The sun shone brightly in Halifax as I set off for Elland Road making it perfect weather for a football game. Singing along to the greatest showman also made it a very happy journey. As I was meeting Dean at Billy’s statue at 1.30 pm for a live interview I made sure I set off in plenty time to go to Leeds via Rastrick and Wakefield. First I picked up my granddaughter Hannah and then my daughter Danielle before getting to the ground right on cue. As my car was feeling poorly I was worried it would impact on getting there okay but luckily it didn’t let me down.
Thanks for the opportunity of doing the live interview Dean and as always, I’m glad to be able to help other Leeds fans out. When asked if I was doing another book, I said I wasn’t sure as I couldn’t think of a title for it. “A waste of time” said Dean. Many fans who have had their photos taken for my blog throughout the year have also asked if they’d be in my next book so I feel I can’t let them down. If the demand is there, then another book would be based on my blog Follow Me and Leeds United from this season together with lots of photos as per last season’s The Sleeping Giant Awakens 2016-17. Unfortunately as this season hasn’t gone the way we all hoped on the pitch, the title I would have picked isn’t appropriate, that’ll stay a secret and I hope it can be used at the end of next season instead! I’ll have to get a move on with a title for this one if that is the case!
As it was so hot we didn’t expect to get served in the Peacock but as luck would have it, most of the fans were outside so for once we managed to get a drink. We went up into the garden where we started chatting to a group of fans from Worksop and Airdrie. The latter who had travelled from Scotland for the game Les and his son Donald, meant we had a good chat about the Scottish players that Leeds had playing for them at the start of the seventies. He also said Jim Storrie one of our ex-players who played centre forward for us and helped Leeds win promotion to the First Division in 1964 was an Airdrie lad. Barry Bannan was a friend of his too (now playing at Sheffield Wednesday). Jamie had his dad to thank for buying my book Follow Me and Leeds United as a present for his 21st birthday. Enjoy the read. Getting into the ground I was just in time to get in my spot to take photos and meet Debbie and James for my book The Sleeping Giant Awakens so again thank you to them both.
The team today was Peacock-Farrell, Pennington, Jansson (back after concussion), Pearce, O’Connor, Hernandez, Vieira, Phillips, Alioski, Saiz and Roofe. Subs were Ekuban for Alioski (71), Forshaw (returning from injury) for Saiz (84). Leeds won the game 2-1 with goals by Pearce (17) and Alioski (50). Attendance was 30,451 with 1,663 Barnsley fans.
Leeds looked fired up from the start today after Barnsley had an early chance. They did create us a few problems but I thought once we settled into the game that we could go on and win it. We were battling more and as young Pearce went forward with the ball he unleashed a long range shot that took their goalie by surprise. The ball seemed to bobble along the floor on the way into the net as it took an age to end up in the back of it. We weren’t the only ones ecstatic for him either and it was so nice to see the celebrations of the team with Pearce who was justified in his own joy of getting the goal. I was chuffed to bits for the lad. We didn’t have it all our own way in the game though as Barnsley who are in a relegation battle, kept putting us under pressure. After Pontus headed the ball out of defence well and did that a few times, he somehow nearly cost us a goal. He was going to kick the ball out of the penalty area then changed his mind at the last minute and it was a good job Peacock-Farrell was so alert to prevent the goal and make the save. Someone next to me thought someone had shouted but I didn’t think it was the keeper as it took him by surprise. There was also another incident with Pontus that could have put us in trouble but again we were able to get the ball away. Unfortunately the team seemed to quieten down as Barnsley got into the game more. It was a disappointment when the ball was crossed into the penalty area in front of the Kop only for poor O’Connor to score an own goal to bring Barnsley level. There was nothing he could do about it and I felt badly for him. To cap it all they very nearly took the lead when Barnsley shot and I was convinced the ball was going in the net. Someone stood in front of me to get out of our row so I couldn’t see the outcome but Peacock-Farrell made a great save to keep it out. There were some boos as the whistle went for half time but to be honest I couldn’t understand why because I thought we’d not played too badly. We weren’t losing either.
I actually got back up into the stand before the players had come out for the second half but as it seemed a long half time, I could have sworn they would already have been out. Within six minutes of the restart though we had taken the lead after Roofe rounded their player on the wing and crossed the ball for Alioski to put the ball into the net. Cue relief and celebrations all around. It looked like we couldn’t keep a lead again when Barnsley had the ball in our net only a short while after we’d scored but luckily for us the linesman flagged for offside! Although we started to put more pressure on Barnsley they weren’t giving up without a fight especially when their player missed an open goal. From the Kop I thought he was stood on the goal line and missed but apparently he was a bit further out than that! They could also have had a penalty but luckily for us the ref chose to book the Barnsley player for diving. Talking of Pennington, he had a really good game on the wing in place of Berardi. In fact a few of the players stood out today which was a vast improvement as of late. Alioski gets a lot of stick from fans for running around and going down easily, but this was causing Barnsley issues as he was closing them down and tackling them. We had Peacock-Farrell to thank once again for making some class saves. One thing I will reiterate is that we need to build our team around these youngsters and I did say that to Peacock-Farrell, Pearce and O’Connor later on in the evening. Apparently we have a good striker in the under 23s who would be a good addition to the squad too. My stance is of quality over quantity, with players who want to play for the shirt and the fans including our youngsters and we won’t go far wrong. Saiz wasn’t happy with his substitution and looked to be having a tantrum in the dugout. I hadn’t actually seen anything until others behind me pointed it out. Jamie Clapham did the after game interview with BBC Radio Leeds and when asked about it he said it was behind him and he didn’t see or hear anything. I think my photos show him stood right in front of Saiz so I think he was being diplomatic and knew exactly what had gone on. Even the players in the dugout didn’t know what to do!
We managed to see the game out to get the three points and keep Barnsley firmly near the bottom of the table and in danger of relegation. Sunderland have also suffered back to back relegations after it was confirmed they were relegated today from our division. At least with Wigan being promoted back to the Championship, it is a ground with a good allocation of tickets for away fans.
After the game we headed to the White Rose to meet my daughter Michelle and other two granddaughters Laura and Alexis as they were taking Hannah back for me. Danielle and I were going back to the Pavilion for the Leeds United Disabled Organisation’s (LUDO) player of the year event. I can honestly say that it was a fantastic night with a carvery and pudding all for the grand total of £25 per person. We got to meet the players (even Saiz as I wondered if he’d turn up after his earlier shenanigans) and had a great sing song along to the DJ’s choice of songs. With some great Irish Dancing and a bit of bingo thrown in it was really good. It was commented on that I’d got legs and respectively seeing our stewards there not in uniform and having a night off was good to see. Our longest serving steward remembered me from the seventies too. It was the last year of the event being organised by Stuart (not sure if I’ve spelt it right) due to ill health and it was an emotional night for him. His services to LUDO were recognised by the club as well as LUDO representatives, so a big well done from me as he deserved the recognition. I’d like to say a big thank you to Nikki and not forgetting Rita her dog, for inviting me to join her and others at the event. I will certainly look forward to attending this again next year and I would encourage other Leeds fans to do the same. Any extra monies raised go to LUDO so it is a great cause.
Next week sees our penultimate game and the last away game of the season at Norwich. Having already thought the season had finished before today’s game I’m looking forward to having a great day out with the rest of our fans. If we can get another three points there I will be more than happy. 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 2016-2017