Leeds United v Birmingham, 19th October 2019 at Elland Road – Centenary game

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Happy birthday to Leeds United and also to Leeds United Supporters Club, both 100 years old last Thursday 17th October. I’m privileged to have seen the best team ever play under Don Revie with my hero Billy Bremner. During my 50+ years of following Leeds United I have made some fantastic friends amongst our support and long may it continue.

In a week of celebrations for Leeds United, I’m proud to report that my latest book Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United has gone to the printers and will be out soon. Someone said “will it be out for Christmas?” The answer is yes so please think about presents for you or the Leeds fan in your life.

After seeing the 100 year celebrations start with the 100 legends evening last Thursday on the anniversary of the formation of Leeds United, I got very nostalgic. Unfortunately I couldn’t justify the cost after the year we have had as a family but I really wish I’d gone and sod the cost. As it was, it was great seeing all the photos from the event which would have been a great networking event had I been there. I couldn’t go to Australia either so will have to remain jealous of those lucky enough to be there. Catching up with the players from my youth and the best team ever I was privileged to watch, are shared memories for many of us and awe inspiring. Someone said before the game that I should have been invited to this event irrespectively which was really nice to hear anyway so thank you.

As I left home at 9am to pick up my granddaughter Laura and daughter Dani in Rastrick, I was aiming to get to Elland Road for 10am for the opening of the street party. Because we didn’t get there till 10.20am there were over 1919 fans already there so we didn’t get a prize. Both Laura and I won some chocolates for taking penalties against Lucas the Kop Cat. Well Laura scored four in succession including one from a rebound. As I’ve been taking lessons from Leeds United players, my first penalty went sailing past the right hand side of the goal through the gates into the East Stand. For anyone on Facebook who has seen my attempt, at least it’s caused a good laugh with everyone including me. The only time I have played football was for charity with Croda Canaries in the 70s as I prefer watching the game myself. The first time was against Google Dockers and the second time was against nurses from Goole hospital. Because I was lucky enough to borrow a team set of Leeds United kits through John in the Pools Office, I wore number 4 for my hero Billy. I can still hear one of the nurses shouting, “Stop that Billy Bremner” when I ran down the wing. I did miss a penalty that day too hitting the crossbar, but in my defence there were 12 goalkeepers on the line.

It was nice to catch up with many of our fans today and a big thank you to Craig and Michelle for buying my book Follow Me and Leeds United and Mally for buying The Sleeping Giant Awakens. I always carry one each of my books with me so have them for fans who want to meet me at a game. As I’ve just written my sixth book the bag is going to get even heavier. I’d like to say well done to Andrew Dalton my co-author of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Leeds United for his new book released on Thursday. With this being an Official History of Leeds United, to hear that one was presented to each of the legends makes it a very proud moment for him so well done Andrew.

Having seen we had a 91 year old Leeds fan being a guest of the club today, it was nice to see our youngest member of three weeks old making her appearance at the game. Baby Charlotte emulated my own daughter of the same name, although she came to her first game at six days old interestingly both going in the South Stand, although in 1991 the South Stand was the family Stand. I’m so glad we managed to catch up with Nikki and Rita her guide dog as this was Rita’s last game as she is retiring. With a film crew following them around I’m glad there is recognition for them both as Rita has been an ever present influence with our fan base as she joins in with the celebrations by barking. She will be sorely missed but is going to a good new home so enjoy your retirement Rita you deserve it. On hearing the West Wales Whites had managed to get to the game despite having broken down after leaving home at 5.30am, shows just what our fans do to get to games.

We got into the ground very early although I nearly got stuck in the turnstile by trying to get my bag through with me rather than lift it up. By heading straight to the front of the stand to take photos, I wanted to be in a prime spot to capture photos of the flags in the South Stand. Some fans had got permission to have flags on sticks which had badges from the good old days which were really good to see. The Leeds legends were also introduced to the fans before the game and were greeted with many songs about some of the players which were lovely to hear. Fans in the North East, East Stand lower and the Cheese Wedge held up either white, blue or yellow sheets of paper to spell out 100. With fireworks welcoming the teams onto the pitch it was great to see Leeds United were wearing tracksuit tops with their names on and then wave to the crowd. This resonated with many Leeds fans of the great Revie side, the greatest team ever in the 70s, we were privileged to see. It was lovely seeing Leeds playing in an all-white strip today with Casilla our keeper wearing green, another throwback to the late 60s/70s. Talking about tracksuit tops, it was great meeting up with the Cocker family today. Les Cocker worked alongside Don Revie and was an important member of his backroom staff. Les’s son Dave had brought along his dad’s tracksuit top from the 1973 FA Cup Final and it was to be a special day with his son Lee and grandson Cain, because the young lad was going to wear the top at the game today. I had the privilege of getting my photo taken with it before the game too and Dave and his family are rightly proud of Les’s contribution to Leeds United and so am I.

The team: Casilla, Ayling, Berardi, Dallas, White, Ayling, Costa, Bamford, Harrison, Klich and Phillips. Subs: Nketiah for Bamford (45), Roberts for Klich (61) and Douglas for Costa (84). Leeds won the game 1-0 with Phillips scoring the only goal of the game (65). Attendance was 35,731 with 1,996 Birmingham fans.

There was a good atmosphere amongst the crowd as the game set off at a blistering pace with Leeds starting on the attack and winning a few corners in succession. Alioski brought a save out of their keeper as we took the game to Birmingham We were seeing a lot of the ball and continued to attack although lacked the killer touch to stick the ball into the net. Birmingham saw very few attacks until the half hour mark and my fleeting thoughts were; don’t let them score against the run of play but their shot went wide. Things quietened on the terraces just before the break as Leeds had a couple of good attacks. After some great play between Bamford and Costa which saw the latter’s shot blocked, Klich and Dallas were thwarted by their keeper as we went into the break on equal terms.

The second half saw Nketiah come on to replace Bamford as Bielsa tried to change things around. As we attacked the Kop end, Birmingham fouled our player before Nketiah was brought down in the area. Instead of awarding a penalty, the ball was brought back to the edge of the penalty area to give Leeds a free-kick. Sadly the resulting free-kick was sent wide by Alioski. The second half saw Birmingham start to come into the game more with one shot inches away from the top of the goal before White made a brilliant tackle to prevent them scoring. With Birmingham starting to run at our goal down the centre of the pitch and shooting from the edge of the area, I said that is something we should still do. With our patient build-ups and passing the ball to the sides, we should catch them unawares by doing the unexpected. Roberts came on for Klich which saw Costa up his game for me. A few minutes later after good work from Harrison, the ball came to Phillips in the middle of the penalty area who slammed the ball into the back of the net to put us into the lead. It was a relief in one sense as it stopped the crowd getting too restless. Harrison brought a save out of their keeper as Leeds limited Birmingham attacks. There was no way we could lose this game today, as we had to win our centenary game for me and Birmingham had their keeper to thank as he prevented Leeds taking a bigger lead. Just before the end of the game in injury time, Birmingham won a free-kick on the edge of the box in front of the South Stand. It was good to see the ball blocked and Birmingham kept out. With the clock ticking down, it was not good seeing the ball kept in the South Stand as adding more minutes on for time wasting was counter-productive in my opinion. Luckily for us we got the win in our centenary game and the three points, as Leeds fans cheered when the final whistle blew.

We decided to head to the front of the stand as strands of blue and gold tinsel were fired into the air. I thought some souvenirs would be nice to get hold of. As we got down the stand it started kicking off in the West Stand with the away fans in the corner next to ours in the South Stand. With police fighting them back I was surprised to see their fans kicking off. Were they bad losers? I’m not sure what started them being idiots but this went on for ages before things died down. As we headed to the exits someone said they had let the Birmingham fans straight out and things were kicking off outside. Luckily for us the trouble was at the far end of Elland Road to where we were parked so were able to keep out of the way. One lad we knew hadn’t been so lucky in the ground. Being at the front of the South Stand he decided to get out of the way as he’d got his young son with him. As he turned away he was hit in the face by a coin thrown from the Birmingham fans which put a dampener on the day. Hopefully he won’t have any after effects later on today.

With another game on Tuesday with our visit to Preston, before another away game at Sheffield Wednesday next week, it’s going to be a busy week for football. I’m hoping I’ve recovered from the dreadful lurgy that started this morning and culminated in a lost voice, sore throat and upper respiratory issues. We will be driving to Preston so won’t get there until late but I’m hoping that my ticket will be fine. Luckily when my puppy chewed my ticket up she left the bar code intact and most of the ticket so fingers crossed I can get straight in. See you there, LUFC – Marching on Together!

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, Leeds United in the 1980s
  • The Sleeping Giant Awakens, Leeds United 2016-17
  • Back to Reality, Leeds United 2017-18
  • Out soon: Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United

 Website: www.followmeandleedsunited.co.uk Twitter: @FollowMeAndLUFC Facebook: Follow Me and Leeds United: Instagram: Heidi Haigh – lufcheidi @followmeandleedsunited

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