Yesterday evening as usual I’d changed into my Leeds shirt to go to an event, any excuse to wear my colours. As soon as I walked in I heard my name shouted and then the Leeds salute done which I reciprocated. Later when we had a chat, although he wasn’t going to Barnsley (he’s a home season ticket holder) his son was. After the event I decided to go to Asda at Bradley on my way home. I’d only been there five minutes when I heard someone shouting my name out loud only to see another Leeds fan who works where I do! Leeds fans everywhere.
Waking up to a cold morning I was glad that there was only a spattering of snow in Halifax. I put two jumpers on underneath my Leeds shirt and it was only when I got to Elland Road I realised although I’d brought my big jacket, I hadn’t brought my tracky top. Oh dear, my memory gets worse! I went into the club shop and I want to say how great it is in there now with all the different memorabilia. The stock levels are also on the up by the look of it as more and more things are put on show. I am really grateful having the support of the club now who are selling all my books in there. For those who have recently bought them or are buying them shortly from there or anywhere else, if they do not have an autograph in and you want this, then please ask. I will always sign them whenever you want as I am grateful for the support. It was nice to get feedback from Dawn later on at the game who had just bought The Sleeping Giant Awakens. She bought it last Saturday and had read it by Monday as she couldn’t put it down which is good to hear. There were some incidents that I had mentioned in this and she was glad that I’d put them in; also having their photos in there was great to see.
Before the coach came I nipped across to McDonalds for a hot drink and whilst in the queue these lads started talking to me asking who we were playing. I ended up talking to this lad who was a Sheff Wednesday fan and he said don’t tell my mates but I’ve a soft spot for Leeds, as I’m living in the city and working in passionate fan’s houses! As I say, I talk to anyone and everyone about Leeds!
It was good to see that the police had got the coach escorts sorted better today. We came off at an earlier junction instead of having to go past Barnsley to the next exit and turn around and come back to it on the other side of the motorway. I thought it sounded like they were doing something similar with any coaches coming from the south. It was a lot better though that’s for sure. We arrived at the ground a good hour before kick-off which although I thought was 12.15 pm due to the televising of the game by Sky, it turned out to be 12.30 pm. Loads of fans were going up to the Centre at the top of the hill where there was a drinking area for the Leeds fans, Sue and I decided to go straight in to the ground instead as there was no chance of getting served there. As it was cold we thought it would be easier getting a cup of tea inside which it was. I had a quick word with Phil Cresswell first as I’ve to autograph my book at some point. He’s already read a good bit of it and said he likes the way it is set out including all the collages. I wanted to include as many photos as possible seeing that I take that so many and I’m really pleased how the collages have turned out and added to the individual photos. He also asked if I was going to do a book every year now. As it is based on my blog it is very likely that will happen.
There were already queues inside but I didn’t have long to wait to get a pie and a cup of tea. After chatting with Dawn I took a couple of photos of the Bournemouth Whites and Dublin Whites. I’d already gone and put my banner up behind the goal where the first couple of rows were netted off. It was freezing in the stand where there was no sun but it was hopefully going to warm up a bit. After a chat with a few fans I ended up in my seat towards the left hand side of the stand. At least I was just to the right of the tunnel going downstairs as last season I was right above it and didn’t feel safe at all. What is really nice is to get good things said about you and I really appreciate it. Being told that to converse with people from all walks of life from people at the top to your normal match going fans is a skill and this is one skill that I have got, it really brings a lump to my throat. Thanks Karl!
The team today saw Wiedwald back in goal, Berardi, Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, O’Kane, Phillips, Hernandez, Saiz, Alioski and Ekuban. Subs were Shaughnessy for O’Kane (58), Roofe for Ekuban (80) and Grot for Alioski (88). Leeds won 2-0 with goals by Saiz (23) and Alioski (45+ in injury time). Attendance was 16,399 with 4,513 Leeds fans
This morning before I set off I sent a couple of tweets.
Come on Leeds believe in yourselves. We can do this! Marching on Together! Positivity makes a difference.
The key is don’t go there expecting to be beaten. We can do this!
Going back to times gone by; we were already beaten many times when we went to Old Trafford until we had the belief we could go and win such as when Beckford scored! I stand by this and it was great to see the belief today.
With Wiedwald back in goal today I knew we would play a different way and although no disrespect to Lonergan, I was looking forward to seeing how the game would play out. Oakwell is always a tough place to come to and they always raise their game when they play us so I wasn’t underestimating them. We were attacking the opposite end of the ground but the sun was so strong and bright it was hard to see. I put my glasses on but that meant I couldn’t see well enough to take photos so in the end I took them off. I can see the players but not make out the names on the backs of their shirts. We started off very well and won some corners although nothing came of them. Barnsley were quick with a counter attack and Jansson fouled one of their players only to get booked more or less with his first touch of the ball! Although some balls went astray and didn’t reach our players, we did start to play as a team, keeping the ball on the floor. Alioski repaid Saiz with a great pass through and Saiz ran at the defence and let fly with a shot that beat their goalie to put us into the lead. That meant great celebrations in the Leeds end and despite the recent news about bans for anyone with the flares, a couple went off. I wasn’t expecting the “bomb” though and can well do without those. I feel this took the pressure off us somewhat as we carried on playing some good football. At one point Phillips was rugby tackled and even though we played on, their player did not receive a booking for it when play stopped. I didn’t feel too worried in the first half about Barnsley because our players were backing each other up and on the whole managed to deal with them quite easily. Although we hoped for a second goal, it came really unexpectedly in injury time at the end of the first half. With our attack, Ayling passed the ball for Alioski to put a cracking shot into the net to double our lead. That was brilliant timing and would give us a little breathing space for the second half.
When I got below the stands there were plenty of young Leeds fans going ”mental” as I headed to the ladies. The first thing I noticed was that the floor was wet through so I assumed they’d been visited by the lads again. I couldn’t see any damage or why the floor was wet but as long as no one damages them deliberately, that is all I ask. After I was asked why I hadn’t put any photos of damage to toilets at Wolves, I replied because I never saw any damage!
The second half saw a really fast half with end to end football but surprisingly I wasn’t too worried. We had a couple of attacks before Ekuban was through and unfortunately took too long with his shot which then hit the side netting. He had played very well though and was very fast and getting stuck in. We came close a couple of times and had another shot on target as the closing minutes came. I’d gone down to get my banner and took a photo of some young kids. When I went to take a second one I had to wait whilst one took his coat off so he could have his photo wearing his Leeds shirt. I love these young fans who take pride in wearing their Leeds colours and it’s good to see them being brought up right! Just after Alioski was subbed it went quiet on the terraces for a couple of minutes and I didn’t want a nervy finish so was glad when the Leeds fans carried on singing. Barnsley hadn’t given up but we were able to see the game out and get the three points! I had to do a video with a report which will be sent to Sportsline for Monday evening, but as the Leeds fans were singing Marching on Together I had to join in. In fact after the win I kept breaking into song as I was so happy (I repeated that a few times in my video). My last interview with BBC Radio Leeds was repeating “you know” many times oops! When you’ve to think on your feet though it’s not a surprise!
As the team came off the pitch Wiedwald came over to give someone his shirt. It was only after the game that I found out that one of the Shropshire Whites had given Wiedwald his cap to wear as the sun was so bright. That’s one thing I can always remember Gary Sprake wearing on a regular occurrence and I’m surprised it wasn’t thought of beforehand. I don’t think it will be a forgotten item in future.
On the coach after the game and for the second day running, I knocked my cup of coffee over! There’s no hope for me I reckon! I’d like to say a big thank you to my best friend Sue for buying my latest book The Sleeping Giant Awakens. As always, my grateful thanks are given. It was great to have a very short journey back to Leeds so I was looking forward to going Christmas shopping and ended up going back into the club shop and taking advantage of some bargains! Just as I got to the club shop I was talking to someone off our coach and saying we play a different way with Wiedwald in goal and no disrespect to Lonergan, when someone shouted out as we passed them on the corner saying that’s exactly what they were saying! Later on it was good to be able to see my banner on the seats behind the goal when watching the highlights!
Our next game sees the visit of Aston Villa next Friday with another live Sky game and another large crowd. Just carry on the same way Leeds and fingers crossed we can build once again by getting another three points. See you there – 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