On Wednesday I was having my nails done and it was really funny when I was introduced to the lady next to me, as she was a Leeds fan too. The two of us were chatting away about Leeds United with Hannah and Debbie looking at us both saying that they hadn’t a clue what we were on about lol. Thank you Paula who it turned out had worked at Elland Road for 17 years, for buying my book Back to Reality, Leeds United 2017-18. After another hard week for my family, this culminated with the death of my father-in-law yesterday. The good thing was we all managed to get there and spend some time together and I was there holding his hand when he took his last breath. There are many others going through traumas of their own today, not only friends but those families who suffered in the Bradford Fire disaster and the death of young Leeds fan Ian Hambridge at Birmingham in 1985. My heart goes out to all of them on what was a dark day for football all those years ago. It was also my friend Karen’s birthday which sends a poignant reminder every year.
As I pulled my car onto the street I couldn’t believe my eyes seeing that little ba****d magpie walking across the road in front of me. At first I thought damn, then I decided that I needed to kick that superstition into touch today. After a tearful conversation with my youngest daughter, then another with my eldest daughter I was glad to get that out of my system. Whilst stood at the bar when we stopped at Chesterfield on our way to the game, someone asked me how we would do and I just shrugged my shoulders. At that time it felt like it was an effort to go to the game and getting into the play offs is something I could have done without. As my daughter Dani and I struggled to get a table in the packed pub, we were lucky to join Nikki, Stephen and Rita the dog at their table. By the time we left after food, drink and plenty of conversations in good company, my spirits had lifted and I was looking forward to getting there.
We arrived in plenty of time for kick off and I headed to the front to put my flag up. There were lots more put up before the game and they are great to see. As I stood there Katherine Hannah from BBC Radio Leeds came to see me for an interview plus another one at the end of the game. My mum and sister Karin heard the first one and my sister Erica the second one. I also did an interview for the Leeds United documentary crew. Although slightly nervous at this time I said I wanted to win 4-0 today, 4-0 on Wednesday and 4-0 at Wembley. That is just because I want the other team to be out of sight and out of mind to ease the nerves. I just wanted Leeds to give 110% percent like my hero Billy Bremner always used to and my new mantra is saying “it’s not over till it’s over, so we still have a chance”. Seriously I just wanted to win the game and as I won the football card on the coach I said it was a good omen!
The team: Casilla, Ayling, Berardi, Cooper, Dallas, Forshaw, Roofe, Klich, Phillips, Hernandez and Harrison. Subs: Shackleton for Forshaw (went off injured 24) and Clarke for Roofe (81). Leeds won the game 1-0 with a goal from Roofe (55). Attendance was 31,723 with 2,780 Leeds fans. With Jansson out injured Berardi stepped in to take his place. It was good to see all our injured players had travelled to the game to support the team too.
We played towards the goal nearest the Leeds fans in the first half and to me, it was noticeable, that Derby were looking to gain an advantage by keeping the team at the far end of the pitch when warming up too. I just thought we’d have to shut them up instead! I thought we played well in the first half and although we had lots of possession again, we weren’t able to put the ball into the net. What was good though was seeing Leeds do exactly what I wanted in fighting for every ball and although Derby got the chance to attack a few times, they didn’t come close to scoring as we battled to keep them out. I hadn’t put my glasses on so although I could see the players at the far end of the ground I did miss things. The most important thing was not seeing Forshaw go off injured and Shackleton coming on as a substitute. I thought he’d been playing from the start and I’d missed it, oops! Derby were also battling to keep Leeds out and the first half was a good one to see as we went in at half time on equal terms.
The second half saw us attacking the far end and Derby started falling like flies looking for and getting the free kicks. When Derby fouled our player as we attacked, the ref said play on. With that Harrison put a great cross over to Roofe in the middle of the goal mouth to hit the ball into the net and send the Leeds fans into raptures. There were bodies flying all over the place as I dodged them to stay upright. There were fantastic scenes of joy amongst the Leeds fans and it was great to be part of it. Roofe was unlucky not to score a second goal minutes later but their goalie made the save to prevent him getting another one. I started getting a little nervous as the game went on and couldn’t believe it when their player went down in the area and a penalty was given. I was convinced we hadn’t fouled their player as the ref went over to speak to the linesman at the far side of the pitch. I said “Wouldn’t it be great if he changed his mind and said it wasn’t a penalty?” With that the decision was reversed as the Leeds fans cheered and the Derby fans jeered. It was great to see the replays on social media afterwards confirming that Harrison was fouled and hadn’t touched their player anyway. After Derby’s short spell which had me on tenterhooks, Leeds got the better of them again as the whole team battled and got to the end of injury time with a 1-0 win. What better tonic did I need than that? I also loved the chant today “All of the spies, are hidden away, just try not to worry, you’ll beat us some day, we beat you at home, we beat you away, stop crying Frank Lampard, stop crying Frank Lampard!” That was class and whoever made it up full credit to you as I can’t stop singing it. Thank you also to those fans who love what I do with my blog and as always your comments are appreciated and that is also a big boost for my self-esteem.
Getting a goal was great as it gives us a psychological advantage. Let’s make Elland Road a cauldron of hate in the second leg and scare the living daylights out of Derby. See you on Wednesday – 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
The Sleeping Giant Awakens, Leeds United 2016-17
Back to Reality, Leeds United 2017-18