‘Football’ In The UK: A Family Affair


Samuel Ryde

A Mural In Leeds In Honor Of The City’s Football Club. CC: Samuel Ryde.

Sebastian Grace, Editor

Sebastian Grace, Editor of the Global Observer, reflects in this personal memoir piece on his first visit to Elland Road, the home ground of his boyhood football club, Leeds United. 

Leeds United. My boyhood club, my family club. Sat in the dip of a working man’s valley, Elland Road rises in dilapidated majesty. Leed’s team. Our palace.

My first trip there was cold, bitterly cold. Misty, too, and I was wrapped in a pearly white rough cotton scarf emblazoned with vividly blue and yellow stripes and just the smallest of ketchup marks, deposited after too hastily parting ways with a rushed pre-match hotdog. It was cold but bright, with the red late afternoon winter’s sun not yet dipping behind the brown brick of the council houses at the top of the hill to the right, up the path past the bus stop where my Dad was chased by Middlesbrough fans with sticks back in the day. 

Down the road we went, following my Dad’s coat as he hurried through the crowd pressed on the pavement, dawdling by the statues of the legends of old and queueing for flat beer in great company, though I hadn’t discovered that particular joy yet. Past the car park and the Peacock, the old pub jammed with Leed’s great and good. The football club’s that is. I couldn’t imagine the city would ever come there, just generational disciples and talk of accas, missus’ and how much they hated Chelsea. 

Lining the road were numerous stalls and vans blazing in the twilight, a Yorkshire bazaar – like Morocco, or somewhere, just Northern.  “2 for a fiver,” “Come on you Whites!” and the like, shouts of passion, asks for stale burgers and even staler buns, some muffled chanting, and the like.

I’d never been to Elland Road before. I’d been to sports events, sure, but never Elland Road, never Leeds. This was different, this was special. Taking my Dad’s hand we dived across the road and into the bowels of the stadium, through the turnstiles with a sharp rip and an “Enjoy, love, hope we get the 3 points for you” and into the throngs around the stands, bustling like workers for a Queen.

Beer and piss and cigarettes, I remember, but sweet (almost) and fraught with palpable anticipation. “We could beat these, you know”… “No chance. That big bastard up top’s slower than my nan and she’s been dead 15 years.” What a strange, strange world ‘going to the football’ is I thought, but boy was I enjoying it so far. We were bad then, Leeds. Less shiny. Lads from building sites, not tourists. But I didn’t know that. We were the best team in the world. We were Leeds. 

I clambered up to the stand, my little legs burning from pounding the concrete steps and the pre-kick off rendition of “All Leeds Aren’t We” ringing in my ears. As I emerged into the cold night once more, the emerald green of the pitch rose like a long lost family member from the ground, shimmering in the floodlights and the mist, like what I’d always pictured when Dad put on ‘A Stairway to Heaven’ in the car. But muddier, in all honesty. I knew I was home. The noise was louder and louder to my right in the Kop as the crowd bounced like a wave, with white home shirts emblazoned with betting logos, blue jeans and adidas trainers bobbing in the familial sea.

The referee (blind as a bat, my Dad said) blew his whistle, a shrill call to arms in the night, and the game was afoot. Our boys crisscrossed the green in front of us, accompanied with oohs and aahs and “Get stuck into them”. This was Leeds, this was football, and I loved it.

We lost 3-0, but my brother and I sang the whole way home, and we’ve never stopped. “Marching on together, we’re gonna see you win, la la la la la la, we are so proud, we shout it aloud, we love you Leeds, Leeds, LEEDS”