1975 and all that! New novel is hailed as champion read for Leeds United fans

He knows all about writing stories with a winning formula.

Tuesday, 21st February 2017, 4:00 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st March 2017, 8:22 am
Leeds United line up before the 1975 European Cup final in Paris.

So who better than the best-selling author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin to give his seal of approval to a new novel that has something of a Leeds United theme?

Louis de Bernières has lavished praise on Yorkshire-born writer Philip Whiteley’s book Marching On Together, hailing its “wonderfully realised characters”.

Marching On Together tells the story of six friends – all Leeds fans – who embark on a trip around the battlefields of Flanders in the summer of 2014.

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Marching on Together's cover.

Its author describes it as a “bittersweet tale about the bonds of family and friendship” that is set against a backdrop of events past and present at Elland Road.

United’s controversial defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich in the 1975 European Cup final in Paris casts a particularly long shadow for Yvonne, one of the characters in the book.

Philip, 54, has also worked in references to Massimo Cellino’s turbulent reign as Whites owner as well as the Italian businessman’s well-known dislike of the number 17.

And he takes the chance to strike back at what he sees as unfair criticism of legendary Leeds manager Don Revie and his hard-as-nails side in David Peace’s novel The Damned United.

Marching on Together's cover.

Philip, who writes non-fiction under the name PJ Whiteley, told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I’m a Leeds fan and remember watching the 1975 final on TV as a boy.

“Like a lot of supporters of my age it has stayed with me all these years and that is one of the themes of the book, the memories of ‘the tribe’ and how they can bind people together.

“I have also tried to correct some of the myths about Don Revie’s ‘dirty Leeds’ that have grown up over the years.

“It’s not a direct response to The Damned United but I made sure the characters had their say on Revie being a great man and a great innovator.”

The book tackles more than just football, however, with two of the characters – brothers Allan and Johnny – planning an emotional pilgrimage to the grave of their great-grandfather, who died on the Western Front in the First World War.

Marching On Together’s literary thumbs-up from Louis de Bernières, meanwhile, came about after Philip wrote a profile of him for an international lifestyle magazine.

Bernières subsequently provided a cover quote for the Yorkshireman’s book, saying: “I very much enjoyed Marching On Together and was happily carried along by the wonderfully realised characters.”

The novel is released this Thursday by Urbane Publications, priced £8.99 paperback.

It will be available online from the www.urbanepublications.com website as well as Amazon.

Copies will also be available from the Blackwell’s bookshop near the University of Leeds.

For further information about Philip’s well-received first novel, Close Of Play, visit the Urbane Publications website.