Before I start my blog today, with the Christmas period upon us and my favourite time of the year I want to wish everyone who follows my blog, all friends, family, acquaintances and Leeds United fans all over the world a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. For those of you going through difficult times or not with their families through no fault of their own, my heart goes out to you all. Please remember though, Leeds United has a big family with lots of fans who are prepared to listen and who have big shoulders if you need to talk! Our celebrations start tomorrow with our German tradition of Christmas Eve celebrations and despite the few utterings around us today, I am proud of my heritage so Frohe Weihnachten und herzliche Neujahrsgrüβe!
After a very busy week at work I can look forward to a good two week break which sees Leeds play five games before heading back in. I also attended the LUFC v Leeds United Trust Quiz on Tuesday with my daughter Danielle. It really was a great night, enjoyable with plenty of laughs although we were home later than we thought due to Eunan O’Kane turning up approximately 45 minutes late! I did speak to Andy Lonergan and said about me being one of the few who thought Wiedwald should not have been dropped as I could see what was trying to be done. I also said that was no disrespect to him though! I look forward to more of these in the future as well as the West Yorkshire Sports Quiz.
A very high crowd was expected for the pre-Christmas fixture which was good to see. In the past the gates just before Christmas used to be very low across all clubs as people went Christmas shopping instead. As Leeds fans buck the trend this year it was also good to see the SS5 (South Stand) initiative taking hold on social media over the last few days where fans were encouraged to wear scarves for the game. As someone who loves the memories of being part of the Kop in the seventies when we used to sing and raise our scarves above our heads, it was something I was looking forward to. This was also backed by the club today and as I arrived at Elland Road with my daughter Danielle and granddaughter Laura, it was so good to see fans wearing their colours and being proud to show who they support.
The Peacock was our first stop and as the other two had gone up into the garden I decided I would go and take a few photos. As it was a few fans I knew shouted me for photos and after I took a photo of the Barrow Whites flag, I was asked to take photos of the group of fans from Barrow who it belonged to. It was lovely also to catch up with Andy Ramshaw one of my lads from the Selby branch of the Leeds United Supporters Club. Although I stopped running the branch in 1992 and it’s that long since I saw him, it seemed like yesterday. Memories will always be there and we had some great times from 1985 travelling everywhere with Voyager International and Ben our driver (unfortunately now deceased, RIP). Taking three coaches to the semi-final at Hillsborough and then to the play off final at Birmingham will always stick out in my mind of being there despite the results.
On the way into the ground I stopped to wait by Billy’s statue for Kev who had bought my book the Sleeping Giant Awakens last week. He had come back for a couple more as friends who had their photos in the book wanted one too. Thank you once again for the great support and promotion of my books for me. Also earlier one lad said he wants to buy all four of my books and I look forward to sorting those out for him shortly!!
The team today was Wiedwald, Ayling, Jansson, Cooper, Berardi, Phillips, Vieira, Alioski, Roofe, Hernandez and Cibicki. Subs were O’Kane for Phillips (46), Lasogga for Roofe (76) and Pennington for Hernandez (90). Attendance was 35,156 with 1,794 Hull fans. Leeds won the game 1-0 with a goal by Hernandez (29).
As the teams came out of the tunnel they were met with a wonderful sight from all four corners of the stadium of scarves being waved and held aloft. It was spectacular and brought back lots of lovely memories and it was great to see. This is one thing that I am happy to see resurrected. It also lent itself to the atmosphere and kept that twelfth man in place for the majority of the game. It was Laura who spotted Father Christmas sat in the Director’s box and she said did I know that Santa was a Leeds fan? Of course I said to her! He had come to watch the game and also to check that all the children were on their best behaviour before he set off tomorrow to deliver presents!!
As the game kicked off though, we struggled to get a grip on the game as Hull took the initiative and saw plenty of the ball to attack us. Some of our passing was woefully short again which does impact on our game. As we were under the cosh I was still very calm and said we would be okay, we had to let them have their first ten minutes and tire themselves out. Okay it was maybe more than that before we got a bit of a grip on the game but we just had to keep going. We had an attack at the other end of the field in front of the South Stand and I couldn’t believe it when the ball was sent to their goalie that we just sat back and let the ball reach him. We need to put pressure on any back passes. As it was not long after I’d said that, the ball was passed back again and I shouted to Roofe to keep going, put him under pressure. Then Roofe did run at him (obviously he’d heard me from the Kop) causing their goalie to make a mistake and pass the ball straight to Hernandez. He ran straight at him, chipped the ball over his head and into the net to put us into the lead. It was a super taken goal although at first from the Kop, it looked like it had gone straight over the top rather than an up and under!
The scarf waving went into a frenzy once again all around the Leeds stands as the fans celebrated the goal. Although we didn’t add to this goal in the first half we nearly let Hull back into it with a shot that hit the upright and went out for a goal kick. I had thought that was in so it was good to know it hadn’t and we went in at half time in the lead. Talking to my friends Carole and Margaret at halftime, it was good that we were all on the same wavelength about Roofe closing the keeper down. It just shows that great minds think alike but as we have all supported Leeds for over 50 years, it isn’t a surprise really when you think of the amount of live football games we have seen between us.
The second half saw a change when O’Kane came on for Phillips which I’m assuming was for an injury. This wasn’t a very good half from a football perspective on our part, but we were frustrating Hull in their attempts to attack us. Hernandez should have hit a long range shot instead of trying to control the ball which enabled the Hull players to clear it. A lad next to me said that he didn’t like the fact that we sat on a one goal lead again. I know we cannot do what the good old Leeds team did in the late sixties and early seventies as they could defend for their lives. In fact we expected that team not to drop many points in those days so I know I was privileged to be there and see it for myself; we were spoilt in many ways. Now we are getting better at doing this and Christiansen is learning to change things by bringing on a defender near the end, although we were beginning to think he had left it very late today. Maybe it’s because the game wasn’t passing by as quick for some reason. We didn’t agree on subs though as he thought Alioski should have been taken off and Roofe put on the wing. Alioski had made some great tackles and although all didn’t come off he was doing well plus Roofe is no good on the wing in my opinion. We did have a great chance when Pontus dribbled round the Hull players with ease and started an attack which had three Leeds players bearing down on the Kop goal. Unfortunately Cibicki’s shot went over the top when maybe he should have passed the ball instead. Lasogga brought a save out of their goalie in the last minutes of injury time but we were able to see the game out to claim another three points and the win. At the end of the day, that’s what counts. I don’t agree with the fan who sent a text in to BBC Radio Leeds saying that was the worst game he had ever seen! I can assure you it wasn’t anywhere near the worst! The fans ended the game the same way as at the start with the scarves being waved and held aloft. Some things are worth preserving from the earlier eras and that is certainly one of them and I look forward to seeing this more and more this season.
Tuesday sees us travel to Burton for the live Sky game which I am happy to say remains as a 3 o’clock kick off!! Not before time, but at least the travelling fans are thought of as well as the rest of our worldwide fan base who are able to see the game too. Last season the away game at Burton saw our hopes of the play offs die off completely as we dropped out of the top six. Today our win sees us climb into the top six again. My mantra is that we should still aspire for the top two as anyone can beat anyone in this division and just like our last few games with a winning run behind us, it shows how quickly things can turn around in this division.
It was nice to have fans saying they love my blog and my books plus my appearance on the recent LUST Podcast. The new feature on my website www.followmeandleedsunited.co.uk of a slideshow for the photos instead of having to scroll through every one has made it easier to see all the photos and thank you for the feedback. Stay healthy and happy and enjoy the next couple of days and I’ll see you at Burton on Tuesday. 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