In the news · Sport

Leeds United FC and Liz Truss

In the million-plus words that appear on this Blog, all of them still freely available whenever you want to read them, there has been no mention of either of the UK’s two most recent prime ministers. Until now.

The current prime minister, less than a week into the job, is Rishi Sunak, who either believes that Suella Braverman is a suitable person to be Home Secretary or has approved her appointment in exchange for support from extreme right-wing members of the Tory party. Braverman, in case you missed it, resigned from the post less than two weeks ago after breaking the ministerial code. Grant Shapps was Home Secretary for all of six days before Braverman was given her old job back. Let’s see how that plays out.

The six days that Shapps was Home Secretary were also the last few days that Liz Truss was prime minister of the United Kingdom. She announced her resignation on 20 October 2022 after 44 days in office. For fans of Leeds United FC, like me, the idea of 44 days in a position of authority will always have great resonance. It’s the amount of time that Brian Clough was manager of the club in 1974, after Don Revie left to take over as England manager.

During his time at Leeds Clough set a record as the club’s least successful permanent manager, winning one game in six. That record was surpassed by Darko Milanic’s similarly brief spell in charge in 2014 (no wins in six games).

While campaigning to be leader of the Tory party, and to become UK prime minister by default, without allowing the electorate to decide the matter, Truss referenced Don Revie. According to this piece in the Yorkshire Evening Post, Truss visited the Leeds stadium Elland Road in July and said, “I do want us to channel the spirit of Don Revie because we need to win”.

During Truss’s time in Downing Street, Leeds United failed to win a single game. The first two scheduled fixtures, in September, were cancelled after the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The next five, in October, saw a return of one draw and then four successive defeats, at home to Arsenal and Fulham and away to Crystal Palace and Leicester City.

Last night, in the club’s first game since Sunak became prime minister, Leeds beat Liverpool at Anfield. It was Liverpool’s first home league defeat since March 2021. Boris Johnson was in office back then, and fans were still absent from football grounds because of whatever version of lockdown was in place at the time. The last game that Liverpool lost in front of their own fans was in April 2017, over two years before Johnson took over from Theresa May at Number 10.

Before last night, the last time that Leeds won a league game at Anfield was April 2001. It was the same month that the team progressed to the Champions League semi-final with a 3-2 aggregate win over Deportivo La Coruña. Tony Blair had been UK prime minister for nearly four years.

Blair’s years in power saw Leeds reach the highs of a Champions League semi-final, but just before he stepped down in favour of Gordon Brown the team were relegated to the third tier of English football for the first time. I will, in all likelihood, reflect further on the ups and downs of the team I have supported since childhood and the occupants of 10 Downing Street. For now I will just summarize Liz Truss’s brief, woeful spell as prime minister: disastrous for her party, for the country as a whole and for the fortunes of Leeds United football club.

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