Aston Villa Home 1st December 2017

With another game moved for Sky I decided that an early start after work would be best. After picking my granddaughter Laura up who was very giddy and excited about going to the game, we headed onto the M62 at Brighouse. There were immediate signs saying an obstruction in the road but still saying 50mph. We had only gone a short while when the car in front of me stopped as a lorry was bearing down behind us, which had my heart in my mouth for a few seconds.  The broken down car was on the inside lane trying to manoeuvre off the motorway whilst one behind him tried to come into our lane. I felt really sorry for them as it was a scary thing to happen but glad we got past safely. I’m surprised the signs didn’t have that lane blocked off though unless it had only just happened.

After a trip to the White Rose we arrived at the ground in good time and we headed to the Peacock. As we passed MacDonalds a lad shouted my name and asked if I had my camera with me so as usual I obliged by taking a photo. As Laura said though, if anyone talks to you, you always take a photo!!  Out of the mouths of babes, oh dear I think she knows me too well lol! We’d only just got into the Peacock when I saw Gary Edwards and he asked me to go outside to talk to a film crew from America who had been following him around as the girl had the same name as me! They’d been filming his wife today, getting her reaction to Gary’s near on 50 year consecutive game commitment of following Leeds. Laura screamed so she could see the sound monitor moving then went all shy when they said to sing a song so I had to sing with her. Pontus’s magic hat and last Christmas got an airing although may not make any real filming lol.

We got into the ground just before kick-off as the ground was filling up nicely once again for this Friday night game just before Christmas. The team today was Wiedwald, Ayling, Berardi, Jansson, Cooper, Vieira, Phillips, Saiz, Alioski, Hernandez and Ekuban. Subs were Roofe for Hernandez who went off injured (42), Sacko for Ekuban (83) and Grot for Alioski (90) Attendance was 30,547 with approximately 2,700 Villa fans who had possibly sold out their allocation. Score was a 1-1 draw with Jansson scoring the Leeds goal on 19 minutes.

Although we were at home today, I will never ever forget my first visit to Villa Park on 11th October 1972 for the League Cup 3rd round game. Getting there right on kick off for the 1-1 draw we didn’t see any trouble. We had to walk through a group of Villa fans on a street corner after the game to get to our coach but as we’d hidden our colours there were no issues. I think our Wallace Arnold coach was the only one there that game and all of a sudden we came under attack when we were stuck in traffic. Out of the blue, bricks were thrown at the coach until after the eighth one hit the window next to me it eventually went through. With two large windows put through and a further one cracked, it meant a very cold journey home as well as a terrifying episode for us fans on the coach.  As trouble always happened there it wasn’t a nice ground to visit as a Leeds fan.

Despite Villa being above us in the table I wasn’t too worried about playing them. Having turned the corner after the run of defeats, we set out with great determination. Our players were fighting for the ball and putting Villa under pressure. When we won a corner, it looked like our new coach from set pieces has been working with them as a bullet header from Jansson put us into an early lead. We continued to play some good football and I don’t think Villa were really in the game in the first half? They had a couple of attacks but luckily we managed to clear the ball as we kept them at bay. Hernandez had been injured a couple of times and then was subbed just before half time when Roofe came on to replace him.

In the second half there were some challenges especially from their number 21 that went unpunished. From the amount of fouls he did he should have been booked long before he was. When I think of some of the things we’ve had players booked for as of late and Vieira’s recent sending off at Wolves, their player should have been long gone! Although Villa had a couple of chances we came very near to doubling our lead when we had three players lining up to put the ball into the net but somehow it missed them all. When the ball was headed into the net in front of the Kop, I suddenly saw the ball being kicked out of the goal and play carrying on. It was only then that I realised the goal had been disallowed, apparently for offside. That was such a shame as I feel it would have put the game out of reach for Villa. Just after this, the referee seemed to have had a whisper in his ear because all of a sudden he was letting fouls go on us then giving free kicks to Villa. With an attack just in front of the Kop, Ayling was fighting for the ball and he kept it in-between his feet only for the ref to give a free kick to Villa. What was that all about?  Ayling hadn’t fouled anyone so why it was given against us I’ve no idea. It wasn’t the only thing that went against us then in a spell of at least 10 minutes. It was no surprise when Villa pulled one back to equalise but they were very lucky getting the rub of the green when the ball fell for them every time. A long range shot hit the post and went in beating Wiedwald sadly. I’d forgotten the Villa fans were there to be honest as they’d been very quiet up until then.  It was disappointing that they’d equalised, although as it would have been good to see the game out without them scoring. There were a few times when it looked like Villa may get the winner but the game ended in a 1-1 draw which overall was probably a fair result. The positive was not getting beaten after being in the lead and one point is better than none!

Laura had gone down to the toilets just before the end of the game and as fans were starting to leave I thought I’d better get down the steps to ensure she didn’t get lost. Unfortunately as I got to the bottom there was no sign of her. Luckily one of the men who stands near me pointed out that said she had got back up into the stand so I went back up and found her straight away.

We bumped into my daughter Dani and her boyfriend as we were leaving and just as we got to Billy’s statue Laura saw the police horses and wanted to stroke them. I immediately had to grab her as we realised something was kicking off. There were loads of police stood outside the car park entrance opposite and I couldn’t work out if they were Leeds fans being moved on or Villa fans. Laura had heard someone shout “he hasn’t done anything”. I could hear a group of Villa coming down the road behind us and suddenly thought we were right in the middle of their fans. There was a young Irish lad stood next to me so we had a conversation about me saying “as long as Laura was alright that is all that matters!”

It didn’t feel like a Friday night though and with no football tomorrow now, I’m sure I’ll get my days mixed up once again! The good thing is I don’t have to get up for work in the morning so can do my blog, even though I keep falling asleep whilst writing it!

Next week sees us travel to Loftus Road for our game at QPR.  Our 7.00 am start gives us a good run down with a pub stop on the way and should be another good day out. Keep the faith lads and lasses; we will get there in time.

Don’t forget to pick up my books; they’ll make a great Christmas present for the football fan in your life!  See you at QPR, LUFC – Marching on Together!

 Heidi Haigh – A fanatical Leeds United supporter of over 50 years

Author of the following books:

Follow Me and Leeds United

Once a Leeds fan, Always a Leeds fan.

Co-author with Andrew Dalton of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Leeds United

OUT NOW! The Sleeping Giant Awakens, Leeds United 2016-17