I hate Leeds.
Do you hate Leeds?
Do you, in fact, hate Leeds scum?
Everyone does. Are you aware of the artistic expression of this noble and worthy sentiment set to song? To wit, a ditty which began life as a instrumental kwela song written by Rupert Bopape, a South African musician, singer, and songwriter. The song was arranged for penny whistle and first recorded by a South African band led by penny-whistler “Big Voice Jack” Lerole in 1958.
The song was in the UK charts for 14 weeks. You may be familiar with the song from the terraces; it was used to serenade Terence Hennessy (nickname ‘Thierry Henry’) for many years, and has become popularised by fans of the following clubs, with the simple but powerful libretto ‘WE ALL HATE LEEDS SCUM’: Manchester United, Bradford City, Huddersfield Town, Barnsley, Sheffield United, Sheffield Wednesday, Rotherham United, Middlesbrough, Hull City, York City, Doncaster Rovers, Chelsea, Chesterfield, Burnley, Walsall, Norwich City, Nottingham Forest, Crewe Alexandra, Everto, Wolverhampton Wanderers, Watford, AFC Bournemouth, Ipswich Town, Charlton Athletic, Birmingham City, Carlisle United, Lincoln City, MK Dons, Hartlepool United, Southend United, Coventry City, Kettering Town, Preston North End, Tottenham Hotspur, Bristol City, Swindon Town, Queens Park Rangers, Grimsby Town, Oxford United, Cardiff City, Newcastle United, Tranmere Rovers, Northampton Town, Cheltenham Town and even, yes, Millwall.
As bracing and to-the-point that this song is, it is not the first to have been written about that cursed team. We shall discover that at the end of the article.
Younger readers may be unaware of the depth of feeling directed toward Leeds, as they have been blissfully out of top-flight football for sixteen years. Make no mistake, they will be back, if their blistering and relentless first half against Woolwich was anything to go by. Swarming, in the words of Poznan in my Pants, “like spider monkeys,’ all over us, pressing and harrying, carving out chance after chance. If they can keep up this tempo, we shall be seeing much more of this hateful gang of Leodensians and their troglodytic and drunken supporters next season. I care not a jot that they played attractive and dynamic football. They are still Leeds, and they deserve to be beaten.
Why is this? Why such fury about this club? How did they become the Millwall of the North? It is something to do with Leeds being a one club city in a large city. It makes the vitriol much simpler. If Everton were the only club in Liverpool we’d tolerate them a lot less. It also may have something to do with the unbearable self-regard of the Yorkshireman. How do you know you’re talking to a Yorkshireman, I hear you ask? They will tell you within the first 30 seconds of the conversation.
In the dark days of the 1970s and 1980s, Leeds fans were the worst of the worst, wrecking shop after pub after railway carriage in their pursuit of the bottom of the barrel. This period coincided with Leeds’ greatest success on the field playing the very worst type of football. Imagine the casual violence of Ryan Shawcross, except that it happened every week. Add that to the time-wasting of all of Jose Mourinho’s sides and multiply by the unpleasantness of Frank Rijkaard.
When Leeds were relegated in 2004, it was carnival time for the rest of the Premier League. Think how wonderful it was when Stoke went through the trapdoor, then put a bowtie on that feeling and give it a line of jazz salt. It was absolutely delicious. As was the victory last Monday. Still, at least they have a nice song to sing about marching on together when they headed back to St Pancras for their miserable three hour journey back to their hovels.
To finish, are you aware of the work of Elizabeth Barrett Browning? The Durham-born part- Creole romantic poet’s lesser-known works is Sonnet 43b, ‘How do I Hate Leeds’.
How do I hate Leeds? Let me count the ways.
I hate Leeds to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I hate Leeds to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I hate Leeds freely, as men strive for right.
I hate Leeds purely, as they turn from praise.
I hate Leeds with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I hate Leeds with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I hate Leeds with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose, I shall but hate Leeds better after death.
And so ‘twas the great Elizabeth Barrett Browning who gave birth to the We Hate Leeds movement. I look forward to reciting it with passion from my seat in the North Bank next season.