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The Wail of Two Cities



It was a champion side; it was an almost ran side,

It was the age of flair; it was the age of dullness,

It was the era of conviction; it was the era of disbelief,

It was the season of greatness; it was the season to forget,

It was the winter to hope; it was the winter of disillusion,

We had the future before us; we had no hope within us,

Don Revie’s knights in Persil White,

These were the days of Bremner, Lorimar, Yorath

Jordan, Madeley. And Harvey is in goal.

Alan ‘Sniffer’ Clarke upfront

Norman Hunter biting ankles.

Leeds United, the ultimate team,

My team.

January 1974, FA Cup fourth round.

The mighty Peacocks were here to play

Noel Cantwell’s Magenta Blue, Posh Boys.

Peterborough United, my hometown team,

This was the reason for my mixed loyalties

My favourite team is in my hometown.

A conflict of footballing interest.

Earlier that day, fans had raced through the city streets

Causing mayhem

All for one, and one on one

Shop windows were smashed.

Pubs closed their doors in fear

with regulars locked inside.

Police were everywhere,

although blindsided, inadequate, outnumbered

Ambulance crews in shiny white vehicles

Stationed on every corner, protected by young bobbies.

Umbrella-wielding batty old ladies

Struck out at both blue and white clad youths

Occasionally a lonely opposing fan becomes encircled

It’s too late to save him,

he’s lost to the pack,

save yourselves.

I ran

It’s nearly three o'clock, en masse to the match.

I have already dumped my Leeds United scarf

Hand knitted by mum.

Standing in the London Road, home end.

The fear of mistakenly cheering on my team is palpable.

Just 15 minutes played and Lorimer scores

I stifle a cheer. Like suppressing a fart, it's complicated.

I can sense a rout, I can sense a riot.

Even more magic on twenty-four and thirty minutes

Joe Jordan, the Scottish wizard, enchants with a two-goal spell.

Three minutes later, young Yorath scores, and it’s four-nil.

Half-time, pie and pop time.

Half-time team talk time.

Don Revie tells his boys to have fun, don’t rush, enjoy

Noel Cantwell, with specifically aimed expletives

He tries to motivate this lost cause.

It’s like trying to navigate a ship devoid of sails

Like the Marie Celeste, the terraces become abandoned.

But those fans who remain, to witness the wonder

of second-half soccer at its most magnificent.

Both teams showed some great football,

none better than Peterborough’s John Cozens

Who, after sixty-three minutes, scored

A well-worked consolation goal.

The roof tore off the stadium.

They would have heard the roar at Elland Road.

But that was that.

No more goals, one yellow card

It was ending four-one to the Peacocks.

The final whistle blew, and the match ended.

Now the frenzied stampede could start.

Running the gauntlet of Posh fans

The Leeds boys came under fire

From all directions

They gave as good as they got, with gusto

The council will have to hose these blood-stained pavements

Teeth lost, glasses smashed into faces

Faces smashed into the floor

Bodies curled into corners like wind-blown leaves

I ran

Soon the mayhem would be over

The northbound train finally departed

Cheered on by the ‘borough boys

Overlooking and jeering from Crescent Bridge

The city once again resumed its sleepy backwater pose.

It would be twelve years till these two teams

Would once again meet in the FA Cup

This time Posh won one nil.

I no longer support Leeds United

I’m part of the Toon Army supporters now

With little expectation


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