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on 13 September 2011
Clavane's love for Leeds, his tough love, is always there. Sure, it's not just about football, or football in context: the book is about tribes from the point of view of an active member, with sharply focused looks at particular tribal attitudes. It is properly biased in favour of `community cohesion' (a pair of words widely used but seldom fully understood in the world of education) and against those who seek to wreck it, like the oddly-named Service Crew, the notorious gang of Leeds hooligans which brawled its racist and xenophobic way across the country a quarter of a century ago. Clavane would endorse the words of Nelson Mandela, who said, "Sport has the power to change the world, the power to inspire, the power to unite people in a way that little else breaks down racial laughs in the face of all discrimination."

The book is awash with background information and interesting well-I-never-knew-that details, in addition to predictable coverage of the notable LUFC bosses of the past few decades. There is plenty on Don Revie, for example, to supplement what can be found in David Peace's The Damned United, or rather to put a few things straight. Clavane goes over well-known facts, adds a few more and exposes some false legends. There is also a fair amount on the half-forgotten Albert Johanneson, one of the first great black players in English football, who really needs a good biography written about him, and his fellow South African Lucas Radebe, he of the Kaizer Chiefs, the boy from Soweto who became one of the Premier League's finest defenders and whose memory is still revered in Leeds.

One of the really significant aspects of Promised Land is the series of connections made with the literature which has come out of the city and its environs - Billy Liar for example, or Tony Harrison's poem V. There are also references to sociological works like the well-worn Uses of Literacy and Nick Davies's more lurid The Dark Heart, which describes how the street children, beggars, muggers and joy riders of Leeds all come creeping out at night, and to books on architecture. I get the feeling that Clavane could write an excellent illustrated guide to local architecture. So the book is not just for a run-of-the-mill fan who might put down the Daily Mirror and pick up a book (picture it) on the coach to a match.

It's fluent and engaging, with a heart worn on the sleeve, which puts it on a different level to some other books about sport, free of jargon and automaton journalism and more than accessible to people who have a flimsy knowledge of soccer. People who have never been to Leeds in their lives would enjoy it as well!
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on 5 October 2011
This book is stunning: more than a piece of sports journalism, it is an intense psychological examination of a city with a turbulent life story, an enduring image (not always complimentary) to outsiders, and a fierce and passionate character which burns to this day.

Taking as his central motif the sign which was once on display high and proud at Leeds train station declaring 'Leeds - The Promised Land Delivered', Clavane examines that very character, telling an epic saga which weaves together the story of the football club, of the city, and of the Jewish community in which he himself grew up.

His reflections are searingly honest. Famous vignettes from the seminal New Wave film 'Billy Liar' (originally written by Leeds-born Keith Waterhouse) are recurring scene-setters, which Clavane builds upon to charactise the city as an historically ambitious place where idealistic dreamers have come to achieve: Hull-born architect Cuthbert Brodrick who built the majestic Town Hall; and of course Don Revie, the man who took over as Leeds United manager in the sixties, ordering his team to play in an all-white strip like that of world-class Real Madrid.

Yet that ambition, that apparent self-confidence Clavane suggests betrays a rather more deep-seated insecurity about ourselves: that no matter what pretentions we might ever adopt towards worldwide greatness, we will never lose our abiding provincial roots.

A book which gives every Leeds lad or lady a great deal to think about. It is at once a nostalgic tread through footballing history; a treatise on sport and culture; and a fascinating treasure chest of stories - mostly now forgotten and little-told - about a city and a football club which continues to have its "ups and downs".
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on 31 March 2014
I am not a Leeds United fan in fact i don't follow football at all but I enjoyed this book immensely. This book is a lot more than a book about Leeds United football club although the clubs trials and triumphs certainly form the main theme of the book. The book is also a social history of Leeds and the cities ups and downs. I thought the book had a clever mix of content that was woven together well. Certainly worth reading even for people not all that interested in football.
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on 11 June 2012
This is a personal history of Leeds United. It briefly takes in the early years of Leeds City and Leeds United, but really hits the ground when Don Revie took charge in the sixties and Leeds nearly reached the Promised Land of the title - European success - and failed. It then goes through the struggles and tribulation of Leeds United as they fall and rise again, under Wilkinson and O'Leary, always falling just short of the fabled Promised Land. The book is interspersed with Clavane's own Jewish family history and how it intersects with Leeds history, but this is more than 'Fever Pitch at Elland Road' - it is a very incisive account of the causes and consequences of Leeds United's success and failures, both on and off the pitch.
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on 31 December 2011
As a lifelong Leeds Utd. fan (God help me!!),I was very impressed with this book which shows the connections between Leeds Utd. and the city of Leeds especially the inter-dependence of one upon the other. I wasn't fully aware of the huge Jewish influence both within the city and the Club so it was a bit of an eye-opener in that respect. It's a combination of a sports and a social history that are intertwined very well and I found I couldn't put the book down. I passed it on to a couple of pals and they were also impressed with it. Altogether a very informative and thought provoking book. 5 stars definitely.
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on 1 February 2013
This book is an absolute gem. It takes the reader on a journey through the connected history of the city of Leeds and its football club. In general, there is very little written about the urban history of Leeds and its communities, probably because the city is so relatively young in comparison with its neighbour, York. However, this book does the job, accounting life in the industrial age. It's highly relevant to me, as it's where I'm from, but friends who are not from Leeds and support other clubs have enjoyed it too. Whether you like football or not, if you're interested in the urban social history of northern England, this is a book for you.
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on 8 January 2013
Coming from a family of Leeds fans, once I had got my Dad this and he gave it the thumbs up it was then an obvious choice to get my brother in law. He can relate to the author as a Leeds fan who also lives in the South and was really pleased with it.
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on 26 October 2011
The Promised Land both challenged some of my assumptions about and confirmed some of my impressions of Leeds - my adopted home city of the last twenty years. In this fascinating and beautifully written book Clavane provides not only a great insight into Leeds United but also, I think, a brilliantly perceptive analysis of the culture of the city.....
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on 31 July 2011
I should warn you now, this is no ordinary sports book. It's a sports book of the year, no less.

That makes me think two things simultaneously: firstly, I worry about the quality of all the other sports books published in 2010/11, because this is not a book that will be troubling judges in any competition outside its genre. Secondly, I wonder how many vaguely literary readers will try out a book on Leeds United, which turns out to be just as much a meditation on the phenomenon of the great post-war writers of Leeds as it is a celebration of the tackling of Norman 'bite yer legs' Hunter.

Anthony Clavane is a Mirror journalist who has lived away from Leeds for thirty years, yet still calls it home, partly because of family and partly because of Leeds United. He has done a lot of research on the history of the city, although none of it feels new or revelatory to a Leeds lad like myself. The only primary research comes from the fact that his family, who have many connections to the city and the football club, are still here.

But what a family. Clavane's conceit is to connect the history of the Jewish community to the history of the city and its football club, and then to weave in its rather patchy and inconsistent literary contribution. These different subjects all share a common tale of occasional flashes of genius, with one or two moments of genuine success followed by decades in the wilderness. The wilderness is important to Jews; in fact, the book is structured around the liturgy of the passover meal.

Does this book add anything new to the multiple humiliations of Chelsea, Sunderland, Paris, relegation after relegation? Not directly, no - it's just a fan's tale, with no insider knowledge. But where else will you find someone making a connection between Billy Bremner and Billy Liar?

I don't have it in front of me, but the blurb on the book has someone saying that this book merits comparison with Nick Hornby's Fever Pitch. I wouldn't go that far. I have a vivid memory of Patrick Vieira destroying Leeds single-handedly, and I think The Arsenal's great memoir would do the same to this honest, hard-working northern tome.

There's a lot in here, notably Clavane's meditations on being a Jew and supporting a club with a notoriously racist following, but the speed, skill and beauty of Hornby's prose wins out. Clavane over-uses metaphors that are thrilling the first time, but jarring the third. I wondered if the book had been constructed out of articles, because a writer should be expected to weed out these kinds of repetitions (never mind an editor).

Fever Pitch made me celebrate Arsenal winning, and I've had a soft spot for them ever since. And Arsenal are still at the top, unlike 'Dirty Leeds,' who will remain frienless and exiled from the footballing promised land. The book haunts me two weeks after finishing it, but it is the constant drain of artistic talent to London that is bothering me, not that crooked ref in Paris...
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on 15 August 2015
A very average piece of writing from someone who clearly saw LUFC from afar. By page 100 the writer, after moving to London in 1979, states that he never returned to Elland Rd, has somehow managed to writes a whole book on the lot of a football club in the north of England. I was bored with the book throughout, as most of the points he made were clearly from a reference through journalism that anyone could fine via Google. Even more so he tried to put his own religious spin on the whole book which was not in keeping with the real time action. Yes. Judaism did play a part in LUFC, but so did other elements. One could argue the rights and wrongs of finding another way to retell a story, but religious reasoning and football are bloody boring.
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