A street named Football
Not Football Road. Not Football Avenue. Football.
We know you live for football. But how many of you can say you live on Football? Planet Football, yes, but a street actually called Football?
No, thought not. Well, in a place called Yeadon, 10 miles north of Leeds, about 150 people can lay claim to having this unique address. Google it now and, like us, you will wonder how the hell you’d never heard of it before. This correspondent grew up in Leeds and had never come across it. But last autumn, giving childhood mate John Paynter a lift home after he’d been Djing at the Outlaws Yacht Club, FFT’S eyes were opened to the world.
“You’re going to like where I live,” laughed John. “My street’s name is Football. There are plenty of roads named after former players and managers, but this is the only one called Football. Not Football Street or Football Close or Football Avenue – just Football.
“When we bought the house, my wife Jacqueline said, ‘It’s typical that you end up living on a road called Football’. Our cat is called Shankly and he likes it here, too.”
Football, with its name dating back a century, is a stoned terraced road in Yeadon, best known as the home of Leeds Bradford International Airport. In the 1930s and ’40s they built Lancaster Bombers for the war effort here. In 1986 Concorde landed in West Yorkshire for the first time, its successful descent drawing crowds of 60,000. In the 1990s and early 2000s – before everything went horribly wrong – you’d see TV footage of Leeds United jetting off to Monaco, Milan or Moscow and returning home with smiles to the tropical fish.
Yeadon itself is hardly a hotbed for the beautiful game. Ask people about football in Yeadon and you’ll get replies about nearby Guiseley, currently in the Conference, which is a bit like asking for information on someone you fancy and being told about their brother or sister.
There is, however, the odd sparse link between Yeadon and the professional game. Former Bradford, Motherwell and Rangers manager Stuart Mccall appears to have lived there for a while after his father, Andy, had retired from playing for Leeds and Halifax Town.
In the late ’40s and early ’50s, former England cricket captain Brian Close – still the country’s youngest ever Test player – was signed as an amateur footballer by Leeds and then as a professional by Arsenal before making six appearances for Bradford City. Close lived in Yeadon, but still the only truly solid link is Bramley-born John Hall, who has lived most of his life in Yeadon. Between 1961 and 1974 the winger played 430 league games for the Bantams, the third-most in club history.
In terms of broader sporting links, beardy cricketing great WG Grace was bowled for a duck here against a local side in 1877, there’s now a BMX track for budding trick cyclists and you can sail on Yeadon Tarn. If you’re looking for further adrenaline-packed adventure, though, you can forget about it. You’re more likely to come across an appreciation of the local drinking fountain.
And yet, just off Windmill Lane at one end and across a main road from a large supermarket at the other, is a street called Football. You’ll notice it if you look hard enough: it’s the road with the huge
black and white Adidas Telstar-style football painted on the gable end.
“There’s a simple explanation,” John tells FFT. “About 100 years ago, there was a football pitch by the road and people would walk down the street to play. It became known as Football, and eventually it was officially named that.
“You take it for granted, because it’s part of Yeadon. I always look at the sign – I like it. Living here amuses me. ”
The street was originally built for workers involved in the region’s late 19th century industrial expansion. Almost a century on, in 1978, local authorities suggested changing the name to Northfield Terrace, a transfer thankfully turned down by residents. The current homeowners are proud of the street and embrace the name. “The football on the end wall is painted every year by a decorator who lives in that house,” explains John, “and there are a lot football fans living here. My neighbour, Rachel, works for Guiseley a couple of miles away, and you used to see all their blue and white striped kit hanging on her washing line.
“She’s a Leeds fan, then in the other houses either side of us there are two Burnley fans in different houses and a split house where the dad’s Leeds and the son is Manchester United.”
John and his wife Jacqueline are both Liverpool supporters, and she’s more than happy with the street name. “A lot of people have named their houses after football,” she says. “No.10’s house number is ‘One Nil’, another house is called ‘Offside’ and so on. When we came to see the house, John did say he would like to live on Football, but it wasn’t a deciding factor. We’d have bought it anyway.”
If you’re thinking of moving there, John reckons the unique name adds value. According to Rightmove, the last house on Football went for £140,000 in the summer of 2015.
“The ice cream van plays the Match of the Day theme. The first time it came around, we’d only been here a week!”
So does anyone ever try to nick the road sign? “Not that I’m aware of,” laughs John, “but we do receive a lot of interestingly-addressed post. I get a lot of records delivered with notes attached to them, questioning where I live, and record sleeves also arrive with drawings of goalposts and little men kicking footballs.
“Our friends buy us football-related things all the time. We’ve got a doormat that looks like a football pitch, football tablecloths... anything with a football theme, really.
“Then there’s the ice cream van, which plays the Match of the Day theme tune. The first time it came round, we’d only lived here a week! It blew me away.”
For John and Jacqueline Paynter, Shankly the cat and their neighbours, Football really is coming home.