The Pigeon Detectives’ frontman and staunch Leeds supporter Matt Bowman talks Radebe, Yeboah, fishtanks and being starstruck by Simon Grayson…
Why do you support Leeds, Matt?
“I’m from Middlesbrough, but we moved to Leeds when I was five. My schoolmates were all Leeds fans, and the club used to give away free kids tickets with adult season tickets. That’s how it started.”
How old were you when you first started going?
“Ten or 11. It was the era of Gary McAllister, Tony Dorigo, Lee Chapman, Carlton Palmer – it was just after we won the league.”
Can you remember your first game?
“We beat Palace 2-0; I sat in the East Stand. I spent more time watching the crowd than the football to be honest! Walking out into the Elland Road stands for the first time and being hit by the atmosphere was incredible.”
Who’s the greatest player you’ve seen at Leeds?
“I’m tempted to say Tony Yeboah for volleying goals in off the crossbar from the halfway line. But I’d have to say Mr Leeds United, Lucas Radebe. Anyone who watched him week in, week out knows he was a fantastic player – a work horse, who always had time on the ball, and who never pulled out of a tackle.”
If Radebe and Yeboah were among the greatest Leeds players ever, who would be the worst you’ve seen at Elland Road?
“Anyone who puts a Leeds United shirt on and wears it with pride will do for me. I’m not happy with players like Harry Kewell who basically fucked us over with his contracts, and the general money grabbing of that period.”
What does the name ‘Peter Ridsdale’ do to you?
“Well, if you believe the stories, then he sold us down the river. Signing players on ridiculous contracts put us in real trouble. Then there was the fish tank of legends that cost him £10,000 a month. Twelve months later the club was bankrupt, but he seemed to get his money out of the club pretty quick when the ship was going down.”
When did you know that the team was going down the swanny?
“The year we didn’t qualify for the Champions League, yet we had all these players on huge wages. We’d budgeted for Champions League football and not qualified. That season it became evident that we were in trouble when players like Rio (Ferdinand), who was priceless 12 months previously, were up for sale. Then one by one they were out of the door. We just saw it crumble in front of our eyes.”
Okay, enough of the doom and gloom. What’s the greatest moment you’ve witnessed?
“Playing teams like Barcelona, Lazio and Real Madrid in the Champions League. Watching my team play against people like Roberto Carlos was so special. It was a good time to be a Leeds fan – I was working at Oulton Hall hotel at the time, where Leeds’ new signings would stay before they got houses. Mark Viduka was there for about eight months, Lee Bowyer was another, Michael Bridges. I’d have a chat with them and sometimes get their analysis of the games. Great memories.”
Going back to the present day, have you met Simon Grayson? What sort of bloke is he?
“I’ve not actually. I was playing up at the golf course recently, and he came past in a buggy and we looked at each other, thinking ‘Is that Simon Grayson?’ But I didn’t want to run after his cart for a chat; it would have been cheesy wouldn’t it?”
Er, yes… You boys are heroes up in West Yorkshire. I bet you get free tickets?
“No chance. Ken Bates has got a policy of, ‘If you want to come to watch Leeds, you’ve got to pay for it’, and quite right too. We go with a load of local lads, ‘The Maverick Whites’.”
Do you knock about with the Kaiser Chiefs? I know they’re big Leeds fans…
“Simon, Nick and Peanut have always had season tickets, but then again they’re a bit richer than us so they can afford it! Simon once blagged himself into the dressing room before a game and I went in with him. I was stood in the corner just thinking how surreal it was. But he had a good walk around the dressing room, and chatted to the players like it was an every day occurrence. I was a little bit weirded out by it all to be honest.”
Do you still dream about scoring for Leeds?
“Sometimes when I put my boots on, I think I could do a better job than some of them, so the dream’s still very much alive!”