Promised Land, by Anthony Clavane

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The Independent Culture

When at the end of the last millennium David O'Leary said his ambition was that the team he managed, Leeds United, would become admired, loved, everyone's second team, fate mocked quietly from the sidelines. For mighty indeed was the subsequent fall.

Anthony Clavane, a son of Leeds born of Jewish immigrant forebears, is a passionate supporter. Here he charts the club's rises and falls from inauspicious beginnings, through the era of Don Revie – who transformed a club who were a laughing stock in 1961 into the most feared, and reviled, club in Europe by the time he left in 1974 – the European Cup final disaster of 1975, the false dawn of a League Championship title in 1992 and the financial meltdown under the chairmanship of Peter Ridsdale.

Promised Land is a revelatory work not merely for Leeds fans but for those unfamiliar with the city, such is Clavane's skill in weaving together the city's history, Jewish heritage and sporting ambitions – "Rebbe [rabbi] on Saturday morning, Revie in the afternoon".

His constant refrain is that all three strands share a lack of self-belief: the first can't decide whether it is destined to be a vibrant European city or a provincial backwater; the second harbour a sense of both belonging and apartness; while the club are weighed down by a history of choking on the big occasion and a feeling that the rest of the footballing world gangs up on them.

In a telling comparison, Clavane evokes the creation of another son of Leeds, Keith Waterhouse: Billy Liar, who is too scared to catch the train out of the city to fulfil his destiny in the wider world.

A rich, complex book about football and fandom, origins and expectations, Promised Land is more than just promising; it's absolutely brilliant.

Published in hardback by Yellow Jersey, £16.99

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