Derby Daze: Leeds – A Retro-Rivalry?

WITH amoral arch-pragmatist and recent docusoap star Neil Warnock – football’s ‘nutter on the bus’ – joining Ken Bates at Elland Road, two of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse are in place and recruiting ready to unleash plague and pestilence on the beautiful game once more.
Well I suppose that’s my basic position carved out, a subliminal default still shaped by a playground antipathy to Revie’s all-conquering shock-troops and, I think, shared by Ayresome veterans of a certain age. But plenty of others just don’t care too much about Leeds these days. Whateva. That’s youngsters for you. They don’t know their history.
So with our silly seventies sock-tagged and smiley badged antagonists due to roll into Teesside for a televised small screen clash on Sunday, it is time once more to consider the changing nature of this de facto derby by default. Here’s “another chance to see” (that’s “a repeat” in old money) a blog written 18 months ago in the last dark days of the Strachanovite abberation.



SO, IS Leeds a derby? That the question even needs to be posed is telling and speaks volumes about Teesside’s cultural confusion and identity crisis.
Distance, geography and logic suggest it is not… but Boro are braced for the biggest crowd of the season and the arrival of our ever friendly cousins from the south for a powder keg clash will bring generations of historical emnity bubbling back to the surface. It sure feels like a derby….
Over 4,000 away fans travelling for a game that is on the box and the rising tension on Teesside suggests this is more than just the usual three points at stake – yet in the Gazette today Teessider Matthew Bates insists emphatically that it is not a derby game. But then again, he is a young lad from Stockton, a “town full of Mackems”. He will naturally look to the North and to more recent rivalries when it comes to bragging rights.
He will have grown up with regular Riverside clashes against our Tyne-Tees screentime rivals Newcastle and Sunderland and for as long as he has been in a first team feature fallen giants Leeds have been in their schadenfraude inducing post-Ridsdale nightmare of administration, relegation and lower league exile.
For an older generation though, and especially those on the “Yorkshire” side of the river who grew up before Middlebrough was culturally and politically moved 30 miles north in the municiple shake-ups of the late 60s and early 70s, or those who have friends and family and business links that point them south to Thirsk, Whitby, Northallerton and beyond, Leeds have a different historical footprint.
For a decade or more Leeds were the successful and dominant evil empire lurking aggressively to the south. They were a serious threat to Boro in the battle for hearts and minds in the playgrounds of the town and more so in the disputed badlands of North Yorkshire. For fans of a certain age, Leeds are the old enemy. Grrrrrrrr.
Leeds was always ‘a derby’ in the 1970s. When you watched Yorkshire TV the Revie machine was an ever present headline hogging juggernaut. That is who you were measured against, not Newcastle and Sunderland which were still then dark and distant alien towns practically on the Scottish border.
Leeds were the Manchester United of their day, the morally weak playground glory hunter’s team of choice all across the country, especially around here where there there a ‘Yorkshire’ link to justify the choice. All the schoolyard sheep round her had the stupid sock tags with the numbers on and smiley Leeds badges painted on their haversacks. Duncan McKenzie could jump over a mini you know!
When Boro were still in the second division and Leeds in their pomp were winning trophies and carving a swathe through Europe the pecking order was quite clear. They were the big boys who offered reflected glory and glamour and to eschew that to follow Boro was to elect for a life of self-inflicted masochism and mediocrity.
And it wasn’t just kids who fell into dirty Leed’s cynical embrace. Every fortnight there would be coach-loads of Teessiders travelling to Elland Road, adults reafffirming their Yorkshire identity and rowdy young ruffians enticed by the boot boy mystique.
The problem was made concrete when Jack Charlton took Boro up and we went head-to- head with them. More so when we started to beat them. What had been a patronising pat on the head for the little neighbours or even a smarmy second team affection because of their hero Charlton became a more marked snarling antagonism and soon the game became a serious point of friction and a real battle for status. In the seventies beating Leeds was far more important than beating the pair to the north.
Leeds was one game when Middlesbrough had to metaphorically lock up its daughters. Shops put shutters up and all police leave was cancelled. And more so than the routine aggro, for Leeds there was always real trouble: in and around the station, in the pubs and in and around the ground as the meatheads on both sides fought it out.
There were running battles in Boot Boy Alley and the Old Mans Park as swarms of kids in flares and parkas ducked for cover and the police horses charged up and down Linthorpe Road. At away games too. It was a trip where the Beggs Buses convoy often came back without windows and on the approach by foot you got asked the time an awful lot. It was a horrible and hostile place to go.
Since then thankfully the antagonism has eased. The immediate cultural conflict with our former sparring partners has faded as Middlesbrough has settled into its marriage with Stockton and started to get on better with the in-laws. We watch Tyne-Tees and are part of One North East, or South Newcastle or whatever the quangocrats’ sub-region is called these days. The once live grenade of the Leeds game has been defused.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t a residual hostility. There is, and mainly because of the institutional boorish Tetley bittermen mentality of a sizeable and vocal element of the Leeds travelling crowd, the only group that surpass Newcastle and Sunderland in their conscious nastiness. These are supporters after all who sang in praise of the Yorkshire Ripper to taunt police. And Munich to taunt Manchester United. And they started – and continue – the paedophile taunts here too. Nice.
Of course, it doesn’t help that their fans laughed as Juninho sobbed on the pitch when we got relegated at Elland Road in 1997 too but while that still stings a bit that is a minor charge on the historic crime sheet.
So it may only be a derelict shell of a ‘derby’ and not even recognised in some parts of Teesside as being relevent – a poll on the gazettelive.co.uk Boro page edged just towards the ‘no’ camp – but for many this will still be our biggest game of the season.
*****
WHILE we are talking Leeds, here’s some newly available archive footgae from the BBC of Grove Hill lad Brian Clough talking to David Frost in 1974 about his ill-fated ‘Damned United’ city break , management and his future. See here.
*****
MEANWHILE, over on the Untypical Boro twitter feed (see how I neatly cross-promote the brand across a variety of digital platforms in a bid for world domination), I’ve been prompting some good and bad memories on my regular #onthisboroday tag by reminded readers that today is the anniversary of:
1) JFH taking an acrobatic tumble to win a penalty that Yak slotted away as Boro battled to a famous 1-0 home win over mighty Roma in the first leg of the UEFA Cup last 16 back in 2006. And..
2) With the big clubs all out and the door to Wembley swinging open invitingly, Southgate’s spineless Boro meekly surrendering 2-0 at home to Championship side Cardiff. Was that the ultimate ‘typical Boro’ moment, a self-destructive implosion in the face of historic opportunity? Are we still reaping that particular whirlwind? It was certainly the beginning of the end for Southgate.

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71 thoughts on “Derby Daze: Leeds – A Retro-Rivalry?

  1. Powmill –
    Apologies for calling it North Yorkshire.
    When I went to Acky Hall a bus came evry day bring kids from Thornaby and they were called North Riding kids, not directly, but when any announcements were made.
    I notice Vic is into his ‘history started when I was born’ stance. He will be banning reference to Ayrseome Angels next, probably see him searching out the Carling Cup DVD and crossing out the 1 with a felt tip to make it 28 years of pain.
    When we first got relegated to the third division that was nearly as painful as 1986.
    Doesnt know he is born, johnny come lately.
    **AV writes: Everyone knows football started in 1992.

  2. A lad from Middlesbrough just won the sausage sandwich game 2-0 on Danny Bakers prog – if that is’nt an omen for tomorrow I don’t know what is!!!

  3. Its all just about the three points on sunday for me with Leeds just being another team put in front of us to beat on our way to promotion.
    They will be long forgoten about next season as we’re back where we belong and they can get excited about low key derby matches with Barnsley ect, as were back with our real rivals Sunderland and the Barcodes.
    Up the BORO

  4. “They will be long forgotten about next season as we’re back where we belong and they can get excited about low key derby matches with Barnsley ect, as were back with our real rivals Sunderland and the Barcodes.”
    Pffffft. Real rivals my ‘arris

  5. Gee, thanks, Big Mick, for giving Cardiff the lead at Ashton Gate with an “ogie” on the stroke of half-time! *mad*

  6. Teesside and Cleveland were local government/administration names. Middlesbrough’s always been North Riding and still is – speaking as a Scouse Lancastrian! Narrow Boro win tomorrow I reckon

  7. Bloody ‘ell! Cardiff triumph by 2-1 at Ashton Gate & Bristol City score all the goals! *shakes head in disbelief*

  8. When I was at school in East Cleveland (I went to Lingdale Primary and Warsett) throughout the ’70s, the main rivalry was always between Boro and L666s. A few sheep liked Liverpool or Manchester United, and there was the odd Sunderland fan (after they won the Cup in 1973), but Boro v L666s was the football argument that dominated.
    This remains the case around here today – there are plenty of L666s fans here in Brotton, and I think Loftus might be close to 50/50. Since the whole point of a rivalry is being able to “put one over” on your mates, I will always consider our main rivals to be L666s. Newcastle and Sunderland don’t really figure over here – I actually know more Manchester City fans (proper long-standing pre-moneybags ones) than Newcastle fans.
    Because of the many other reasons to dislike L666s, as mentioned in other posts, I feel even more intense about our rivalry. And while I appreciate that L666s fans from the West Riding are probably not too bothered about Boro, I doubt that this is the case in places like Northallerton or Whitby, or Loftus for that matter.
    As for the Yorkshire argument, I don’t see it as relevant to who I consider Boro’s rivals to be. However, as members of the North Riding FA, Boro is in Yorkshire as far as football is concerned, and there’s no debate to be had on the subject.
    In terms of a “local derby”, I don’t suppose Boro really has one, due to its relative isolation. The Darlington games of the ’80s were a bit tasty, but that rivalry was too short-lived, and Darlo’s proper rivals will always be Hartlepool anyway. I remember things being a bit hairy against Hartlepool in the League Cup in 1986, but a single 2-legged cup tie doesn’t count as a rivalry.
    The original Stockton FC made a number of unsuccessful attempts to join the Football League, and even had a 25000 capacity stadium. Now that would have been a real local derby.
    **AV writes: Come on you ‘Nops!

  9. Keep forgetting to mention your comment about JFH’s acrobatic tumble against Roma.
    Unless my memory is playing tricks we have had this debate before. JFH didnt dive or take an acrobatic tumble.
    The keeper came out and did an absurd challenge wide in the box, he charged and threw himself at JFH’s feet missing the ball by a distance. JFH had no obligation to jump over the idiot and just let him clean him out for the penalty.
    No Jinky Johnson flicking his leg out to make minimal contact with the defender before throwing himself to the ground or as someone termed it ‘wearing his short studs’. No Shearer/Owen ‘feeling’ the challenge and showing their professionalism and going down. No Pires ‘within five yards’ so I will down a double pike with twist. No Gerrard ‘lost the ball’, run in to the back of the defender and throw himself to the floor.
    The keeper didnt catch a lace, he caught JFH fair and square on the legs about knee level, JFH just let him do it. As nailed on a penalty as you are likely to get.

  10. A final thought before the match. Lets play as if we are at home and believe we will will the match. No matching up, ensuring that everyone spends all their time nullifying Leeds, just go out make them try and match us up.
    Let us go out and give it a go, the worse thing we could do is have a dreadful, dreary, cautious home performance and lose. Unless of course we win however grim it is.
    Want it both ways? Too damn true.

  11. For a foreigner the geography around Boro is confusing.
    When I saw the first match at Ayresome Park, the area was still called Cleveland (where has that gone, now?). I think the goals posts were not moved but the team started to play in Teesside (I suppose the “Mackem” town of Stockton was ‘bridged’ to M’brough then).
    When ever I visited to see Boro I was staying in North Yorkshire (first in Gt Ayton, recently in Yarm). So actually I was thinking that I was traveling to Yorkshire. It was so beautiful down there. Now I like Boro as a town (or is it a city already – when is the Queen’s birthday?) but earlier I spent most of the time in Yorkshire except for football.
    But as a regular visitor I have been able to understand all the changes – as I know Boro is a reasonably new town by British standards.
    So only thing I need more info is the North Riding part of Yorkshire. What does ‘Riding’ mean – I suppose someone was able to ride a horse(s) that particular distance in a day?
    So waiting for an explanation by Dormo (as always). Boro to win 4-3 today with a brace by Juke.
    Up the Boro!
    **AV writes: Shhhhh. You’ll get getting all the White Rose nationalists on t’soap box.
    The Ridings were the ancient units of government within Anglo-Saxon England. They are as relevent to our modern nation as Danelaw.
    Middlesbrough’s identity stems from growing up on the dotted part of an archaic map that meant nothing in practice; no government structures, no transport structures, no political structures were in place when the Infant Hercules sprang up in a Victorian vacuum. We are the bastard child of industry and a new reality, not within the orbit of some crusty ritual bureaucratic boundaries.
    WE ARE TEESSIDE!
    (That should rattle a few cages)

  12. Even Boro is from Yorkshire (I am that old!), I think Leeds is too far to be called a derby match. Especially so as they have played on a lower level recently – so they must consider Barnsley, Bradford or Huddersfield more as derby nowadays?
    But I remember my friend, Peter, always saying that he never went to matches at Leeds in 1980s. As one was never sure about one’s safety. So they were tough games and times. So perhaps there was rivalry like between Manchester Utd vs. Liverpool. But are these real derbies then?
    Up the Boro!

  13. To Ian Gill in response to a post I thought I’d seen on this thread, but I can’t seem to find now: are Leeds fans still referring to Warnock as “Colin”? Anagram he may be, but he clearly got his tactics right today & Mogga got his very wrong!
    *shakes head in despair* Why, in god’s name does he persist with that waste of space, Hoyte, instead of fielding Tony Mc? Off topic, at least England are beating the Frogs at the Stade de France at half-time – just …
    To add to the Yorkshire/derby debate, I’ve said this before on one of AV’s threads, but I’ll say it again: I was born (& went to school – MGHS) in Middlesbrough when it was part of the North Riding of Yorkshire & have always regarded myself as a Yorkshirewoman, a scion of God’s own county. 😉 That said, I don’t regard matches against the dirty Unmentionables as derbies.
    Last, but not least, a footnote to AV’s explanation to Jarkko about the Yorkshire Ridings: they disappeared when local government in England was reformed in 1974, when “Cleveland” came into being as an administrative unit. Local government was further reformed in 1996, when Cleveland (& Humberside) were abolished, their districts being reconstituted as what were termed “unitary authorities”, one of which was Middlesbrough, whose “ceremonial county” is North Yorkshire ( 🙂 ). The 1996 reform reintroduced the East Riding of Yorkshire ( 😦 ).
    The term “riding” has nothing to do with horses. It is of Viking origin & derives from “threthingr”, which meant “third part” & there were only three: North, East & West. The “South Riding” existed only as a fictional area in the title of Winifred Holtby’s novel of that name. Hope that helps.

  14. OK AV, since you are in wind-up mode, perhaps you can make a list of the benefits, socially and economically, since people started to mess about with the area’s identity. I’m not sure how long your list will be – will a matchbox do?
    **AV writes: Teesside’s social and economic ills have got nothing to do with tinkering with labels or boundaries. They are down to structural changes in the global economy compounded by weak industrial strategies by successive national governments and poor local leadership. But that is for another day.

  15. London-based Boro fan said: The term “riding” has nothing to do with horses. It is of Viking origin & derives from “threthingr”, which meant “third part”.
    The Swedish word for a third part is still “tredjedel”. Just how this threthingr become ‘riding’ is interesting. Thank you, London-based. As said I have never lived in the UK but have a keen interest in Boro (FC & area).
    Up the Boro!

  16. I was totally disgusted with both the Boro and the Boro fans today.
    The team for obvious reasons, but the fans lost all credibibility as far as I’m concerned today with disgusting obscene chants about dead Leeds fans in Istanbul.
    Boro fans simply cannot chant these sort of things to fans of other clubs then try to claim moral highground when other fans sing nasty and offensive songs back at Boro fans.
    The awful fact is, that Boro have as many, if not more, idiotic lowlife neanderthals amongst their fan base as other clubs do.
    **AV writes: I didn’t hear that – I barely heard the Boro fans at all and you may have the advantage over me in either being among the crowd or watching on TV. If true that is shocking and disgraceful and I would condemn it unreservedly. And it indeed reflects that fact that all clubs have some cretins among their fanbase.
    That said, I have never really bought into the idea that a few idiots in a one colour hirt stop civilised and articulate supporters objecting to the behaviour of idiots wearing other coloured shirts. That is just daft. It is for the decent fans of all clubs to raise these issues and tackle them, not to be smeared collectively and gagged because of a few foul-mouthed doyles.

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