Ridsdale and I Part 5- Easter and the NF
Thursday, 15th Apr 2021 22:08 by Mark Monk
As my tale of watching Leeds during the Ridsdale era continues, we get to April 1989 as Howard Wilkinson contiued to assemble his the side that he was going to guide to promotion in the following season, but I encounter some of Leeds United’s less desirable supporters.
Having signed Gordon Strachan, Chris Fairclough and Carl Shutt, Easter 1989 proved to be an exciting time to be a Leeds fan. Even an Easter Monday defeat at high-flying Blackburn left us in 10th but just three-points off sixth place and the play offs.
It seemed that the programme for the visit of AFC Bournemouth, on Saturday was gearing us up for the long-awaited return to the big time. Above the club proudly showed off it's new digital advertising board, which stood on Elland Road and was believed to be the first of its kind in the country. Leeds also captured a FOURTH signing, Chris Jones from Everton.
Okay Jones was not as big a deal as Ian Snodin moving in the opposite direction a year or so earlier, after all he was only the ex Ticket Office manager at Goodison and in the programme that day he boldly claimed that his mission was to get Leeds United ticket services geared up for the First Division and if his old employers and their cross Stanley Park rivals were, like Leeds were at the time, mid-table in the Second Division then they'd struggle to get crowds of 11,000-12,000.
Despite this outlandish claim, actually it wasn't the biggest tosh I saw on sale at Elland Road that day. I'd been aware for quite some time that Leeds had an issue with racism, quite a big issue and as I queued to get into Lowfields I noticed a gang of four or so menacing looking skinheads, stereotypical attire of Doc Marten "bovver boots", Fred Perry polo shirts, or Ben Sherman three clothing brands I actually would wear myself. Okay you could keep the bleached jeans but there they were, peddling something called The Flag, which was the National Front newspaper.
For several years, Elland Road had been a fertile recruiting ground for the NF. In his autobiography, Leeroy Rosenior who was with Fulham in 1984 spoke of his shock on seeing 5,000 Leeds fans on the Kop chanting "Sieg Heil" accompanied by Hitler salutes towards him and Paul Parker. I remember hearing a snippet on Radio One's Newsbeat that the NF claimed they had more support at Leeds football ground than anywhere else, don't get me wrong, it was a national problem but it seemed to be pretty prevalent at Leeds.
To make it even more shocking, Leeds was a multi-cultural city who around 25 years earlier had welcomed a black, South African called Albert Johansson to the club and who would be an integral part in the early days of Don Revie' s success. Albert was the first player of African heritage to play in the FA Cup final, in 1965 against Liverpool.
Even before Albert' s bitter-sweet time at Leeds- he would die a penniless alcoholic in 1995, a fellow compatriot Gerry Francis had already become the first black player to represent Leeds. For God's sake, just a few years earlier the Kop were singing the praises of a young black kid born in Chapeltown called Terry Connor.
However, like the hooliganism problem that blighted the club, the Leeds board seemed devoid of what to do about the racism problem. Apathetic to it, which was astonishing given that Sir Leslie Silver our Chairman was Jewish and followed a long-line of board-members and indeed Chairmen of the club e.g. Manny Cussins of that same faith.
Thankfully a group called Leeds Fans United Against Racism had been set up in 1987 and it was the ordinary fans, brave lads and lasses who tackled the problem head-on and eventually drove the NF away. Credit to them all and I for one was happy to donate to the cause.
As I took up my vantage point on Lowfields for the game against the Cherries, I noticed four or so young lads, smartly dressed, not football casuals in designer gear but wouldn't have looked out of place in Burton's who were our sponsors back then. They were passing a copy of The Flag around and I assumed that, judging by their attire they'd bought it out of morbid curiosity or even a joke, a bit like how I'd buy copies of Viz and Zit to read on the train later.
Alas I was stunned when Bournemouth's Luther Blissett touched the ball and they began to verbally abuse him. It was a lesson learned for me that racists don't just come in just the one-size-fits-all uniform like the dickheads with their "newspapers" on Lowfields. Several years later I saw Luther Blissett at a service-station and wanted to go over and apologise for the behaviour of those tossers but no doubt he'd heard it all before in his distinguished career that also took in Watford and AC Milan.
On a brighter note, Leeds kept the promotion dream alive with a 3-0 win and a hat-trick for Carl Shutt. The striker had slipped in through the back door from Bristol City, even the signing of Everton's Ticket Office manager was more newsworthy. Funnily enough whilst being frisk searched on the way in by a Policeman I joked was he looking for a new striker for Leeds, he didn't see the funny side and obviously didn't realised I'd plagiarized the joke from an episode of Auf Wiedersehen Pet!
Shutt was on target again four days later when Leeds took on Crystal Palace at Elland Road, a game I had to miss due to the train's running back South. Unfortunately the Eagles ran out 2-1 winners which pretty much ended any realistic hopes of promotion. No doubt Chris Jones in the ticket office breathed a sigh of relief as his plans would have yet another year to come to fruition.
And if you can’t wait for the next episode to appear on toellandback, you can sneak a peek at my blog by clicking on this link.
Photo: Action Images
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