Jeff Radcliffe sadly passed away in the early hours of the morning before Leeds United were due to play Liverpool their first game in the Premier League for 16 years. As Jeff would say “bugger it”.
I have thought long and hard about how Jeff would have liked me to write his story. There are many, many tales of his exploits, most of which we would have been reminiscing over at his wake, but we can’t, because we’re not allowed to. So, thanks to John Farrell, Taff, Crawford and The Secretary, I have put this together, and I hope Jeff would have approved.
After waiting all this time to see us play in the PL, we finally got promoted (even though we never got to see the last few games) and on the morning of our first game back in Division One, where we belong of the game, Jeff ‘s time honoured tradition of “let’s just have one more here” was thwarted by the Grim Reaper . Let’s just be clear about this, Jeff was not seen off by the bat flu. For a start, bat flu would not have got within ten foot of Jeff’s carefully controlled constitution. Thanks in part to a dedicated lifetime of smoking and drinking, bat flu would have stopped in it’s tracks and run off in the opposite direction, shrieking in terror at what was in Jeff’s blood stream. Jeff didn’t mess about with white and red blood cells, Jeff’s defences were provided by alcohol and nicotine.
As part of his rigid health regime, keeping his body and soul in tip top form, Jeff’s pre match haunt these last few years was near the butter section of the Queens Arms Carvery on Harrogate Road . He would occasionally enhance his butter based brekkie with a bit of bacon and sausage, but as we all know, everything tastes so much better with butter. His Saturday morning trips to ER would begin with the 36 to the Toby Carvery at Chapel Allerton for his rendezvous with those little gold wrapped blocks of delight, followed by the bus into town to The Templar. Because neither Taff, Crawford, Dave Poole nor Ellie were any good at directions, more Sherpless than Sherpas, Jeff eventually decided that forking out for a taxi was the best option to save his legs, and the only sure way he could actually find his way to the Golden Lion for a decent (cheap) pint of sovereign. He would sit and marvel at the lunches produced by John at the pub, especially the chicken dinners, even though he had munched his way through his daily calorie intake just a few hours earlier. He always liked the Golden Lion ….. and it’s prices when it was his round. After the game, they would head off into town to the Three Legs where Jeff would often be found chatting up the fairer sex, before a return back to HQ on the 36.
Jeff always had a way with the ladies. There are many photos of him in their company boogieing the night away. In Torquay at a pre-season friendly, John remembers looking all over for him in some bar at 3am , only to find that he was having a whale of a time on the stage, dancing with some nice young ladies. Jeff was really enjoying himself, only to find out later that the “young ladies” were in fact a group of transvestites on a night out. On another long away, they had gone into Leeds to meet up with Steve Rankine before joining the Bradford Whites bus and Jeff got talking to 2 lasses. Jeff took them aside and cheekily said ” come with me, I’ll give you the ride of your lives ….. I’m off on a coach to Yeovil”.
From what I can gather, bearing in mind that this was a long time ago and John Farrell’s memory of it may not be as clear as what it could be (not due to tobacco either as he doesn’t smoke!), Jeff started watching Leeds United in the promotion season of ’64. Jeff was at the Cup Final against Liverpool in ’65.
Like most in the early days, Jeff just paid on the gate, but when we were forced to get season tickets, Jeff watched Leeds United from all over the ground from his seat, initially in The Captain’s Corner, then the Kop and later on in the North East Corner. He also loved travelling to pre-season friendlies to Ireland and Scotland, and got to as many as possible. In the year we first qualified for the Champions League, Jeff went to every single game, mostly in the company of Messrs John and Jim Farrell, Harrogate’s own Three Musketeers.
On his 60th birthday, Jeff, John, Jim and Chrissie’s (Jeff’s sister) husband, Tony all went off to Limerick to watch Leeds play in the pre-season friendlies. The four of them and Chrissie were found in the Waggon and Horses most matchdays, or rather outside having a smoke. Jeff had always wanted to watch Leeds United play at the Bernabeu. This pinnacle was reached when Leeds played Real Madrid in March 2001 in the Champions League 2nd group stage, he stayed in Madrid for four days and loved every minute of it.
In one of his infamous pre-season irish tours, John recollects that they had stopped in some digs in a small town on the train line to Dublin. They left the hotel at 9.30am to catch the train. On the way to the station, Jeff spotted a friendly publican having a quiet fag outside his pub. He stopped and asked him what time the pub was open. The man said 12.30 but you can come in and have a quick one whilst you wait for the train. 6 hours later they eventually emerged to go catch the train – in Jeff’s immortal words “we’ll, just have one more in here”.
Jeff’s unerring sixth sense of finding decent pubs came to a fore at the play off final against Donnie in 2008. They had hired a minibus and Jeff was in the front seat. Those of you who can remember that day and haven’t erased it from your memory, will recollect the huge queues on the M25 because of the roadworks. They decided to get off the motorway and head to Rickmansworth and get the train in from there, despite the fact that none of them had ever been there before. As they came off the slip road, Jeff said “go left down there, it’s the Golden Lion”. They all looked at each other and decided not to argue with him and turned duly left. And there was a pub! It was called the Golden Lion! They had one in there and got back on the minibus and miraculously Jeff did the same again and again, leading them to 5 pubs in total, en route to Rickmansworth to catch the train. They were all amazed at Jeff’s unbelievable insight into the pubs of Greater London, until he fessed up and produced a Wetherspoons map! Jeff also introduced the branch to Beckenham WMC at the Crystal Palace game when we got back into the Championship. It was adjacent to Selhurst Park, and was favoured by ourselves and a number of other branches due to the friendly welcome by the locals, cheap beer and good company, with the odd barbecue thrown in for good measure. All thanks to Jeff ,who was duly rewarded by free drink all day by the grateful committee.
The Secretary was occasionally joined by Jeff in the home end at away games, especially if tickets were in short supply. This had mixed results as you can imagine. Away at Exeter City in Division 3, all was well until Jeff needed to visit the facilities, as you do. The next sighting of Jeff was as he was being led down the side of the pitch towards the visitors terrace by a helpful steward, having asked for directions to said facilities in a broad Yorkshire accent, thus blowing his cover and failing to convince said steward that he was actually a cider swilling local yokel from Devon. Whilst The Secretary stayed warm and dry, 8 inches of rain fell during the game on the uncovered visitors end and by the time he got back on the coach, Jeff resembled a drowned water vole. However, he cheerily said it had not stopped him having a fag at half time.
On another equally wet occasion at Bradford City in the home end, splattered by incessant driving rain, the miserable stewards refused to hand out those free plastic ponchos. As the stand was roofless and The Secretary and Jeff were visually incapacitated, because they did not have windscreen wipers installed on their specs, they headed to the nearest ticket office to demand a refund. Needless to say, this request was refused and there was no option but to demand that the beleaguered ticket office staff ordered them a taxi to the nearest warm, dry pub. The ticket office were happy to oblige in order to get rid of the unwelcome noisy visitors and the rest of the game was spent in a nice, warm, dry pub. Once again, there was no stopping Jeff having a fag at half time.
The one thing that anyone who remembers Jeff will think of is his love of dominoes and cards. Sadly, dominoes and cards did not appreciate his love and devotion, and his fondness for those classic pub games was a love unrequited. In fact, in John’s opinion, Jeff was THE worst dominoes and cards player in the whole world. John recollects the day they travelled to Arsenal on the train. Jeff had bought a brand new set of dominoes and a set of cards for the way down. 17 games of dominoes and numerous card games later, he had lost every single game and in a fit of pique, chucked the whole lot, dominoes, cards, pens and paper, out of the train window at Crimple Viaduct, claiming that they were all “robbing bastards”.
On a personal note, The Secretary will miss his usual Christmas Day pint with Jeff.
Thanks for the memories mate. God Bless. Rest In Peace.