Anthony Clavane - Promised Land

Anthony Clavane’s new book. The Promised Land brings you a completely different look at the history of Leeds United Football Club from the usual run-of-the mill historical publications.

Part memoir, part history lesson, Clavane draws on his own personal background as a Jewish boy growing up in Leeds to deliver what is a unique and thoroughly interesting page-turner.

This book covers more than just the history of Leeds United AFC, but it also looks at the growth of the city itself from dirty industrial wasteland, to the place we know and love today – and how both the growth of the club and city were intertwined.

An association football club in Leeds was a bit of reluctant move for a die-hard city of rugby league fans largely unimpressed by the “nancy” game of football, but in an attempt to keep up with other growing northern cities, it was perhaps a necessary one.

Clavane’s unique perspective as a Jewish boy growing up in Leeds opens up a largely forgotten part of our club’s history. Before Spurs were known as the Yids, it was Elland Road where you could hear Jewish songs being sung on matchdays. ‘Does your Rabbi know you’re here?’ was a common taunt from away supporters.

From providing the kits the lads wore, to helping the club financially and serving as directors, Leeds United became an important part of Jewish culture in Leeds as the Jew’s looked for acceptance and equality.

A lot has been written about the Don Revie years, but where other books ignore the laughing stock he sometimes was, Clavane doesn’t hold back. When Leeds United first appeared in all white, the crowd mocked the players as they entered the pitch by whistling at them.

Revie’s superstitions, threadbare suit and gypsy hexes served only to strengthen the strange image of our greatest ever manager, and even when he succeeded in bringing silverware to Leeds, the never-say-die spirit with which the players earned their accolades cast a dark cloud over the teams achievements. For Don, the respect he craved was hard to come by, but with Leeds United he’d built a team of winners – even if they did finish second all too often.

The deep-routed connection Clavane feels to Leeds United FC is clear throughout, but never more so than when he compares his first experience in the Spion Kop as a right of passage similar to his own bar mitzvah.

Clavane’s unique take on the history of our club makes this book an absolute winner for Leeds fans. I doubt it’ll do much to change our reputation amongst the neutrals, but Leeds will never be a popular club outside our own boundaries because, as Clavene points out, it’s our own mentality that makes us hated.

The controversies, the injustices, the scandals and occasional successes are part and parcel of being Leeds – It’s us against the old boys network, just like our great city has fought to be seen as a power within this country, our great club has had to fight time after time to sit amongst the elite too. And you know what, we wouldn’t have it any other way!

To sum up The Promised Land is difficult. The book is much more than a history lesson for the club and city. Drawing on personal experience as a Jewish boy growing up in Leeds definitely gives the book a unique angle, but to concentrate too much on the Jewish aspect undermines what is a brilliant book for so many other reasons.

From humble routes and a struggle for acceptance, Leeds United has grown into one of the most recognisable names in English Football. The Promised Land covers every era in great detail right up to our promotion success of last May.

All the ups and downs of Leeds United are here in a gritty, no-nonsense, but superb reflection on our history. Clavene’s passion and dedication to this team shine through in his personal reflections, but his journalistic experience also enables him to cut through the controversies, scandals and nonsense to give an accurate and insightful look into the past.

The Promised Land is available now from Amazon and all good book stores.

  • Matt BB

    @TSS just bought it so looking forward to it reading your review. No jewish heritage personally but fascinating to see it played such a big part in the history of the club.

    • TSS

      @mattbb No Jewish heritage either mate, but the fact I enjoyed the book regardless is a credit to the author.

      It’s kinda like three different fights for acceptance. The Jewish people have arrived in the Promised Land (Leeds) looking for acceptance and identity in a dark and grimy Leeds. Leeds United fought on many fronts for power, firstly against rugby league, then against the old boys network of clubs at the top who never truly accepted this dirty northern club. Then there’s the city itself, from industrial wasteland, inch-deep in smog, to financial power, but often shadowed by neighbouring cities such as Manc. I guess all three are the underdogs in a way?

      It really is brilliant how Clavene has tied the three together and I’m sure every Leeds United fan would enjoy the book.

  • Dje

    Sounds like eavesdropping on a conversation between Alan Bennett, Howard Jacobson, and David Peace in The Peacock on a non-match night.

    Should be good.

  • Matt BB

    And of course, the usual `not another leeds book’ from the missus!

    But yes I do often feel like we as a club have always been treated with some disdain by our cousins across the pennines of scouse or manc origin, and indeed by `that lot’ in London.

    You have whetted my appetite! My grandfather was part of the (largely Jewish) printing business in Leeds, and it was important for him to be seen down at the football, so he was aseason ticket holder, I’m assuming he probably liked the football too as he was going when we were winning!

    I used to read Clavance’s pieces in the mirror and he always fought our corner when the rest of the press was trying its hardest to make sure we went out of business, so glad to support his work as well.

  • Colin

    I have to say that this type of book infuriates me somewhat. I think TSS’ description alluded to the fact that it’s really 3 stories in one. I like books that cover one thing rather than using all sorts of elements to appeal to as big an audience as possible.

    There’s been a number of authors doing this and mixing and matching Leeds United and their own personal experiences or mixing fact and fiction. And they all do the same thing, use Leeds United’s brand image to sell their book. Endacott with Dirty Leeds and Peace with Damned United have done this before, just throwing in the most obvious jingoistic adjectives to sell their book – DIRTY leeds, DAMNED united etc.

    And you know what? It sells books.

    Back onto The Promised Land – the jewish fight for acceptance, the fight for Leeds to be recognised – “his first experience in the Spion Kop as a right of passage similar to his own bar mitzvah” – Really? I’m sorry but I’ve just been sick on myself. This is cringeworthy stuff.

    I’m just getting tired of all this Revie era stuff written against the backdrop of a tough northern town hated by others, but loved by the people of Leeds. It’s so so untrue and overplayed. Why not throw some flat caps, bitter drinking miners and some whippets in there for good measure?

    I’ll tell you the truth – Leeds were never hated, not then and not now. Leeds as a city has always been respected and contrary to popular belief, people in Manchester and London do not hate the people of Leeds. I live down south and I’m respected for being a Leeds fan. Fact.

    Leeds Utd hated? No. Leeds Utd feared and respected? Yes. Why? Because Leeds Utd always give it a go and play as well as they can and have some of the most loyal and loud fans. That’s why the other teams supporters are sometime so vocal against Leeds – they’re jealous, they admire the Leeds fans spirit and most important, opposition fans can express themselves in a way that they can’t do against many other dull teams – the Leeds fans give it to them and they give it back to the Leeds fans.

    If you want to read some great Leeds books then get a copy of Ridsdale’s United We Fall, O’Leary’s Leeds on Trial and Mel Sterland’s Boozing, Brawling and Betting. You can get used copies for a pittance on Amazon.

    • TSS

      Christ @Colin, I understand resentments towards The Damned United, but Clavane’s book is nothing like it. Far from it in fact. It’s an in-depth look at the history of Leeds United and the city. What other angle can he tell it from than that of his own? He’s lived it and breathed it just the same as I have, and his own personal background is what gives the book a unique selling point.

      I fail to see how writing a book drawing on your own experiences is any different than me writing a match report? I think The Damned United has done a lot of damage to you!

      Read it, then judge. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

  • Colin

    @TSS
    You writing a match report is very different for me personally – you’re writing about something I want to hear, you’re not making money out of this.

    The author has wrote a book about the city of Leeds, the struggle to be accepted and LUFC. Why not put a picture of himself on the cover or a picture of Leeds City Centre? Because it won’t sell. No, he puts a picture of LUFC on the front because it will sell.

    It’s just my personal preference and if I want a book about Leeds United then I’ll buy it. But I’m not interested in someone’s personal angst being sold under the guise of it being a Leeds United book.

    As for Damned United – i haven’t got a problem with it. David Peace wrote a perfectly good fictional story and I personally thought it was good in parts, really good, but weak in others. If you were a Leeds fan or a Clough fan it’s a great read, but to anyone else I could imagine it would be a struggle to get through.

    My main issue, is that after Damned United, so many more books came out on the back of it, that weren’t really that good.

    Alternatively, against my better wishes (as I thought it was callous for O’Leary to bring out Leeds on Trial) I bought Leeds on trial and read it at the same time as Ridsdale’s United We Fall – both very very clever books (i didn’t want to put them down) and played the 2 books against each other, and by doing that you found out the truth of what went on at Leeds. It was like being a private investigator looking into 2 different accounts of the same story and trying to find out what really went on and I DID and it was intriguing and it was hard work on my brain :( but really satisfying.

    • TSS

      I think you’re reading too much into the personal angle of it all. He does draw on his own past – as every writer does – but the main aim is a Leeds United book and he delivers.

      As for profiting from Leeds United – he’s a sports writer! That’s kinda his job! Besides, every non-fictional book profits from someone or something. People want to read about Leeds United, so someone with a very good knowledge of them and a natural ability with words seems a perfect candidate.

      You can pre-order my own book ‘Coping with Leeds United fans’ in November (released in time for Christmas) ;)

      • Colin

        @TSS
        I’m not being funny but you could probably make a decent book writing about your website using comments made on this site.

        The synopsis goes something like this:

        TSS was born and bred in Yorkshire. A hard working lad from a hard Yorkshire town. Many would have accepted that, but not TSS. This is the story of a man who wanted Leeds United to have a voice. And he created that through the creation of a website that would develop from little interest to a site that generated so many engaging conversations.

        This is the true story of the fans of Leeds United fans opinions:

        – just who is the Reaper and what was his link to Aston Villa?
        – what was the reason behind Reaper’s infatuation with Shane Higgs that Colin despised so much?
        – why did mattbb, djedjedje and gryff spend so much time on this site? Were their real names Ken Bates, Simon Harvey and Peter Lorimer?

        This is a rags to riches story of a man who started a blog that went from nothing to being supported by adverts from British Gas and Fly Emirates and ultimately became the club shirt sponsor – thescratchingshed.com.

        Just who is TSS? And what are his motives for giving Leeds United a voice on t’internet?

        Enjoy real life accounts from real Leeds United fans in this compelling new book. TSS tells the story as it really is. This is the real Leeds United like you’ve never heard it before.

        Amazon rating: ***** 5 stars

        • TSS

          @colin

          Haha! Well, I’ve had a few publishers contact me now to promote various books (and send me freebies) so I’ll send them your ideas and I’ll be a rich enough to buy Leeds United with a year!

          PS. Are you seeing British Gas? All I’ve seen is 118 500 for a week now. It’s getting to the stage where it’s taken over my mind and I almost call it every time I pick the phone up. Seriously, it’s giving me nightmares.

          • Colin

            @TSS
            yep i meant bt not british gas – my mistake, and virgin are on here too!

            that new Emirates A380 looks pretty tasty too – not that i’m looking at the ads at all!!

  • TSS

    @Colin

    Virgin are taunting me with fibre-optic broadband I can’t yet receive! Branson really is a grade A c*nt. Wonder if he wants to buy Leeds?

  • Matt BB

    @colin, yes youve guessed it my secret identity is kenny bates.. anyhow i’m going to duck in here. all histories are subjective and thats what makes it interesting, sure not everyne will see things through clavanes eyes but his experience is going to be worth a read.

    • Colin

      @mattbb

      Hi Ken, I knew it was you all along.

  • Matt BB

    @colin lets keep this between ourselves eh..