It’s been such a busy week in the background. Monday evening saw me travel to Leeds to be in the Trust’s Podcast and it was nice to see someone tweeting about it from America. Also saw someone today who said they were the one who’d said it was a great listen so thank you. Yesterday saw the unique recording of the old Leeds United songs from the terraces from the Shed days until the present and I want to say a big thank you to everyone who turned up to take part. By the time I got to Elland Road to do that I was that emotional I thought I would cry; when I was on the motorway it mentioned an incident and the traffic slowed down and I thought I may be delayed, so it was such a relief to see that whatever had happened was on the other side of the motorway. After a quick meet up with some in the Peacock, Gary Edwards, Mick Hewitt and I headed to Radio Yorkshire for an interview to promote the recordings which went very well. A very big thank you to Leeds United, especially Angus Kinnear and Laura Mitchell for their help in letting us use the LUDO lounge for both the practice and the recording which is greatly appreciated.
Today I set off early from home with my granddaughter Laura and despite the frozen windscreen the sun was shining. Although it was quite cold I knew it would warm up but the conditions felt great for a football game. As we came around the roundabout at Elland Road, I saw two magpies out of the corner of my eye then spotted four in total. That’s it I said, we are definitely going to win now! The reason for the early start was because I had an interview to attend with Adam Pope and Katherine Hannah from BBC Radio Leeds regarding the songs recording. I’d tried to look yesterday to see where the Lucas Radebe lounge was as I couldn’t find it. I had thought it was in the West Stand where the Director’s entrance now stands which it turned out to be. We headed down the West Stand side which was blocked off for Leeds fans and got through to where we needed to be with some help from a steward. It was nice to meet up with Adam and Katherine and have the interview which went out at half time today. Hopefully I can get a copy for my website. Laura was chuffed to bits to get asked a question too and we got some photos after me initially forgetting! We also caught up with Noel Whelan too and some of our Danish fans before heading back around the ground via the Kop bumping into Becky and Chris from the West Midlands and some of the Galway Whites. As usual, stopping for a chat and taking photos which meant Laura wanted to know when we would get to McDonalds for her dinner. I wanted to call in the club shop first because after chatting to Cath our steward about wanting my new book outside the Director’s entrance, I said I’d check if the shop had any as I knew they’d sold out. We did call in there and I couldn’t see them so will have to email and check the situation. As we were sat in McDonalds, I was asked if I was Heidi and was told that he enjoyed reading my blog so I made sure I got a photo so he can see himself on it tonight. A family came looking for spaces and I said they could squeeze in next to us and they said thank you. There wasn’t enough room for the whole family to sit down so I ensured they got our places when we got up to go. As I took a photo and told them it would be on my blog tonight, the man asked my name as he recognised my Follow Me and Leeds United name. It turned out we both knew the same person and had been commenting on the same thread! It’s a small world. As it is, hopefully Simon will soon be back with his family and that won’t be a moment too soon!
I don’t know what is happening with the searching of bags before the game but they are well and truly going way over the top in my opinion. Why oh why have they started taking people’s drinks off them when the same things can be bought at the other side of the turnstiles. Today I also saw two or three bottles of perfume that had been confiscated. Knowing how pricey these things can be, I really think this is getting out of hand!
After a quick trip to the Peacock where I got chatting to a young Coventry White at the bar, we got into the ground early as I knew there was another large crowd expected. As we walked around the ground two fellas has just been talking about them being in my fourth book. We found the page they were on and hopefully Father Christmas will be good to them!! All four books would make good Christmas presents for the Leeds fan in your life! Also there was going to be a mosaic held up in the East Stand and flags put in every seat in the Kop and South Stand. The sad thing is the amount of bad feeling shown on social media. I know many people thought this shouldn’t happen at Leeds but I felt this was different to drums and clappers which we definitely don’t need. We are a traditional and unique support but I thought the East Stand would do what they were asked to do but personally I wish it had said Marching on Together rather than just Together and also knew the kids plus some of the adults would enjoy waving the flags.
Personally I’m all up for taking scarves and banners in, especially if we can recreate the days when everyone held their scarves up aloft in the Kop singing “You’ll never walk alone”. The best one we ever did was against Manchester City in the FA Cup when Trevor Cherry popped up to score in the last few minutes when we were just resigning ourselves to a replay at Maine Road. The scenes that day were awesome and will always be remembered by me. It was also my one and only time of standing on the barrier after we’d scored although I kept falling off and got up four times in all. Now I realise why Collar was always held on by someone when he was stood on a barrier leading the singing!! I decided to take a video today rather than just photos when the team came out to ensure I got the whole atmosphere. Whatever anyone’s misgiving were, the East Stand looked impressive as well as the flag waving. It wasn’t just the visual aspect that was good, I felt it contributed to the atmosphere as a whole especially as the team were up for the game from the word go.
The team today was Lonergan, Ayling, Berardi, Cooper, Jansson, Phillips, Vieira, Hernandez, Roofe, Saiz and Alioski. Subs were Ekuban (first game after his broken foot) for Roofe (79), O’Kane for Saiz (88) and Pennington for Alioski (90). Leeds won 2-1 with goals from Hernandez (24) and Alioski (54). Attendance was 33,771 with 2,535 Boro fans.
Just as I reached my seat, I realised that because I’d changed bags, that I’d forgotten something once again. In this case it was my football glasses so I was glad it was a good sunny day which hopefully meant I wouldn’t miss too much. I just can’t read numbers on the backs of players or see their faces from a distance. As this was going to be the first time we came up against Monk on his return to Elland Road since defecting to Boro over the summer, it meant he would come in for some stick from the Leeds fans. I just wanted us to become the twelfth man today because in the past this is something that has proved its worth time after time. It meant teams were intimidated from the start and that’s a bonus to start with.
As we kicked off Leeds straight away showed they were up for the game today and it was fairly even for the first 20 minutes. Although I wasn’t unduly worried today for some reason, Lonergan made a great save in front of us that seemed to happen in slow motion. Boro appealed for a penalty and showed some bad habits in diving all over the place. The referee was particularly bad, giving loads of free kicks to Boro and leaving challenges on us to go unpunished. With one on Berardi when he “somersaulted” a few times and then got up, their player wasn’t even spoken to. I thought if he’d have stayed down the Boro player would have been sent off but Berardi showed professionalism by getting up straight away. It wasn’t long after this where we took the lead. We attacked and the ball came from Alioski on the right and ended up with Hernandez in space who cracked the ball into the net. Brilliant, it was so good to get a goal and go into the lead. The team were in high spirits and fighting well and playing together which was good to see. Although Boro had a few attacks we dealt with them well and went into the break still in the lead. There was a great deal of litter from the Mosaics all across the front of the East Stand due to the big children effect coming into play with paper aeroplanes flying all over. These turned into paper balls at the start of the second half which one of the stewards didn’t find amusing.
The second half started with Leeds on the attack and before long we scored a second beauty of a goal which came from sheer determination. Roofe battled to win the ball, eventually overcoming their player and passed it to Hernandez on the West Stand side. He put a peach of a cross in for Alioski to finish it to put us two goals up, cue fantastic celebrations on the terraces. Saiz had a wonderful effort denied by a post as we started to play some really attractive football especially coming out of defence and running at Boro putting them under pressure. We could have even put the game to bed when Cooper ended up beating the offside trap as the linesman kept his flag down and had an open goal, but his header went wide. That was such a shame but wasn’t meant to be. Whilst Boro had a couple of chances I thought we coped very well defensively although I wasn’t aware Ayling had kicked one off the line!! The worst decision of the game was when Boro were awarded a penalty on the say so of the linesman; as someone said it was an off the ball incident. After seeing the replay of this after, both the referee and linesman should suffer repercussions for the disgraceful decision that was made. Their player flung Ayling to the ground and he then grabbed the Boro player’s leg and pulled him down. Seeing the replay and that the boot of their player was heading straight to Ayling’s face, there is no wonder he grabbed hold of his leg to prevent a kicking! There were loads of angry fans in the South Stand who were going berserk and plenty of plastic flag poles found their way to the pitch side. Pontus tried calming some fans but I don’t think it worked although I wasn’t sure if they’d reacted badly to him. This gave Boro a chance to get back into the game as they scored the penalty sending Lonergan the wrong way. The lad behind me told him to go to his left which is where the ball ended up. He got it right this time!! The timing of the goal meant there was still plenty of time until the end of the game.
A couple of times the South Stand kept the ball and although they came close a couple of times, we started counter attacking and putting in some fantastic crosses. Ekuban came on for Roofe who had been leading the forward line today and had played better in his position of strength. Ekuban himself also showed some great pace and Alioski ended up on fire with so many attacks coming down the left of the pitch so it was a great shame to see Alioski substituted by Pennington on full time. He didn’t want to come off the pitch though and looked gutted and when my daughter Dani commented he came off after Howson spoke to him, it didn’t register with me. With seven minutes injury time facing us though and we were showing our best form of defence is attack, I thought maybe Pablo going off would have been better even though he played well too. As it was, despite the length of the injury time we managed to keep Boro out and claim the three points to see Leeds very happy all around. It was only as the players were thanking each other that I realised Jonny Howson was playing for Boro as I’d forgotten that he’d gone there.
As the players were going off the pitch, two men came onto the pitch, one in a feathered coat who I’d seen in the director’s box at one of our recent games. They were running all over the pitch having a great time and it turned out to be a couple of Italian comedians similar to Ant and Dec who were having a whale of a time. At least there were plenty of flags at the end for the kids and plenty of fans going around collecting spares. My youngest granddaughter Alexis thought it was great when we got back to their house to be given a flag. It was also lovely to have a great Sunday tea cooked by my daughter instead of me doing it so a big thank you to her.
We have a mid-week game at Wolves facing us although I didn’t realise they were top of the table, before having the early kick off game at Barnsley facing us next weekend. I take each game as they come and don’t expect any easy games but the win today will have done a great deal to raise the confidence and self-esteem of the team. The atmosphere had been great today with only a short spell after they scored that deflated the Leeds crowd. Keep going Leeds, as I’ve said many times there will be swings and roundabouts, ups and downs, but we will get there in the end. Stability is the key; see you at Wolves and Barnsley – LUFC – Marching on Together!
Heidi Haigh – author of:
Follow Me and Leeds United
Once a Leeds fan, Always a Leeds Fan
The Sleeping Giant Awakens 2016-2017 out now!
Co-author of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Leeds United. Leeds United in the 1980s