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.