My Leeds United - The Square Ball, Lowfields underpass, Elland Road swearing and lawlessness

The YEP's new series 'My Leeds United' brings you the personal stories of familiar and not-so-familiar Whites, their matchday rituals and why they're Leeds.

Monday, 20th April 2020, 7:21 am
INNOCENT: A much younger Michael Normanton, of The Square Ball, at the home of his beloved Leeds United.

Michael Normanton helps produce award-winning fanzine The Square Ball and co-hosts the podcast

“The first Leeds game I attended was one of the worst.

Well, I used to think that.

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PERFORMER: Normanton taking part in The Square Ball's live podcast last year.

We were in the Premier League and we didn’t lose, so perhaps I should have been more grateful. Even so, a 0-0 draw with Ipswich in January of 1994 wasn’t the obvious game to get a kid addicted to a football team.

Although nothing much happened in the game, perhaps because nothing much happened in the game, I can remember a lot of swearing.

Which was great, obviously.

Though the swearing was only part of it; I was also a massive geek.

By the time I attended my first game I had already got the 1993/4 Official Handbook, the cover featuring the smiling pair of Jon Newsome and Mel Sterland.

There were articles about Norman Hunter and Bobby Collins, club records, some colour photos of our youth team beating Beckham and Scholes. Now I knew stuff, I could definitely be a fan.

By the start of the 94/5 season I was a season ticket holder and it was probably during this time that I first bought a copy of Square Ball from the bloke by the Lowfields underpass.

Square Ball was blend of the two things that had got me into Leeds in the first place – the knowledge and history of the Official Handbook, paired with the swearing and lawlessness of Elland Road.

I didn’t understand most of it and I didn’t care.

It felt grown up and rebellious and it was full of stuff about Leeds at a time when page 302 on Teletext was my main source of football news.

When we first got the internet, The Square Ball was one of the first things I ever looked at – I was a teenage boy, so there were other things – and it also gave a way to submit articles. I submitted some. They were all absolutely awful, yet somehow, they were published.

That early period and through the O’Leary years were all seen alongside my dad. My dad’s problem is that he likes to watch good football and he has a lot of other hobbies, so he reached a point where making the time for Michael Ricketts and Jermaine Wright was no longer viable.

Thankfully, by that stage I was old enough to go to games and pubs by myself. Driving to Elland Road and parking at the Yorkshire Electricity office my dad worked at had turned into countless nights in Travelodges and days squashed into the back of decrepit old cars travelling to Yeovil and Kettering.

My best years spent watching the lowest level of football we’ve ever played at. Even so, I loved them.

By 2009 I was the bloke at the Lowfields underpass selling the Square Ball.

Running the magazine, coupled with family life has changed my matchday experience beyond recognition.

The days of meeting in the pub at 9am for a 3 o’clock kick-off are long gone, though my body probably thanks me for that. From the magazine to the podcast, it is a privilege to be involved with Square Ball and Leeds United, especially at a time where good things are happening at long last.

I hope we get promoted again this year, if only so I can persuade my dad to come to a game with me again.”