Ask any English football fans which team they hate the most and you will most likely get Leeds United as the answer.
Leeds United only returned to the English top division in 2020 after 16 years out of the Premier League. Thus, new football fans of the last 2 decades might wonder why there is so much hate on Leeds United.
Leeds United did impress in their first season back in the Premier League, finishing 9th just 2 points under Arsenal. Unfortunately, Leeds failed to capitalise on their momentum as they struggled with relegation in the following season finishing only 3 points above the danger zone.
After a long absence and a lacklustre stint in the Premier League, fans often forget just how good Leeds United used to be, dominating not only English football but also European stages, which shaped up the hatred football fans have toward the West Yorkshire-based team.
Stay tuned as the following is a deep dive into Leeds United’s fascinating history and why they are hated especially by English football fans.
#1 Don Revie’s Dirty Leeds
There are many reasons for fans to hate other football teams, the most common ones being a healthy rivalry between two sides. However, there is a reason why there are at least 117 different chants made by fans of other English teams aimed at Leeds United and their fans.
Just like today, Leeds was never viewed as a strong side. It was not a footballing town in the first place and they only played in England’s second division.
It was not until 1961 when Leeds forward Don Revie took charge as player-manager the club started what turned out to be one of the most impressive revolutions made by any football club.
Don Revie had a strong vision and did everything to change the club’s culture, which was drowned with rotting facilities, weak structure, undermotivation, and a lack of a strong fanbase. The changes were not instant, but Revie did a particularly good job in changing their training system and bringing up homegrown talents such as Gary Sprake, Peter Lorimer, and Norman Hunter.
Revie’s first season was nothing special, his side finished 14th in the 1961 season and was only a single win off relegation to the third division the following season. Leeds United only started gaining momentum after finishing 5th in Revie’s third season, while gaining an average attendance of 20,376 supporters.
What followed in the 1963-1964 season was truly special, Don Revie’s side managed to secure promotion despite missing key players including striker Jim Storrie early in the season.
In the book The Unforgiven, Rob Bagchi stated how Leeds United had to utilise set plays, organisations, and closing down space with their players’ prime physicality to crawl out of the division, ultimately giving birth to the famous “Dirty Leeds”.
Revie’s Leeds United was not only criticised for their notorious physicality but the club is also known for their unorthodox tactics on their way up to becoming an elite side. A famous tactic was when Don Revie asked the local fire brigade to spray water on Elland Road before Leeds United’s Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (now Europa League) semi-final against Real Zaragoza.
Despite losing over 2 legs to the Spanish side, it shaped up to how the public and media portray the rising Leeds United side, as cynical, paranoid, and willing to do anything to avoid defeat.
Leeds United’s “dirty” tactics and physical playstyle is hated by most English fans, but it proved to be fruitful as what follows was Leeds United’s most successful run in their history.
Leeds made their breakthrough under Don Revie by winning the 1968 League Cup after beating Arsenal 1-0 in one of the dourest finals ever played at Wembley. They went on to win their first Inter-City Fairs Cup in the same season after beating Hungarian side Ferencvaros.
From then on Leeds established themselves as European elites by winning the 1969 league title, another Inter-Cities Fairs Cup in 1971, the FA Cup in 1972, and their 2nd league title in 1974, which was Revie’s last season with Leeds United.
#2 Fans hooliganism
Hooliganism is common in football, and it is certainly not fair to judge a fanbase based on a few people’s wrongdoings. Unluckily for Leeds, their already negative image is ruined even more by how their fans may act on several occasions.
While misfortunate events such as clashes with rival fans and bar fights can happen with any club in the world, it is especially highlighted by the media when it is done by a Leeds United fan, just like when Leeds hooligans clashed with Wolves earlier this season.
Another reason why people dislike Leeds supporters is their “arrogance”. There is no denying that Leeds United used to be a fearsome opposition, but it may be too bold of a claim to say that they belong with the likes of Manchester United and Liverpool, especially after their shortcomings in the past decade.
#3 Heated rivalry with English top sides
Leeds United’s absence in the top flight may have reduced other fans’ animosity towards them, but the history stays within the heart of most fans, particularly ones who witnessed Leed’s golden era.
Leeds were never popular since their first few seasons in the first division under Don Revie. Upon arriving from the second division they were involved in the infamous Battle of Goodison with Everton which saw numerous players banned from both sides.
Leeds United is nowhere near as good as they were under Don Revie, but their rivalry with English giants such as Chelsea and Manchester United lives on, putting millions of loyal fans worldwide against them.
Leeds United may not be the same as they were in the 70s, but history is always a big part of football. Don Revie and his squad has managed to change footballing history and made Leeds United what it is now.
As most Leeds United’s fans like to say, it is what makes Leeds special. The fact that there is a glorious story behind why they became one of the most hated sides in England.
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