Today the football was back for Leeds United and I was looking forward to our away game at Bolton that was kicking off at 4.30pm due to Sky. I was very upbeat even though we have had a takeover complete, Elland Road bought back, a manager change and new players coming into the squad as well as some outgoings. What I see at the moment is hope. Hope that we are on the right track and that in my opinion, means we should aspire for automatic promotion this year and should forget about the playoffs. If we do end up in them, then so be it. Time will tell of course and I am hopeful for a good start today. It won’t be easy as Bolton have just got promoted back into the division and despite all their financial issues once again I’m sure they will put up a fight on the pitch.
I was travelling with the Fullerton Park branch of the Leeds United Supporters Club as usual and our pub stop today was in Bury, where we have stopped many times over the years. It was great to see so many familiar faces and there were plenty of hugs around and it was good to see everyone. I want to give a shout out and well done to my friend Marie who has just been awarded a Yorkshire Hero award along with others for their food kitchen. It was also great to see our overseas support here once again with fans from Norway, Denmark, Ireland and also long distance ones from the South Coast and Swansea. A big thank you also to those fans who took the time to tell me that they are looking forward to seeing my blog tonight as that is greatly appreciated. Sky knows what they are doing when they target Leeds for televised games, as they know with our worldwide fan base that their viewing figures will be huge. As Leeds sold out the whole 4,832 allocation of tickets in 15 minutes, they could have sold many more for the game despite it being shown live on Sky.
Due to heavy traffic we didn’t get to the ground until 20 minutes before kick-off but the good thing was, the coach parked outside the turnstiles so despite the rain we got in to the ground quickly. It was nice to hear a steward say I was special as I went past too, which was nice to hear. I managed to hang my banner at the top of the stand next to Bournemouth Whites as I went down to my seat. Oh dear I think Bolton have some holes in their roof! There were big drips coming down onto the fans in front of me and then a large deluge appeared too. The last thing you want when you are supposed to be under cover is getting wet so I intend to tweet some photos to Bolton, but seeing as they still have the financial issues it may be down their priority list at the moment.
The team today was Wiedwald, Ayling, Berardi, Cooper, Pennington, Roofe, Wood, Phillips, Hernandez, Alioski and O’Kane. Subs were Anita for Berardi (dislocated shoulder), Shaughnessy (Pennington ankle injury) and Sacko for Alioski. Attendance was 19,857 with 4,832 Leeds fans.
I’d no idea who the team was going to be today but realised once they came out that it was the same one as the Oxford game. It was nice to see that Christiansen had kept a large proportion of the team who have played together last season for continuity, which gives us a chance to build on it. We certainly got off to a great start as I zoomed in on my camera to the far end as we won a corner. It took me by surprise as we scored from the resulting corner when Hernandez passed it across the penalty area and Phillips scored a cracker to put us into the lead. On the half hour mark we were two up as another corner saw the ball come to Alioski who headed it back to Wood to head into the net! Wow scoring goals and in the lead so soon? Things took a turn for the worse as Bolton attacked our goal and Berardi went down under pressure. I immediately saw him signal to the bench as he held his shoulder and knew straight away that he had dislocated it. Play was held up for several minutes whilst he was treated and then had to be stretchered off the pitch. That was so sad to see as Berardi puts everything into playing; he went off to the fans singing “There’s nobody like Berardi, makes me happy, makes me feel this way.”
Anita came on as sub and straight away Bolton won a corner. Anita immediately positioned himself at the right hand post as we looked down onto the pitch in front of us. Unfortunately Bolton scored at the other post which was a shame, but I felt losing Berardi and having to sub him meant that we hadn’t had time to readjust. I think it is important that we have people on both posts as we did in the Revie days with Bremner and Reaney, as they stopped a tremendous amount of goals being scored against us by doing that. With the Bolton fans celebrating, they then started chanting that we weren’t singing anymore. Well what can I say but a big thank you to Leeds United for shutting them up, as Wood and Phillips combined for the latter to score his second goal of the game. That couldn’t have come at a better time just before half time to give us a two goal cushion again. It was a good feeling to know that we had actually scored three goals away from home but also that the players were backing each other up and fighting for the ball.
At half time it was good to get a personal thank you for helping one of our fans after the Derby game last season. I had put them in touch with the FSF and they gave them the contact to help get them acquitted after the incident, as they hadn’t done anything wrong. Some of my photos had helped to prove their innocence too so I am glad to help out as I hate injustices.
The second half saw Leeds come under pressure more as the heavens opened. We were trying to work out from the defence to go forward as they did in the Oxford game. Sometimes again the passes looked too close for comfort but we were able to pass the ball around our players very well which was good to see. Unfortunately I feel the conditions together with Pennington being tackled meant he had to go off with an ankle injury. I felt it was more of a precaution but again things changed very quickly for us once he was subbed, as the ref more or less immediately pointed to the spot to give Bolton a penalty. After duly scoring from the spot, the last 20 odd minutes of the game saw me have the familiar stomach churning appear. I certainly hoped we could see the game out and get the points as we didn’t deserve to lose. Once again it looks like we had a referee carry on from last season as he didn’t have a clue. The amount of times he didn’t give us anything was beyond a joke. After another bad foul by Bolton he looked as if he was finally going to book one of their players but couldn’t get the card out of his pocket! I had gone to collect my banner as four minutes of injury time was put up. During this period a Bolton player went off on a stretcher and I feared that we would end up playing another seven minutes as in the first half. Luckily for us we didn’t play for much longer, managed to hold out, get the three points and win making this a good start to the season.
Wednesday sees the visit of Port Vale for the League Cup tie which I am bringing two of my granddaughters to. It will be interesting to see what team is played but I am looking forward to progressing in the cup before our first home league game against Preston on Saturday. See you then LUFC – Marching on Together!