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Where Does ‘Dirty Leeds’ Come From?

Like anyone who supports the famous Leeds United, there is a real spring in the step of the club and fans just now. Back in the Premier League. Playing aesthetically stunning football with a young team under Marcelo Bielsa. And yet, for some fans – especially rivals – it is impossible to get over the idea of Dirty Leeds United.

Throughout the famous Leeds United history, there have been various accusations against the club. The Don Revie era is obviously a huge part of the club’s history, but it was also the era that spawned the Dirty Leeds name. Why, though? What made Dirty Leeds a thing? How did it come to pass?

And how can you find the best Leeds inspired clothing to remind the rest of Yorkshire, and the world, that Leeds fans simply do not care about this history?

Don Revie’s Leeds Team

As you might know, the Don Revie Leeds team is the pinnacle of an entire sporting era. For fans born after the 1980s and 1990s, this is the old school Leeds they listened to older family members talk of. This team was one of the best of its era, though. The late 1960s and early 1970s is arguably the peak of the history of the club, with Revie building a team around the likes of Billy Bremner, Norman Hunter, and the late, great Jackie Charlton.

Good old Filthy Leeds. League titles. Domestic cups. A European Cup final that went down as one of the most scandalous in European history. For all of the patter about ‘dirty Leeds’, the greatest cheating that took place in this era happened to Leeds.

Indeed, for years, the Dirty Leeds title has stuck with fans of other clubs. Watch as Leeds get a player sent off, and the old ‘Dirty Leeds’ headlines come out from sportswriters who were far too young to have seen this great side take to the field.

Dirty Leeds, though, was born in the era when the Don Revie Leeds team simply took nothing for granted. They fought, scrapped, and battled with gusto. 

The Battle of Goodison Park

A big part of what makes the Dirty Leeds name stick, though, is one famous game: the Battle of Goodison Park. This is up there with some of the most violent games ever seen of the era. So much so that the referee for the day even walked off due to the violence seen on the park!

In 1964, Leeds headed to Merseyside to face off against Everton. By the fourth minute, the first red card came out. Later in the game, two players clashed heads. Fans were warned for gobbing at players. A ten minute break in play even saw the game threatened with abandonment, such was the madness on the pitch and in the stands.

It was not the first time these two teams had seen tempers flare, though. An FA Cup tie between the duo had ended in a 1-1 draw at Elland Road, which was a foul-heavy game that was described as ‘cruel’ by the press pack. So, a repeat performance should not have been a surprise.

The player sent off, too, was not a Leeds player – it was Sandy Brown of Everton, sent off in the fourth for punching John Giles. Everton were even punished for the behaviour of their fans. Leeds, by contrast, received no extra punishment. So much for Dirty Leeds, eh? Given this game is so often used in the legend of why this name sticks, it’s hardly the best example.

The press on the day couldn’t wait to get started, though. It was described by John Arlott in the Observer as an ‘unhappy day for English football’. Others, like Guardian reporter Brian Crowther, claimed the referee was ‘not firm enough’.

The president of the Football League at the time, Joe Richards, even tried to blame the sums of money involved for the madness!

No, this was two competitive teams – arguably two of the most abrasive of the era – going at it hammer and tongs.

Of course, this game stands out for one reason among others – Leeds won. 1-0. For the more pious in the footballing community, this is proof that they scrapped, battered, and bludgeoned their way to success.

Dirty Leeds…and Proud!

Now, if you know anything about us, you’ll know that we adore the moniker. Leeds fans wear this with pride. Yorkshire is treated quite differently to many of the more compliant parts of the English football scene. We are often seen as rabble-rousers and maniacs. The reality is that Leeds were promoted under Revie with a steely style that also culminated in football so good that it saw them reach European finals and semi-finals with regularity in the era.

While fans today might coo as they watch Bielsaball, older fans will see a similarity to the days of Dirty Leeds. Were the Don Revie teams a bit abrasive? Absolutely. Were they also capable of scintillating football that could, at times, match the aesthetics of other contemporaries of the time such as the Lisbon Lions? Without a doubt.

Dirty Leeds, then. It’s a name built on myths like the Battle of Goodison. It was a name that stuck in an era where Leeds knew they had to scrap and play hard to win titles and trophies. The other teams of the era were not angels; Leeds were not the only team to throw punches, kicks, and the like. They simply did it better than the rest. Just as the modern Leeds teams play better football than most, the Revie era Leeds simply knew how to roll up the sleeves as well as roll the ball to a teammate.

Dirty Leeds Merchandise

Are you a similar Leeds fan with a similar passion for this era of football? Then why not noise up fans of other teams with some Dirty Leeds merch?

For example, this Dirty Leeds hoodie should be the perfect way to get colleagues like at you like you are crazy. It’s always a great way to remind people just how much Leeds fans adore the era; why be ashamed of something so fantastic?

Of course, you might even want to noise up those who give it the Murderball slogans about the Dirty Leeds era. Show them how little you care with a proverbial middle finger in the form of these Dirty Leeds t-shirts!

Leeds United is a proud football club, with a very proud history of getting things done through hook or crook. Dirty Leeds is not an era to be embarrassed about; it is to be revered.