Well what an end to the week with horrendous weather from the Beast from the East which saw heavy snow hit the north of England and Scotland. Storm Emma headed south yesterday and caused further havoc. In amongst these was a football game that was taking place tonight at Middlesbrough. Will it be on? Will it be postponed? Those questions were doing the rounds but I knew that this would be played despite the conditions, as it was being televised for Sky. I did think a decision would be made today as long as there was no more snow which turned out to be the case. Whilst I’m happy the game was going ahead especially when I was on my way there, I had a lot of sympathy for those fans with tickets in the sellout away end that can no longer go due to the snow. Our Bournemouth Whites, South Wales Whites, Bristol Whites to name a few have been unable to travel now which is a shame and I feel for them. I’m not sure if Inverness White got down either as everything he was trying was getting cancelled but it was good to see our Lincolnshire Whites able to make it. We had Peter flying over from Canberra, Australia to see his first Leeds game with help from David who met him in Australia so I’m hoping to catch up with him at the game. Whilst it may be a consolation that the game is being screened live, there is still no better feeling than watching a game in person and being amongst other Leeds fans! As I’d found out I wasn’t in work this morning after all, at least it meant I could have a leisurely trip over to Leeds instead of a mad dash after work to get there for the coach.
Everyone met up in The Peacock where the Shropshire Whites had stopped for a quick pint before carrying on their way. When I took a photo of them one of them said that every time I take a photo of them we lose; something tells me he was right! That’s it lads tell me to go away next time please!! We heard that many fans had already arrived at the ground after a good trip so hopefully our journey will be the same. We were picking some fans up at Green Hammerton then heading straight to the ground and after a police escort arrived there at 7.00 pm. We also heard there’d been some trouble in Middlesbrough itself before the game and our coach was showered with snowballs on arrival. I wasn’t looking forward to the cold and looked like Michelin man with that many layers of clothes on. The wind was going to be the worst thing and outside the turnstiles it certainly was blowing a gale. I felt sorry for our stewards who had been out in that from 4.00 pm. At least it looked like we would be sheltered inside as the wind was hitting the stand we were in.
After putting my flag up it was nice to see Simon one of our Southern fans had made it after many hours of travelling. I then went back downstairs to find Peter our Canberra White and David, what was really nice, was to be presented with a T-shirt especially for me. Peter reads my blog every week in Australia as I share the posts on Facebook and this time he will find he is part of it too. Cato from Norway was there too.
The team today was Wiedwald, Anita, Jansson, Cooper, Berardi, Dallas, O’Kane, Phillips, Lasogga, Saiz and Alioski. Subs were Forshaw for Alioski (46) Vieira for Phillips (46) and Ekuban for O’Kane (68). Leeds lost 3-0 with the attendance 27,621 and 2,921 Leeds fans.
The snow started coming down again as we kicked off but at least we had arrived safely, I’d worry about getting home afterwards. If we got back to Elland Road okay at least McDonalds was open for 24 hours! Luckily the snow didn’t stick and everything turned out fine from that point of view.
From a footballing point of view, this performance was a total disgrace. No passion, no commitment, no trying, no nothing. It looked like players were square pegs in round holes once again and I’ve no idea what formation we were using. Neither did the players from the look of it! We were being run through time and time again and to be honest I’m surprised it took 31 minutes for them to score their first. Things were that bad that I don’t think we even had a shot on target. Apart from a free kick there was very little to talk about amongst ourselves. This was made even worse when they scored a second goal just before half time and nearly got a third.
Talking to others at half time, we all could accept a defeat but what we couldn’t and wouldn’t accept was the laying down and dying. Just because it was cold, that was no reason for the team not to turn up. The fans as usual had done their bit, getting behind them and singing all the time. Even all those hardy souls taking off their shirts and being bare chested put more effort in than the team! Those fans whose coach and relief coach broke down on the way to the game only got there at half time to find we were already two goals down.
The second half saw Forshaw (who missed the game last week as his wife was giving birth) and Vieira come on. Forshaw playing against his former club was the only one who stood out even though he was only playing for 45 minutes. To be honest the half carried on where we left off, being poor and not looking like we could score in a month of Sundays! I feel Anita isn’t good enough for us and there is something about the way he runs / his stance that I cannot stand. In fact he reminded me of Gregan in that way as I couldn’t stand his stance either! As much as I’ve stuck up for Wiedwald in the past and despite the fact we only have Bailey Peacock-Farrell to challenge him due to Lonergan’s injury, he has to lose his place in the team. I could go on because for once I felt there were no positives to take from this game. As much as I said we’d win and get something out of the game to push on for the play offs, the reality is much different. We are light years away from having a settled side that can challenge for the Premiership. All the hope and stuffing was knocked out of me today and I have to accept that this season is over for us. What makes it stand out as a bad defeat, was this day was the anniversary of our League Cup win in 1968, when we did have a team to be proud of! When we went three goals down I know fans were upset, but smashing seats does no one any good least of all us. I challenged a young lad telling him to pack it in and to give him his due he did stop. However the older chap with him and others took exception to me having a go at him and wagged his finger at me. I said that it reflects badly on us all and I will stand by that. I know everyone is entitled to their opinion but causing damage is something I hate.
I went down to get my flag on 80 minutes and it was nice to be offered help by the Boro stewards to take it down. I stayed there for the last few minutes and chatted to a fan who said he worked with Boro fans. He follows me on Twitter and reads my blog so is another one who will find himself in it. I’d also had a fan stood near my seat who reads my blog so it is nice to know as it makes it worthwhile, even though I keep falling asleep whilst writing this up! Another thing that was pointed out was Leeds need to ditch the black kit on an evening as they blended in too much with the crowd. No wonder they couldn’t pass the ball between them!
As I reminisce of the past once again, my first ever visit to Middlesbrough was to Ayresome Park for Bill Gate’s Testimonial in May 1974. A dozen of us went up on the train changing at Darlington and to say that we hadn’t played them before or not for a long time, I couldn’t believe the hostility of their fans. That was something that got worse every time we went there and along with Maine Road were the worst grounds to visit as a Leeds United fan. I even left a game at 4.15 pm at Ayresome Park one year as the trouble was that bad. These episodes in the seventies are all recorded in my first book Follow Me and Leeds United for those fans who want to find out what we as a fan group had to put up with to follow our team.
As we have Wolves at home to look forward to on Wednesday, hopefully the weather will have warmed up so it won’t affect the fans travelling to Elland Road. This really is the last chance saloon for the team to show they can perform but there will have to be wholesale changes. Give our youngsters the chance to shine and show what they can do as they certainly can’t do any worse than that performance, if you can call it that, tonight. See you then 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