Leeds Fans LLP aims to break Leeds United’s chronic ownership spiral by enabling supporters to have a stake and a say in the future of our club. Just 100 days since conception, Leeds Fans LLP today launched the first phase of a £10m fundraising initiative, the biggest in UK football history.
Back in January Leeds Fans LLP asked me to design them a logo, fast. I got scribbling and gave them this little scarf-themed number in two colour ways: home and away.
FC ST PAULI first came to light for me whilst at art college in the mid 1990s. The Hamburg-based football club’s anti-fascism Gegen Rechts! sticker shared a double page spread with the Leeds United anti-racism fanzine, Marching Altogether in Liz McQuiston’s definitive work on protest design, Graphic Agitation, a book which still sits faithfully on my desk to this day.
With a decidedly alternative fan scene with social inclusion at its very core, St Pauli are the archetypal kultverein (cult club). So it was no surprise to learn on my trips to see another, Austria Salzburg, that my genial hosts at Fanclub Absolut were frequent visitors to the Millerntor, the German club’s home near the famous Reeperbahn.
I was intrigued to discover a year or so ago that St Pauli had a growing official supporters club in Leeds. I thought they’d make for an interesting collaboration on something or other, and so it proved with this brand new pair of YSP v TBG t-shirts. You can buy them from the Yorkshire St Pauli Shop and read more from me about the designs on the Yorkshire St Pauli website.
PRE-MATCH training drills, autographed sock tags and flashy tracksuit tops: what Paul Trevillion prescribed to Don Revie’s Leeds United in 1972 looked like gimmicks back then but now seem to be an embryonic stage, the beginning of modern football. Not everything was a hit with the players or the fans but this was the game taking its first exploratory steps into the world of entertainment. In this concluding part of the interview, Paul reflects for a moment on the modern game before returning to the subject of his remarkable life as an artist, innovator and raconteur.
“What those 11 players did,” Paul says, “is change football. I asked Bill Nicholson: ‘What did you think at Elland Road when they came out?’ He said ‘I thought my bloody watch had stopped! I looked up and thought it’s only quarter to, for god’s sake. What’s happened? They were out, and we weren’t even changed.’
“No one came out 15 minutes early,” Trevillion insists. “Those lads changed football. No other manager would’ve done it – not even Clough. But Revie did, and that’s how brave he was. They went out, and they played for The Man. And not one of them will say one bad word about him. The Man is the The Man, they loved him. He was a father to them. Even now, they talk about him as though he’s still here. That’s how much respect they’ve got for him. No manager’s got that. Not now.”
Through his long-running cartoon strip, You are the Ref, and his work on Roy of the Rovers and in Match magazine (remember DJ Bear, football’s Panda of Peace? That was The Beaver inside the bear suit) Trevillion’s involvement with football extends over 50 years. Consequently, he’s well-positioned to assess the evolution of the game, both in terms of sport and popular culture.
“I go to games now,” he says, “and they’re screaming, ‘Give him a card! Give him a card!’ It’s the biggest change in football since I started watching it. It’s like having paid all your money to see Frank Sinatra and as soon as he comes on you go: ‘Get him off!’ I go to see players. Tottenham’s my team, but I support football.
“The sad thing is, you look at the Man Citys and the Man Uniteds and there’s such a difference, it’s become like the Scottish League. They’ve got 11, not internationals, but world class players and then you’ve got teams which just have players, 11 players. They’ll give them a game and run around but it’s so unfair.
“When that Leeds team played, every bloody team in that league could play. You had Derby kicking you to death, you had Liverpool kicking you to death, you had Tottenham kicking you to death, you had bloody Arsenal kicking you to death. Bloody great teams, all with bloody great players.
“We all had a dream then. At the start of the season you thought you could win the title. Now, you know that when the season starts, if you’re a Wigan supporter, hard luck. If you’re a Wolves fan, hard luck. Everton, hard luck. You’re never gonna win it. It’s gone, the dream’s gone.
“I can talk about the old teams and run through all the great players, but now I say to youngsters, ‘Can you name me the Sunderland team?’ and they say ‘Eh? No.’ ‘Can you tell me who plays for Wigan?’ ‘No.’ ‘Who plays for Wolves?’ ‘I dunno.’
“Once you get out of the top five – even with Liverpool they struggle – they don’t know the players. And you think, what’s going on? And they can’t name any players in the Championship. They’re not stars, they’re nobodies. It wasn’t like that in my day, you could name them all. You’d wanna see these players, that’s why you went!
“The frightening thing is, if you talk to kids they can name all the bloody managers. Any kid you talk to, they know them all! ‘Who plays for Fulham?’ ‘ Dunno, but I like Martin Jol ‘cos he looks like Shrek!'”
Fittingly for an artist, and in keeping with his own exploits, Trevillion believes that we exist in a picture world: one of images, icons and heroes. He seems to have met most of his during a career which has known no bounds.
“In the war,” he says, “the American soldiers, the GIs, used to give my dad comics and inside them was Batman and Superman. I thought they were brilliant. I thought they were real, they were drawn so well. Artists, great artists. I was brought up on that, and that’s what I do: comic art realism.
“You have to have direction in life, and you’ve got to be lucky. If you find out what you’re blessed with early, then you do it all your life. You become successful at it. It’s what you do.
“Muhammad Ali said to me: ‘There are probably 100 people out there who would’ve beaten me, but they didn’t realise that they could.’ I met Frank Sinatra and he said the same thing: ‘Every time I sing there are half a dozen people in the audience who can probably sing better than me but have never tried.'”
“Everyone’s got talent of some sort. I do art workshops to encourage the kids, and every one I meet always says the same thing. ‘I’m not going to make a living out of drawing, am I? I’ve got to get a proper job.’ I don’t know why parents knock these kids back; you’ve got to listen to them. If you want to do it, do it.
“That’s what I did. I wanted to work with Norman Wisdom, and I did. I wanted to write a book, and I’ve written 20 books. I wanted to work in newspapers, so I worked in newspapers. I wanted to get a split-hand putting method out, I thought I could beat everyone at putting, and I did, and I went to America. You can be whatever you want to be. Don’t tell me you can’t do it. If I can do it, you can do it.
“I’ve done what I wanted to do. I wanted to play the Palladium, so I did and that’s the end of the story. DJ Bear went to every club he wanted to go to and didn’t go to another. I’ve played all the top golf clubs in America and I didn’t want to go round and do them again. I’ve done all that. You can’t repeat it; you don’t draw the same drawing twice. That’s the penalty of being an artist, that’s why I’ve had so many short careers.
“I asked Bob Hope, “Do you ever regret not winning an Oscar?’ and he said, ‘No, because I know people who’ve won an Oscar and didn’t do another film. They were finished when they were 40; I’m 80 and I’m still working.’ It’s not for peers or other people to judge, it’s the public. The ones who pay the money, who buy the papers: they’re the judge, nobody else. ‘If you’re still working when you’re my age,’ Hope said, ‘then you’ve got something.’ And I’m almost there. A few years to go and I can say, ‘Bob, I’ve caught you up, mate.’”
Trevillion started his working life selling local newspapers on the streets of London, and it wasn’t long before he was gracing the pages of the nationals himself. His is a life spent very much in print. Be it with the strokes of his pen or the cut of his jib, for him, print is a match made in heaven.
“When I started out,” he recalls, “I decided I would work in pen and ink. That was the only medium you could use in newspaper print, and it produces an immediacy in your work you cannot correct. I haven’t the luxury of putting ink on and saying, ‘that’s not quite right, I’ll change that.’ I can’t. I’ve always worked in ink. People say, ‘But you can’t do portraits in ink!’ I can. And I do.
“They talk about my art, but I’ve always believed I’m a wasted talent. I paint in inks when I should be painting in oils. I can’t. But I am the Master of Movement, and if I was to paint in oils I could take out Degas, I really could. I’d be up there with Rembrandt!
“I draw for the football fan. I don’t draw for the art dealers. I want to draw footballers and boxers and cricketers, I want to draw for the fan. That’s my audience. So I’m a wasted talent. I didn’t do what I could do, I didn’t pick up the oils and say, ‘I’m taking out Rembrandt! I’m gonna beat up Degas!'”
“I know I can. Every day I promise myself I’m gonna take up oil painting, but that’s not what I am. Winston Churchill picked up my drawing of him and said ‘This should be in the National Gallery, not the one done by Graham Sutherland!’ He said, ‘That’s where you’re going to finish up!’
“I didn’t, so that’s what I am: a wasted talent. I’m Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it. I coulda been a contender!”
At Elland Road, though, Trevillion’s radical re-imagining of Revie’s Leeds will always guarantee that The Beaver’s work has pride of place on the wall of every Leeds United supporter’s gallery.
“That team were unbelievable, the envy of everybody. They changed football, they changed it in lots and lots of ways. If you want to know what everyone in football aspires to be, it’s Leeds.”
IN THE SPACE of just a few months in the spring of 1972, the choreographed showbiz prescribed to Leeds United by the maverick artist and innovator Paul Trevillion came to epitomise ‘Super Leeds’ and changed football forever. Absorbing the vibrant sights and sounds of the early seventies, the man who calls himself ‘The Beaver’ introduced pre-match training drills, autographed sock tags, and the timeless refrain of ‘Marching on Together’. I caught up with the enigmatic 78-year-old to talk about football, art, and his unlikely collaboration with Don Revie.
“It would never have happened without Bill Nicholson,” Paul admits. “I went to see him at Tottenham and said, ‘Look, here are the stocking tags, the target balls, and I want the players to come out and show their skills before a match.’ He just laughed and said, ‘Why don’t you go see Don Revie? They could use some brightening up.’
“So I went up and it was then that I saw Les Cocker. I’d been to all the training grounds in London and seen nothing like I saw at Leeds. It was military. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. There was a vaulting horse they were leaping off which I wouldn’t have jumped off with a parachute! It was unbelievable.
“I hadn’t thought then of the pre-match drills, but who I did think of as I watched it was Busby Berkeley. I’m a great film fan, and when I saw 42nd Street I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, so I took a great interest in him. People used to go to the cinema and think there were 40 dancing girls, but you couldn’t have got that many on the stage! He used mirrors, and this is going through my head when Don came up to me.
“‘I’ve seen what Les is doing and it’s Busby Berkeley!’ I told him. ‘You’ve got 12 players. Why don’t they run out and spin to the four corners of the ground to do their drills?’ ‘I don’t think they’ll do that,’ he replied. ‘Go and talk to Les.’
“Now Les was a tough guy. A lot of people dress tough, a lot of people act tough, and a lot of people talk tough, but Les Cocker was tough. I told him I wanted the players to come out and do the drills, get it all synchronised. ‘I want it done at the 6th round of the FA Cup,’ I said, and he took it as a challenge. ‘You’ve got to make it look right,’ I told him. ‘If it doesn’t look right, then you’ll get laughed at.’ ‘What are you talking about?’ he replied. ‘Of course we won’t – not if I do it.’ So I went back to Don and I told him we’ve got it. He said, ‘Right, now you’ve got to convince the players.'”
But when Trevillion turned up in their dressing room, the players were understandably standoffish. In a bid to win them over, he pledged that he’d catch a bouncing ball hurled by Revie at a wall eight feet away. Having made the save but with his mouth bleeding from four lost teeth, Trevillion decided to take a safer, more creative approach to convey his ideas.
“Being an artist, Salvador Dalí was someone I liked,” he says, “and Dalí did the elephant which no one understood. 1944 it was done, and it was called ‘The Dream’ or something. The elephant had on its back an obelisk and its legs were 20 to 30 feet high, as thin as pipe cleaners. They were on the ground, but I didn’t know what it meant. Then I found out. Dalí’s explanation was that the obelisk was the weight of expectation, and the legs the legs of desire. They stretch and stretch but they don’t come off the ground – and that’s what stops people from being successful.
“I drew the elephant for Don, with these enormous long legs, and what I said to him was: ‘When you’ve played in cup finals you were good enough to win them, but you were too cautious. When you get there, you’ve got to believe that you can win it. You’ve got to get your feet off the ground, but you don’t.’
“Every day I talked to Don about doing the drills and the stocking tags, then one day Les said, ‘I’ve got it all worked out, Paul, come and see it.’ I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. The lads were unbelievable and Les Cocker was Busby Berkeley – but with no mirrors! It was military, it was frightening. It was a hundred times better than I’d imagined it. Just watching it, I was out of my head! And so was Don.
“When the day come to wear the tags, I saw them for the first time and they looked really good. Blue they were, and on top of their all white kit they looked great. I went in and told Don it looked terrific, but I went back in an hour later and they weren’t there. I said to Don, ‘What’s happened to the tags?’ and he replied, ‘Look, I think we’ll leave that for the next match.’
“So I went back in the dressing room and I put out some cards with the Dalí elephant on and he said, ‘What have you done that for?’ ‘You’ve put your feet back on the ground,’ I told him. ‘At the moment, the boys are pumped up, they’re gonna wear the tags, they’re gonna do the drills, they’re gonna kick the balls out, they’re gonna salute the crowd.’
“And they did. It was the elephant. There must’ve been a million people in the ground that day, because everybody tells me they were there. The irony of it was, when they did the drills, when they wore the stocking tags, it was against Tottenham Hotspur, and poor old Bill Nicholson – the guy who’d turned the idea down – was the guy who suffered at the hands of it.”
The 2-1 scoreline didn’t accurately reflect Spurs’ inferiority, and with what Trevillion describes as “football from the gods,” Super Leeds progressed to the FA Cup Semi Final. His work too went on, with the conception of a song that’s become ingrained in Leeds United’s DNA.
“I said to Don, ‘We’ll have to get a song. Is there anybody you’d like to sing it?’ And he replied, ‘Yes, Tom Jones.’ I said, ‘We won’t get Tom Jones!’ ‘Get the guy who writes his songs then,’ he insisted. ‘The guy who wrote Delilah, The Last Waltz, come on!’ ‘That’s Les Reed and Barry Mason,’ I replied. ‘They don’t do football records, Don!’ ‘You want the boys to wear your stocking tags?’ he said, ‘But you’re telling me you can’t get him to do our record? Go get him.’
“So I found out where Les Reed lived and I went round. I got there at eight o’clock in the morning and rang the bell. Nothing happened. I waited another hour and I rang it again, and there was no answer. I kept pressing the bell, and in the end it was about one o’clock in the afternoon and he answered the door and said, ‘What do you want? I’ll give you just a minute, that’s all. 60 seconds.’ ‘I want you to do the Leeds United song,’ I said. He burst out laughing, saying ‘You’re kidding.’ ‘No,’ I insisted. ‘We’re gonna bring it out in time for the Cup Semi Final. Are you on?’
“He said ‘Come in. I’ll get Barry over.’ Barry Mason arrived and asked, ‘How do you want it?’ ‘There’s a number in Robin Hood with Errol Flynn,’ I told him. ‘It won an Oscar, it’s the greatest music I’ve ever heard. Can we have it like that?’ And Barry started banging on the table, saying ‘How about: Here we go with Leeds United? We love you Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!’ I said, ‘Get the beat from Robin Hood, get that sound!’ and they were on for it.
“I couldn’t believe it, we got the record out for the Birmingham game. The bloody Birmingham game, the Semi Final, not for the Final! It got to number ten, for goodness sake! Above all the great stars who were around – the Elvis Presleys and the Tom Joneses and all of it – and it’s still a belter, and Leeds still do it.”
Having rolled over Birmingham City 3-0 at Hillsborough, Revie’s side faced Bertie Mee’s Arsenal in the centenary FA Cup Final at Wembley. The night before the match, Trevillion says, Allan Clarke confidently declared that he would net the winner – and he did. After the game, Jack Charlton thanked Trevillion and gave him his signed number 5 sock tag. Revie, too, showed his appreciation, but it quickly became apparent that his Leeds days were drawing to a end.
“Don came up and said, ‘Congratulations Beaver, we did it. Sorry you didn’t get a medal.’ Then he put his hand in his jacket pocket. I expected him to pull out the customary envelope with five match tickets, for me, my wife, and three boys to see the Wolves game at Molineux on the Monday night. I was in for a surprise, because Don pulled out an elaborately-decorated paper knife, the sort you’d imagine Henry VIII would have used to pick at a well-roasted partridge.
“Don said, ‘I want you to keep this, Beaver, so every time you open your mail you remember all the good times we’ve had lifting that Cup.’ ‘ Thanks Don,’ I said. ‘No, thank Nicholson,’ came the reply. ‘It was his idea you came to Leeds.’ I think our handshake must have lasted ten minutes and when Don finally released my hand I knew I wasn’t going to Molineux. My Cup run, like Leeds’, ended at Wembley.”
“The degree of expression in a work of art is the measure of its greatness. A spiritual discernment is more essential than the reproduction of the obvious.” ~ Jacob Kramer, 1919
SATURDAY, 3pm. I’m looking on as men in white stand in line. It’s a big day, reverence anticipates celebration and repentance. Elsewhere at that moment, other men in white are also lining up, but there’s to be no joy and little to forgive in losing to Birmingham City. It’s a match I don’t witness because instead of being at Elland Road that afternoon I’m standing before Jacob Kramer’s painting, The Day of Atonement, at Leeds City Art Gallery. It’s what I’d hoped to see. A victory, albeit a personal one, on a day of defeat. Larger in size than I’d remembered it, Kramer’s 1919 depiction of a precession of Jewish males on Yom Kippur is a work of art every bit as enduring as the abstract concept known as Leeds United.
Downstairs from where it hangs is the very spot where Leeds celebrated the team’s 1992 league title after an open-topped bus parade through the city. Barely five minutes walk round the corner, left up Cookridge Street and right onto Vernon Street, takes you beneath the mosaic plaque of Leeds College of Art: named, from the year Don Revie guided Leeds United to its first major trophy until Howard Wilkinson lifted its latest, after Jacob Kramer. It’s a building I know well because I went there in the mid-90s just as Wilko’s influence over all things white faded to black. Kramer’s association with the college also seems to have eroded to the extent that his name is now absent from the college’s history on its own website.
After running away from home when his family fled Russian anti-semitism to Leeds in 1900, Kramer found art to be the perfect means of assimilation in his adopted city and the ideal expression of his Jewish roots. To his eye, a subject revealed both its physical appearance and its spiritual manifestation, an idea which took flight when he became involved with Wyndham Lewis’ Vorticist movement while at London’s Slade School of Art in the run-up to the First World War.
But it was after that conflict, the horror of which, it was thought, had expended all human emotion, that Kramer found himself in full tune with an art world busily rejecting realism and embracing expressionism. Like the Futurists of Italy and Swiss Dadaism, Kramer’s was the art of disillusionment, and he was making it in Leeds. With the paint barely dry on The Day of Atonement, he declared: “The degree of expression in a work of art is the measure of its greatness. A spiritual discernment is more essential than the reproduction of the obvious” – unwittingly providing us, in the very year of its birth, with the best expression of Leeds United’s DNA that I’ve ever heard.
Leeds United has never been at home to the obvious. If anything, the club specialises in the reproduction of the abstract, and we fans in the spiritual discernment of the absurd. There’s good reason it features so often in song, and on page and screen. At other clubs, football is spoken of in scientific terms, but Leeds United is itself a work of art which holds a mirror to a “beastly” city, a city Dickens reckoned one must either like “very much or not at all.” While we revel in the perception of Dirty Leeds, we do so knowing that we only excel when for every Bremner there’s a Giles, and for every Batty there’s a McAllister. Ferocity, yes, but with skill. Artistry always integral to success.
But the last decade has seen the art of Leeds United vanish into the cold and calculatedly impersonal world of Batesonomics, whose seemingly irreconcilable contradictions establish Leeds United as the product of an economic theory so ambitiously mediocre, its horror is almost incomprehensible. Just as conflict altered perspectives after 1918, so greed does today. Uprisings, occupations and strikes are all reflected in the art of the age in the world’s protest hotspots, and so it is in LS11. Faced with the spiralling cost and diminishing returns of Batesonomics, fans responded first with dissent, then demonstration, and finally the withdrawal of their support. Such a sacrifice, though born of the frustration so obvious inside and outside Elland Road, was more of a personal choice than a co-ordinated effort to make Batesonomics fail, but fail it has.
The result of a doomed experiment of football in the lap of luxury at Oldham Athletic in the late 1960s which has since necessitated liquidation at both Chelsea and Leeds United, Batesonomics is the tired manifesto of one man’s near 50-year grip on football. Having stifled the efforts of managers and players, it found that the new, social media meant that when its old, anti-social channels sought to stifle fans’ self-expression, it couldn’t.
When I and The Square Ball magazine exhibited sculptor Aidan Brown’s life-sized copper bust of Ken Bates after a particularly lifeless loss to Reading in December 2011, it was the moment I decided I couldn’t be at Elland Road if the chairman was. We brought Leeds the head of Ken Bates and briefly, art conquered Batesonomics as a few hundred fans came along on a freezing Saturday night a week before Christmas to drink together and laugh at an artefact which I happen to know its subject can’t stand – which made it all even better. On the walls that night were four years’ worth of posters, most of which I’ve designed as a form of protest; my art of disillusionment.
I don’t care where you’re from or how many matches you’ve been to, if you’re Leeds you’re Leeds, and that’s good enough for me. When we look at Leeds United, like Jacob Kramer we recognise not only its physical appearance, but its spiritual manifestation too because as fans, that’s what we are. New movements begin with the refusal of the old, and we can be proud of the collaborative spirit in which so many independent, affordable, fan-led initiatives are being supported during the club’s cultural drought. Great art is being made by the fans, for the fans; but Leeds United’s greatest art can only be made with the fans, not at their expense. When the club are finally able to realise this then that, for me, shall be the day of atonement.
Postscript: since this article appeared in The Square Ball’s November issue, Leeds United’s holding company was bought by LUFC Holdings Ltd, a firm based in the Grand Cayman owned by Dubai’s GFH Capital, a subsidiary of Gulf Finance House, based in Bahrain. With the introduction of an official @LUFC twitter account and half-season tickets, the new owners wasted no time in offering fans some of the basics which Batesonomics simply would not. Ken Bates remains club chairman until the end of the season, though his planned presidential role prolongs an association which has long since grown toxic. It’s too early to assess GFH Capital’s impact on the club, though both results and attendances indicate that much work is required to put right eight years of Batesonomics: to renew the club’s severed relationships with the media, the city and fan base at large, and to reinstate Leeds United as a football club, not an instrument of tyranny.
“Self Before Side” ~ July 2007
“Don’t Believe the Tripe” ~ April 2008
“How Low Can You Go?” ~ October 2009
“Visit Beeston” ~ February 2010
“Kenopoly” ~ May 2010
“Sickpots” ~ November 2010
“Batesonomics: Lesson One” ~ March 2011
“Batesonomics: Lesson Two” ~ April 2011
“Ken Bates Goes Bust” ~ December 2011
“Cakehole Face Mask” ~ January 2012
“The Count of Monte Carlo” ~ July 2012
Trésor Kandol invites you to a movie premiere:
Trésor Kandol speaks out against DVD piracy:
Werrason & Wenge Musica Maison Mère – Trésor Kandol (starts 03:29):
Paguy Célé Excellence – Kiyungulu Trésor Kandol:
Werrason & Wenge Musica Maison Mère – Trésor Kandol (live):
I RECENTLY did this follow-up ad to last month’s Time For Change poster for Leeds United Supporters Trust, because I believe – pissed-up pitch invading pillocks notwithstanding – that nothing in football has more importance than fans. Without us, it’s just 22 people getting some exercise.
Look out for the ad in the new issue of the by-the-fans, for-the-fans magazine, The Square Ball, on sale outside Elland Road at Saturday’s home game against Birmingham City and online right now at thesquareball.net.