I was born in 1965 and started supporting Leeds United in 1970. They were one of the biggest clubs in the country at the time, and would go on to be a legendary one until Don Revie left to manage England in 1974. I can’t remember much about those seasons, apart from the two F.A. Cup finals.
Peter Lorimer and Eric Cantona, Leeds United Footballers
Peter ‘Hot Shot’ Lorimer was one of the star players and best known, because he was renowned for having the best shot and scoring spectacular goals, kind of like the David Beckham or Lionel Messi of his time; before European football was televised much in Britain; or Kevin De Bruyne in the Premier League at the moment.
Uncannily, not only was Lorimer my favourite footballer, but I think he looked a bit like me too… and Eric Cantona when at Leeds!
From Lorimer to Cantona there was a decade and a half of strife. I listened to Leeds win promotion back into Division One on top of Chungking Mansions in Hong Kong in 1990. In 1991 I returned home on the Trans-Siberian from Beijing, via the Soviet Union (as it was then). I continued on the train to Prague in Czechoslovakia (before it divided), Budapest in Hungary and Berlin in Germany (recently united), before hitching back to Britain from there (taking a day to reach the port, Calais I think).
So I was back for the 1991/92 season, when Leeds won the last Division One title, with the help of controversial midfield/forward, Eric Cantona. He inspired my haircut, and I used to play with the number 2 shirt for my local team, as Cantona did, even though I was a centre forward at the time.
I also liked the fact that he tried to be an artist and philosopher, providing a bridge to the ‘counter-culture’ I also liked. My favourite rugby union player of my childhood was also a Frenchman (maybe my Jersey birthplace influence), Jean-Pierre Rives, a ferocious tackler in my favourite position of flanker. I didn’t know what happened to him after he retired from rugby until looking him up during the writing of XaW Files, and found out he was also an artist!
Here’s some photos I consider my most Cantonaesque (and Lorimer) from my next travel to the Americas in 1993/94, when Leeds United’s resurgence also inspired me to take a replica shirt!: