It was pitch black when I woke up 20 minute before my alarm was due to go off so instead of going back to sleep I got up. I had visions of me missing my alarm if I did that. Getting up at the unearthly hour of 5.10am could only mean one thing, an LUFC away day and Millwall here we come! Just as I was getting ready to leave the house this absolute beast of a spider ran at me so found itself under my foot squashed before I had time to think. Horrible thing, I don’t want that running about my house!
After an uneventful journey to Leeds I headed to McDonalds and found Chris and Phil from the Griffin branch going in at the same time. There were quite a few Leeds fans in there too and I had a chat with Andrew Dalton who co-authored my third book The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Leeds United with me. We all started reminiscing about previous visits to Millwall. When we first returned there a few years ago the journey out of the ground on the coach was like getting out of the Alamo. We ran a gauntlet of their fans outside all the pubs who were attacking the coaches as they went by, one aiming a kick at the minibus in front of us. I gave a big sigh of relief once we got away from there but the Griffin branch had the outer layer of a window on their coach put out. My first visit to the Den in the 80s meant I travelled with the Kippax branch as their coach came from Selby near where I lived. Seeing their fans on street corners make gestures of cutting throats means that some things never change as these have been seen in recent visits too.
The disadvantage of having a large coach today meant there wasn’t a toilet on it. Especially for long journeys, that is something that some of us can’t do without! After a stop in Greenwich where we were served drinks in plastic glasses due to football being on, we headed for the police escort. Even though we were bang on time to meet it, we were going the opposite way and unable to turn around so we missed the convoy of three coaches. We got to the layby where a couple of police were waiting for us and they said to please ensure that no one on the coaches used the gardens of the nearby houses as a toilet. Well it was okay for the lads to use the bushes just up the road but no good for us female fans. Eventually by the time we got our escort in we arrived just before kick-off and by then I was desperate to get into the ground and I wasn’t the only one. Also by being late it meant that we didn’t have a reception committee of Millwall fans outside their pubs. It was only the ones in the vicinity of the ground but for once I didn’t feel intimidated.
After starting to queue I was pointed in the direction of the middle queue for the females to be searched by the female steward. We also had a couple of lads in our queue too who were happy to be frisked by her too! It was nice to bump into Collar and I8 so had a quick chat with them. A big thank you once again to those fans who took the time to say they love my blog! The praise does give me a warm glow as it makes me feel it is worthwhile doing this despite it taking a few hours to complete after a game. As we headed up the stairs to the ground they were playing a song over the tannoy so I started singing na na na na Mick Jones, Jonesy, Jonesy, Jonesy. These young lads in front of me were killing their selves laughing as Coke from Wellingborough turned around to say hello. I’d brought my banner with me and was going to hang it over the front of the stand where another banner was but decided against it as the space left was too small, plus I didn’t like the steep drop to the stand below.
Leeds had sold out all the tickets for today once again plus the game was being beamed back to Elland Road which had also sold out. The team today was Wiedwald, Ayling, Jansson, Shaughnessy, Anita, O’Kane, Hernandez, Siaz, Alioski, Phillips and Lasogga. Subs were Dallas for Hernandez (45), Roofe for Alioski (45) and Grot for Saiz (72). Leeds lost 1-0 (73) (first defeat of the season).Attendance was 16,447 with approx. 2,000 Leeds fans.
It didn’t take long to realise that it wasn’t going to be an easy game today as we were under the cosh from the word go. It is always a bad ground to visit with us only having I think one win in nine games there. Millwall also took the lead or so they thought very early on only to have it chalked off for offside. Having looked at a replay later on I think Morison (our ex player) will feel aggrieved it didn’t stand but I was glad he didn’t score against us. Wiedwald had got down for the ball but as he spilled it, Morison had hammed the rebound home. Looking at the replay there was another of our players playing him onside. Wiedwald made up for his error by making many fantastic saves as Millwall continued their onslaught of us. My thoughts of it being a difficult place to come to didn’t change as the game progressed as we were struggling to get any fluency going to attack. Jansson was being kept busy in defence alongside Shaughnessy which was because Millwall were getting through our midfield quite easily which meant constant pressure on the defence. We were also not playing to our own strengths and ended up with the long ball to ease the pressure. When we did play it on the floor we were able to progress up the field better although I can’t remember us having any real chances to score despite a couple of corners. I just wanted us to get to half time on level terms as I knew Christiansen would make some changes. My thoughts were that it was a game that needed battlers and I don’t think Hernandez is that type of player. I also didn’t think Anita was doing very well and neither was Alioski. Personally I would have brought Vieira on for Hernandez and Berardi for Anita. I thought this would give more support to Alioski. We managed to go in the break at 0-0. As I’d come back up into the stand this lad shouted that his mate was a fan of my blog so they got their photos taken surprise, surprise. Also our head steward said “who did I think I was, David Bailey?” I replied that I had to do it didn’t I?
As it was at the start of the second half Hernandez and Alioski came off for Dallas and Roofe and whilst I understood that Christiansen was looking for a speedy attack, unfortunately it didn’t give us the steel in the middle of the park that was required. Millwall carried on where they left off and continued on the attack. Having hit the post they eventually took the lead about 17 minutes from the end of normal time. The ball ran for them in the box at the far end to us and in space their player slotted it home. At that time I thought that because they had scored they may take their feet off the pedal, and that we could still get a draw which would be a good result under the circumstances. Unfortunately 10 minutes from the end Jansson went down injured and we played the last minutes without him as he went off straight down the tunnel. Some fans have said it looks like his hamstring but I’m hoping it was just a precaution. We seem to be having no end of injuries so far this season sadly. It also meant that because we had used all our subs (Grot had come on to replace Saiz) we had to play the final 10 minutes plus four minutes injury time with 10 men. At times we started playing with the ball to our feet but continued to try and walk the ball in so we ended up with our first defeat of the season. Just as their fans were celebrating all the Leeds fans started chanting we were top of the league still so at least it made me feel a little better. I knew the defeat would come at some time but we were out battled and out fought today so it will be a learning curve. We won’t win every game that’s for sure but we will have to pick ourselves up for a better performance than today to get something out of the game. Millwall deserved their win to be honest.
I’d been asked to take a small video clip for Made in Leeds for Monday evening as there will be a phone in. Well technology and I obviously don’t go very well together lol. I was laughed at as I wasn’t actually recording on my phone and after a few attempts I realised it was because there was no memory on it. I’d tried to do something with my camera without success so thanks to my friends I’ve got something now as hopefully they recorded me instead. I had a good laugh at myself too so will need to look at it first to see if it’s any good.
We got a police escort away from the ground but ended up in central London, eerily on Westminster Bridge that had been the scene of a recent terrorist attack. To be honest I was glad to get away from there but there were still plenty of tourists around. The good thing is there were now barriers to prevent vehicles from running people down along both sides of the bridge. By going this way though it also seemed to add time onto our journey. Luckily I went to sleep and woke up just before our stop at Watford Gap. Now to the fella who made comments about my anatomy; I thought I’d travelled back in time to the seventies! In the end I just laughed and walked away shaking my head. Some things never change!
Tuesday sees us head to Burnley for our league cup tie. I had an argument (if you can call it that) with a lad on Twitter who said we should put all our reserves out and get beat 6-0 so we can get knocked out of the cup. Sorry but I don’t agree as winning breeds winning and we saw what happened after the Sutton debacle last season didn’t we? It is also the entry route to Europe again so it would be good for us to win something for once. The lad said getting promotion was the be all and end all but you don’t put all your eggs in one basket and then fail at everything. You have to aspire to do well and although I realise there will be some changes to the team, we have to go all out to win the game. I am a traditionalist, having been brought up with the masters of the game with Don Revie, Billy Bremner and the rest of the team. I know I am privileged to have been there to see the greatest team ever play but Billy was worth his weight in gold as he always gave 110% every game. That is what I want to see from our team today, fighting to win and going all out to give us a good cup run. We may not win it but we have to try! I’m getting a lift in with Jo on Tuesday so hopefully will get to the cricket club early enough to park so may see some of you in there. See you there – LUFC – Marching on Together!
Heidi Haigh a Leeds United supporter of over 50 years; author of Follow Me and Leeds United, Once a Leeds fan, always a Leeds fan and co-author of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Leeds United, Leeds United in the 1980s with Andrew Dalton. My new book The Sleeping Giant Awakens, Leeds United season 2016-2017 will hopefully be out by Christmas 2017!