No chorus of disapproval from Leeds faithful for ‘Marching on Together’

Club anthem unites believers and dissenters in equal measure at Elland Road

Not long after noon today at Elland Road, they will, as they have done for decades, turn up the volume and play Marching On Together. As the players warm up and assume the responsibility of wearing the famous Leeds United all white kit, the Kop and much of the ground will spring into voice: "Everywhere, we're gonna be there, we love you Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!"

There have been times of late – since relegation from the Premier League in 2004, then the Bates era – when it has been hard to sing those lyrics with meaning. The last two Saturdays have not been too clever either.

A fortnight ago, Leeds travelled to fourth division Rochdale in the FA Cup and lost 2-0. Last Saturday the side travelled to neighbours Sheffield Wednesday and lost 6-0.

These are not defeats, these are humiliations. Had manager Brian McDermott not been in the job less than a year, he might have been out of one.


It could happen yet. Today’s opponents are Championship leaders Leicester City. An away win would make it five straight losses for Leeds. It would be hard to say this is a club either together or marching on.

McDermott has reacted by removing the captaincy from Rudy Austin and sliding it up the arm of Leeds’s best player, Ross McCormack. It might persuade McCormack to stay.

McCormack’s response to this on Thursday came via twitter: “Really looking forward to it. A proud day for myself and my family. MOT.”

MOT – Marching On Together. MOT is now part of the Leeds United lexicon, a marker of tribal membership. Which brings us back to the song.

It was originally called Leeds! Leeds! Leeds! It was recorded for the 1972 FA Cup final, the Centenary final, between Leeds and Arsenal. That makes it sound straightforward. It wasn't.

Anti-Leeds sentiment
Considering the immense talent within their ranks, the Leeds United of Don Revie inspired a rare amount of animosity. This we know.

What we know less is that Don Revie actually cared about it. In 1972 he decided to do something and made a first step that, 40 years on, seems incomprehensible.

He telephoned the cartoonist Paul Trevillion.

Trevillion may be known principally for his sporting cartoons, but he has seen and done a lot more than that. In the 1960s he worked for the American agent Mark McCormack, "the most powerful man in sport" according to Sports Illustrated.

Trevillion listened to Revie, took what he learned from Mark, not Ross, McCormack and made his way to Woking in Surrey. There he knocked on the door of Les Reed (not the future Charlton Athletic manager). This Les Reed was a composer, the man who with his writing partner Geoff Stephens penned It's Not Unusual for Tom Jones and There's a Kind of Hush for Herman's Hermits before the Carpenters took it over. Reed also wrote the music for Delilah.

You imagine Reed had more pressing concerns than Leeds United. But as he explained this week, he did not need much convincing: "Not at all. I was a great fan of most of the Leeds players, not least Billy Bremner and Jackie Charlton. "

Trevillion’s idea was that a club song would help promote Leeds United. Revie agreed, as did Reed.

“My connection with Leeds United began in 1972 when sports artist and marketing genius Paul Trevillion was engaged by Don Revie to give the club a new image,” explained Reed. “As well as introducing Leeds United merchandise etc, Paul wanted the club to record a single to commemorate them reaching the FA Cup final having beaten Birmingham in the semis.

"The very day of that meeting, I contacted one of my lyricists, Geoff Stephens, who loved the idea and came up with the lyric of Leeds United, which contains reference to most of the players within the team.

"Of course, we needed a B-side and my other regular lyricist, Barry Mason, was brought in to write the lyric which became 'Leeds! Leeds! Leeds!', subsequently known as Marching On Together.

"Even though Leeds United was well accepted, after a time the fans discovered the B-side and started to sing this song on the terraces, so that then became the new A-side. After Leeds United had become a hit, Marching On Together followed very quickly in the charts. So both sides of the recording became hits. In both cases, the melodies are mine."

'I was very proud of them'
The songs were given the Revie seal of approval, as were the blue sock

tags that Trevillion also suggested.

“Leeds United were delighted with the outcome and, I must say, that on the recording session at Strawberry Studios in Manchester, all of the players came dressed in suits and ties and looked very smart,” said Reed.

“I was very proud of them. They sang well on both sides of the record, which I personally arranged and conducted. On the recording, I used the nucleus of the group, 10cc, including Graham Gouldman and Eric Stewart.”

Reed went to Elland Road and was photographed conducting the team. He also went in goal to try to save a penalty-kick from Peter Lorimer. That was a wrong note. But the manager was pleased.

“Don Revie was forever in touch with my office in Soho Square and he was absolutely delighted with the outcome. But his last question was always: ‘When are the royalties due?’ He was delighted when we sent the team their first cheque.”

As for the music industry, well, it was "a little surprised. Barry Mason and myself are well known for writing songs such as Delilah, The Last Waltz and Here It Comes Again among others. But Chelsea paved the way with their anthem Blue Is The Colour, as did Liverpool with You'll Never Walk Alone."

Today Reed tends to follow the 1972 Cup final opponents Arsenal. "I am very keen on Arsene Wenger. " But Leeds United still matter. A man who made a life with his ear, he described last Saturday's result as "a wrench to hear".

But today brings a new Saturday, the songs will be sung again.

"I'm always so delighted when the Leeds fans strike up Marching on Together. Being so far from Leeds, I very rarely get to Elland Road but my visits have always been a joy."

There is also the new captain, Glaswegian McCormack on a day when Leeds United say farewell to an old Glasgow hero captain, Bobby Collins. It would be an appropriate moment to rediscover the music.