As you can see from my 1987/88 diary and this blog football was a big part of my life from childhood. That’s one of the reasons people thinking they are a big influence on me late in life annoy me so much. I had a big thirty years of life before coming to Leeds, from being moved from Jersey to a damp one-parent family council flat where I became asthmatic to travelling to all the populated continents on a shoestring. I learnt a lot at university, and am still learning all the time, with my day-job good for technology and keeping me on my toes, balancing out my coffilosophy deep thought here. Some of the women have inspired some of my feminism, although only added to others before them, and some of my uni friends influenced my appreciation of the British countryside. I’d been hiking around the world before, but hadn’t bothered much in the U.K., trying to be as much of a ‘townie’ as possible when living in the countryside! I’m willing to provide appreciation and thanks to other people, but retract it if they take it the wrong way (such as sexually when it’s not), claim credit for my coffilosophical writing, or don’t consider themselves to have benefitted from knowing me (such as thinking themselves inherently above me). I think the ‘nice’ people have kept me on a ‘good path’, but sometimes think it’s the wrong one, and a dead end, and that I’d be better off deeply embedded with my ‘real demographic’.
Early Influences on Writing
As I’ve written before I dropped out of school in the second year of secondary school, losing interest and increasing rebelliousness, becoming quite politically aware for my age, mixed with the country seeming in turmoil, especially for the working-class. I only wanted to be a footballer anyway, so didn’t think school had any benefit; especially as it was totally focused on rugby union, which I also enjoyed playing, but preferred football.
Rather than schoolwork I preferred reading football and music papers and magazines, as well as The Unexplained: looking back, it’s probably a sign of ADHD, or maybe Asperger’s, having watched a Chris Packham (inspiration for greenYgrey nature correspondent Chris Packwolf!) documentary about his life with a mild form of it. I hope to focus more on that documentary in the near future.
While the first inspiration for my writing goes back to my earliest teaching to read and write, and the books such as Rupert the Bear that probably influenced the greenYgrey, the first big influence was probably the comics I used to read, and during good storylines, used to wait eagerly in anticipation for the next thrilling episode.
I still remember some of those characters. As ‘Hot Shot’ Lorimer played for Leeds, there was a Hamish ‘Hot Shot’ Balfour who played for Princes Park in Scotland; ‘Nipper’ Lawrence who grew up on the backstreets to play for Blackport and of course Roy Race of Melchester Rovers; I recently read the latter’s making another comeback!
Here’s some evidence of my early creativity, inspired and instructed by comics, at the ‘height of my childhood’, born in 1965, so probably the first Olympics and World Cup that I fully knew what was going on, and could watch fully; that’s what I guess now anyway, as they do seem the special ones, although I remember earlier ones:
Leeds United Supporter Career
Growing up in south-west/mid Wales, everybody supports a big team, with Swansea the closest team to the town I lived in, fifty miles away. They were a lower league team in my childhood, so had no supporters amongst my age group that I knew; some had them as a ‘second team’, and took more interest when they reached Division One.
There were lots of Leeds fans, as they were one of the biggest clubs, and as I was more into football than most, I considered myself a Division One Leeds supporter. However, as I played every weekend, I was just an armchair fan.
That changed in 1985 when a friend with ties to the Swindon area asked if I wanted to go to the Swindon v Leeds F.A. Cup replay on February 3rd, 1987 (Footballsite date: I haven’t got a statto brain like a Leeds fan I saw on T.V. that can remember all such stats). I of course jumped at the chance, and four of us went to the game, which Leeds won 2-1 thanks largely to a heroic display by Mervyn Day in the Leeds goal.
I left to travel in August, 1987, and was away for nearly four years apart from a couple of months. I was then home for about two and a half years, and saw a few Leeds games as they returned to the glory days for a few years under Howard Wilkinson.
After returning in June, 1991, in the 1991-92 last Division One champions season I saw Leeds draw 1-1 at Everton on February 23rd and in my first game at Elland Road 0-0 at home to West Ham on March 28th (Wikipedia) (I’d remembered the Norwich game below as my first home one until now!).
In the 1992-93 season I saw Leeds beat Manchester City 1-0 on March 13th (Premier League).
We lost 0-4 to a great Norwich side on Saturday August 21st, 1993 in the 1993/94 season (Sky Sports), but then equalled it with a win, 4-0 v the Wimbledon crazy gang on October 3rd in the same season (Sky Sports).
Leeds Fan Distant Fantasy and City Reality
I left for the Americas later that autumn, and after returning the next autumn enrolled in an access course, and after completing it in 1995 was accepted by the University of Leeds.
I had a season ticket the first year, but then started working there, and I think saw every game over the next decade, when there was lots of glory without quite winning anything, but I did go to Wembley to see the League Cup final in my first season, and the Champions League semi-final season.
After gambling on regular Champions League football, and off-field distractions, there was unfortunately a big slump that has partially ended, with promotion from Division One to the Championship, and the early season was looking good, briefly leading the league, but not the last few games.
I write this having already achieved a winning season for my 5 games minimum: winning 4-1 v Port Vale, 5-1 v Newport and 2-0 v Brum; I also had a ticket for the 5-0 win v Burton but a ferry cancellation meant I didn’t make it, but I was there in seat and spirit!
Although I thought of myself as a Premier League Leeds supporter before arriving in the city, unfortunately I don’t feel like one any more, although I am still a keen follower. I’m not from Leeds or Yorkshire (although I found out after arriving that my Latham name is!), and don’t really want to go to every game like some fan(atics) do.
That’s probably partly down to the team not doing that well, the way football has gone in the last twenty years and my age too. If Leeds were doing well, it was still cheap to go, and I didn’t have other interests, such as this writing, I probably would want to go all the time!?
I feel able to write this with Leeds in a mini-slump, in the hope that it motivates the team to return to form for a tough schedule of four games in ten days. Good luck!
Like Peter Ridsdale, I nearly took Leeds United to the top of the world, after wearing the shirt for the whole of my Jiri to Gokyo Ri (5,357 m [17,575 ft]-high peak) trek in 1999:
Marc Latham’s books are available on Amazon.