Leeds United: The First 100-years

To mark the start of the 2021-22 Premier League season this weekend our article this week is part one of a four-part series exploring the history of Leeds United, as told through books and other materials held at the Central Library. You can find all of the parts in our dedicated Sport page and all the books mentioned here can be accessed by contacting us on 0113 37 86982 or via localandfamilyhistory@leeds.gov.uk

With first-hand accounts relatively scarce, the early decades of Leeds United are best experienced through historical accounts. Excellently researched books such as The Leeds United Story by Martin Jarrad and Malcolm MacDonald and Dave Tomlinson’s Leeds United: A History tell the story of Leeds United’s emergence: ‘a phoenix out of the ashes of Leeds City’.

The 1960s and 70s – the ‘Revie Years’ – are the most successful period in the club’s history. The Central Library has a great collection of biographies from this era, including Jackie Charlton, Peter Lorimer, John Giles and a signed copy of Billy Bremner’s brilliant You Get Nowt for Being Second from 1969. These books give an up-close and personal account of Leeds United’s dominance in England and Europe, from the perspective of the players so integral to that success.

The subsequent struggles after Revie’s departure produced books explaining how the club reached the pinnacle of European football without sustaining that success. Leeds United: The Revie Years by Con Egan explains the impact Revie had on the club; in contrast, The Unforgiven (Rob Bagchi and Paul Rogerson) explores the vitriol directed at the manager by others in the game. Gary Edwards’ No Glossing Over It: How Football Cheated Leeds United argues Revie and the club were the unjust victims of malign authorities and outright corruption.

The ongoing instability of Leeds United during the 21st-century can be traced to the reigns of Peter Risdale and David O’Leary. This volatile period, which saw Leeds fall from the Champions League in 2001 to the Championship in 2004, is documented in two books: O’ Leary’s Leeds United on Trial and Risdale’s United We Fall. Both expose the chaotic management, financial gambles and personal conflicts that led to the decline of the football club.

To commemorate the Leeds United centenary, several new histories have been released. Daniel Chapman’s 100 Years of Leeds United and Gary Edward’s Every Cloud: How Leeds City Became United both uncover new evidence about the fall of Leeds City and the emergence of Leeds United, making them invaluable for any supporter wishing to explore the club’s origins and rich history.

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