Well it’s certainly never dull being a Leeds fan that’s for sure! Today we had what I call a proper game of football, blood and thunder, with the Leeds crowd roaring the team on. Full commitment from the start from our team which helped to ease the hurt felt after missing out on automatic promotion.
When I arrived at the ground with my granddaughter Hannah, we headed straight to the Peacock. I was meeting fans from all around the world today who had come to see our last game of the season. Normally I bring all my family to this game but even when tickets came back on sale from those fans who were now not attending, I still couldn’t buy any as I was a season ticket holder and not a member. It was good to hear about fans who had travelled to the game from Hungary and Ireland who had initially missed out on tickets but were lucky to pick up spares yesterday. Many others who had already booked flights and accommodation were sorted in the end too which was good. Leeds fans helping out other Leeds fans has been very noticeable recently too. I was just sending a message to the Hungarian Whites who I was meeting when I bumped into them in the Peacock car park. The documentary crew was there to film them who I was supposed to be meeting later before the game. It was good to catch up with Mark and Daisy, Halifax Whites with the latter now living in the USA. There were fans from Melbourne, Gibraltar, Argentina, Malta and Norway today showing what a fantastic worldwide fan base we had. With us now being in the play offs it meant that Rita, Nikki’s guide dog, had a reprieve so today was not her last game. Rita has been going to every Leeds game for years and celebrates a goal with the rest of the fans with her barking and will be missed when she no longer goes to games. Well done to Mark for wearing his costume in the name of charity, raising money for the Samaritans in memory of his friend. Also donating to Brendan Ormsby’s fundraiser too meant that I supported lots of good causes today.
As I was waiting for the documentary crew to come back to the Peacock, Charley of the Harrogate Whites came to find me. Marta from Argentina who I was looking to meet after the game was in the tent so I caught up with her there. There were photos galore and lots of fans enjoying themselves. If I’d been sad before the game, the one thing to be certain to lift your spirits is being amongst other Leeds fans who love the club like I do. This is what makes following our club special and won’t be beaten in my eyes. In the meantime, I found an answerphone message from West Yorkshire Police on my phone. Hannah had begged me to go into the ground as she didn’t want to hang around so I said yes. Apparently minors can’t be in the ground on their own which although understandable, is a shame. In trying to instill confidence in our young children and giving a bit of freedom whilst under certain conditions (I knew we were all going to sit together), it didn’t work out that way. She was worried she would get me into trouble by not being with her at the time, but I will say thank you to the stewards who had to look after her as per their rules. I’ll blame the documentary crew for standing me up lol as I would have been in the ground much earlier. As it was I caught up with so many people that it worked out well in that regard. As well as the Centenary Year for Leeds United next season, it is also the Centenary Year for the Leeds United Supporters Club and I love the pennant and other memorabilia they have for sale in the Peacock back room.
The team: Casilla, Ayling, Cooper, Jansson, Harrison, Klich, Bamford, Forshaw, Phillips, Dallas and Hernandez. Subs: Berardi for Dallas (45) and Roberts for Harrison (45). The final score of 1-1 was controversial. Leeds played to the whistle and scored but Villa were allowed to score straight away to even the score as their player was down injured (wrong in my eyes). Attendance was 36,786 with 2,626 Villa fans.
It was lovely to see all the players bring their children on to the field as mascots when the teams came out. Ayling was buzzing with his little girl and I could see he was up for the game from the off. Villa started brightly before Leeds got into the game but it was one of those end to end games with plenty of action. The referee today lost the plot straight away and in my opinion should hang his boots up because on what I’ve seen today, he should be banned from being a ref ever again. He let a couple of things go for both teams then went on a free kick spree against Leeds favouring Villa with one culprit being Grealish who spent most of his time on the floor rather than on his feet. With plenty of the free kicks being balls that Leeds won fair and square, this riled the Leeds fans up even more. The atmosphere was electric as the Leeds fans got behind their team with both teams still looking for a goal. Casilla looked as if he’d missed a ball but then recovered to put it around the post for a corner to Villa. As Leeds were just about to break into the box in front of the South Stand, the ref blew his whistle. Just as I wondered why everyone was going mad as he should have played advantage with our attack according to those around me, I realised that he’d blown for half time. I can’t remember the last time that I wasn’t waiting for the half time whistle to blow plus hadn’t even seen the amount of injury time to play as I’d been so engrossed in the game.
If we thought the ref had been poor in the first half he surpassed that performance in the second half. Bielsa had made two changes with Berardi and Roberts on for Dallas and Harrison and it nearly paid off, as we came so close to scoring when the ball went just past the wrong side of the post from Forshaw. The game had still been end to end but Leeds were fighting for everything and won the ball cleanly as their player went down once again. He didn’t have a head injury and the ref played on as we screamed Leeds to keep going. That’s exactly what Roberts did as he passed the ball to Klich to put the ball into the net to send the Leeds fans wild. All I could see was Villa players grabbing hold of ours and going nuts which I couldn’t understand. Why weren’t they being allowed to celebrate with us? The next thing a Villa player was shown a red card but with people standing in front of me I didn’t catch what was going on at the far side of the goal, only seeing Klich was being manhandled by two Villa players. From the television angles shown later Bamford although had been in some pushing and shoving, reacted as if he’d been punched but it didn’t look like there was any contact to his face. The ones I’d seen having a go at Klich showed the one on the left punching him in the stomach. It was the one involved with Bamford who was red carded although I may have missed more here but the worst was to come on the restart. Villa were given the ball and instructed to equalise with no one allowed to stop them although Jansson tried. In all my years of following Leeds I have never seen anything like it but apparently Bielsa had said to let them due to fair play. I’m sorry but this is one time I would disagree strongly, there was no head injury and you play to the whistle. With all the cheating, diving and time wasting Villa did all through the game then it should have been just desserts. To say Bielsa had been booked earlier for what I’ve no idea, he is more magnanimous that I would ever be but there was no need to be as we’d done nothing wrong again!! The ref showed how inept he was as he should have stuck with his decision of awarding a goal. As long as it doesn’t affect us playing the away leg of the playoffs on the Saturday it will be fine in the long run, but if points matter?? I won’t go there as I’d be very angry. We nearly got the “winner” in the last few moments as the game ended in a draw.
We stayed to see the players walk around the pitch at the end of the game and the talking point with everyone we met afterwards was letting Villa walk the ball in the net. Unbelievable! That saying I really enjoyed the game today plus it passed by ever so fast with everything going on. Football is not a non-contact sport and you should be able to challenge for a ball without a free kick being given, because the opposition fall down at the drop of a hat. Football should not be for namby pambys who cheat their way through a game, give me a proper football game any day. I have been asked to mention Terence Bell and Debbie Hood who helped Jay Patel and his wife from London get tickets for the game today. I wished a safe trip home to our Bournemouth Whites Steve and Bev plus the same goes for all the other fans I’d met near Billy’s statue. I also caught up with some more Leeds fans back in Halifax when I met my family at The Wainhouse Tavern for tea. It just shows that wherever we go, there will always be some Leeds fans!
With Norwich and Sheffield United gaining automatic promotion, we face the play offs once more. I have to take some of my own advice here; I’d said that when we played man u at Old Trafford in the FA Cup that if we go there expecting to lose we always will do. Go out and play to win and lo and behold Beckford scored to make that dream happen. The same goes for the play offs with our poor record. We should not be scared of anyone, we have showed today that we can still play well and will for once be the underdogs. It’s time for us to change that record and make it happen so come on Leeds, you can do it! Our last league game sees us travel to Ipswich and I’m still looking forward to a good day out. 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
The Sleeping Giant Awakens, Leeds United 2016-17
Back to Reality, Leeds United 2017-18
www.followmeandleedsunited.co.uk Twitter: @FollowMeAndLUFC, Facebook: Follow Me and Leeds United