times on away days with Spurs, Because of the fan base for me they’re in the same “don’t want you” bucket as Millwall, Wet Spam, and CFC, not much you can do about CFC till the russian mafia man gets arrested or gets bored, and Wet Spam will get relegated at some point in the next 2 or 3 seasons.

    I’d much rather Forrest and Leicester came up, Leeds…ugh

    Sure every club has thugs but Leeds fans have a disproportionate amount.

    • Fev

      October 18, 2013 at 6:01 am

      Remember the cup game last season at whl, never seen as many animals as spurs had out that day, no police protection for women and children that were out on a to watch the game, you seem to be a bit selective with spurs. Go on YouTube and search for spurs hooligans, you’ll be surprised just how bad tour lot are still these days

    • peter

      October 20, 2013 at 5:08 pm

      I see Tottenham fans were throwing flares today at villa park. Every club has some followers like this. Leeds one of the few clubs that really stirs the emotions.

  14. Lincswhite

    October 17, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    We will be back….hopefully in my lifetime!

    • Peter Quinn

      October 17, 2013 at 6:28 pm

      I thought 2010-11 was going to be the year.

    • Peter Quinn

      October 17, 2013 at 6:29 pm

      They were playing well for long stretches.

  15. Mike

    October 17, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    I hate Leeds because of their supporters. Many years ago I went up there to follow Aston Villa. Before the game I think we were in a greyhound stadium bar outside the ground. I was eating lunch and having a beer when suddenly there was a size 12 boot on my table. Standing proudly with his boot 6 inches from my plate was a Leeds fan who promptly asked “You got a problem?”. Realizng he and several others had us out numbered and were looking for trouble I said “no” and carried on eating. Within minutes a fight broke out in the bar with Leeds morons instigating it. We did get out relatively unscathed but only becauae other Villa supporters way tougher than me decided to stay and fight back.

    At the end of the game we made our way to our coach. As we were climbing aboad a Leeds fan ran up and threw a brick through the side window. Several of us ran after him and caught him. We should have just beat the crap out of him but instead handed him over the the police who now had decided to show up to see what was going on. The police ordered us onto the coach and to our amazement simply let the kid go, pointing for him to leave the away team carpark. Crap police, crap supporters, and that is why… we all hate leeds and leeds and leeds, we all f’in hate leeds!!

    • darren

      October 17, 2013 at 7:21 pm

      Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience but every club has it’s thugs. I was on a train once that was smashed up by Villa fans in front of frightened passengers including women and kids

    • craig s

      October 17, 2013 at 9:26 pm

      Funny that because I went to watch my beloved Leeds at Villa back in the late seventies and as I and other Leeds supporters were getting off the coach we were immediately charged at by Villa fans. You have idiots at every club it is fact but most Leeds are normal folk who just support their team . If you come to Leeds tese days and go for a drink at the Drysalters pub near Elland Road you will find home and away supporters mingling with no bother

    • Counte Of Monte Fisto

      October 18, 2013 at 5:26 am

      I got smacked at Pompy when one of their fans belted me from behind.

      I don’t like him and would happily meet up to sort it out face to face. However unlike you I can move on & have never had a problem with Pompy generally just the coward who hit me from behind.

      Guess that what makes me a man and you a boy, Leeds Leeds Leeds

  16. Smokey Bacon

    October 17, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    I quite like them where they are. They are Millwall’s ATM. 3 points every time we play them.

    • Peter Quinn

      October 17, 2013 at 6:07 pm

      Best comment ever. Haha.

      • alan green

        October 18, 2013 at 5:42 am

        And Barnsley Huddersfield Derby and a list of others.. as a supporter of those clubs I would be disappointed why the players of my club cannot fire themselves up like they do against LUFC every week .. I wonder why ?

    • russell walsh

      October 18, 2013 at 3:00 am

      Not when you get relegated you southern sh*te !

    • White Knight

      October 18, 2013 at 12:24 pm

      Amazingly, you will never make those 3 or 6 points count because you never do anything with your season. If beating Leeds makes you happy every now and then, that just shows you what type of ambition your fans and your club have,

  17. CraigB

    October 17, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    Nice to hear about an English team not in the Premier League.

  18. Hickorywind

    October 17, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    It’s nice to have teams around that stir emotions, rather than a shrug of the shoulders.

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