By Harvey Byrne
Former Fulham and West Ham striker Leroy Rosenior has revealed he once doubted his place in the game after receiving horrific abuse from Leeds fans in 1984.
The now 52-year-old has revealed in a book he released which is titled ‘It’s Only Banter’ how 5,000 Leeds fans acting as though they were at a 1930s Nuremberg rally almost made him quit the game.
The experienced man has played for seven different clubs during a playing career that lasted 16 years.
He has also managed six different teams, but that may never have happened due to the hatred from the Yorkshire giants’ support he received 33 years a go.
“I remember going to play at Leeds for Fulham in 1984,” told Rosenior, as quoted by the Guardian.
“Playing there is never dull and on this occasion, the locals were in particularly boisterous mood. We got a throw-in down at the big Kop end that housed the fanatical home support.
“Paul Parker and I were closest and looked to get our attack back on track. As we got to the corner flag any thought of launching that attack went from our minds as we were met in the corner by thousands of fans with hate in their eyes, intent on unsettling these two young black footballers who had dared to come to their town to play a game of football.
“Usually there were the monkey chants, the “ooh-ooh-ooh” noises that all black players had been subject to at the time. There were the chants about shooting niggers and the bananas that fell from the terraces of 1980s football stadiums – local greengrocers of that era owe us black footballers a fortune if you ask me – with increasing regularity. What happened was none of the above.
“Instead, Paul and I were greeted with 5,000 or more Leeds fans with their right hands, erect to the sky, shouting “Sieg Heil” as if not attending a Second Division football match on a rainy Yorkshire afternoon but a 1930s Nuremberg rally. Paul and I looked at each other in disbelief. Maybe, despite being young, we had already become accustomed to the usual chants about our colour but this was something harder, something more political.
“Paul Parker and I were shaken by what happened at Leeds, but it wasn’t spoken about in the dressing room. That wasn’t football’s way. It came at a time when I was doubting my place in the game after being so harshly abused and I had to deal with it internally.
“You didn’t want to be seen as the victim. Had you gone to the manager or even to your team-mates you might be seen as a troublemaker, someone not focused on the team. It’s only banter.
“After it happened to me, I thought about how abusive opponents would pat themselves on the back, smugly chatting about a job well done, on how they had mugged off a young striker and even somehow weakened me. I was adamant that I would pull my socks up, take the abuse on the chin and let the football do the talking. It was the only way.”
Fortunately, football has massively changed since the days when Rosenior was playing and any supporters acting like this would now be a huge minority and would receive a stadium ban if caught for their actions.
Leeds fans also have a reputation for travelling well and most now would be horrified of the story Rosenior has told, showing how far football has progressed both on the pitch and off the pitch.
With the football hierarchy still aiming to remove all forms of racism from the game, stories like the one Rosenior has told will soon become rare, rather than when it was an expected during his playing days.
In other Leeds news, Uwe Rosler has revealed he no longer takes career threatening jobs.