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Firstly my latest book Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United has gone to print and should be out in the next few weeks, just in time for Christmas presents for the Leeds fan in your life or you! If anyone wants one, please let me know so I can make sure I have enough copies on me. It will be priced at £12.99 for those interested. It was also nice to receive a copy of the football magazine StaanTribune. Seeing my name in there after an interview I’d done last season was good to see although because it wasn’t in English I couldn’t read it, oops!
When my alarm went off at the unearthly hour of 4.43am I thought you stupid sod you’ve set it too early. It then dawned on me that it was right after all as we were leaving Leeds at 6.30am 30 minutes earlier than last week. As I’d still to travel in to Leeds for the coach I’d allowed plenty of time to get there. As it was with very limited traffic on the roads I arrived in plenty of time so headed to McDonalds. A workman asked me what the score would be and if I got it right he’d buy me a breakfast next time. I told him that I didn’t predict scores as I always get them wrong but in response to his 2-1 to Leeds I went with a 2-0 win. There again as long as Leeds get the win and three points I will be happy as I don’t care how we do it. It was nice chatting to Phil and others from the Griffin branch before I left for the coach. As I left, the workman repeated he’d buy me a breakfast if the score was right. As usual I got the score wrong hence why I don’t normally predict them and although the workman got it right it wasn’t in our favour sadly.
After a stop in Bexley Heath in good company with plenty of recuperation talking, we headed to the ground. It was quite a surprise to hear that we weren’t having a rendezvous with the police on the common this year but would be making our own way in. As long as they have police outside the pub where we turn right to the ground there shouldn’t be any concerns. As it was once we hit the common my stomach churning began even though we had no issues, even arriving at the ground before the turnstiles opened.
After putting my flag up at the back of the stand it was nice chatting to fans and thank you for the comments about my blog. Also thank you to Martin for buying my first book Follow Me and Leeds United as your support is greatly appreciated. I left my daughter Danielle chatting to fans downstairs whilst I went to get some photos of the team on the pitch. When I eventually re-joined her she thought I’d got lost! Before going back up in to the stand there were plenty of fans asking for their photos taken which was good.
The team: Casilla, Berardi, White, Ayling, Dallas, Bamford, Harrison, Phillips, Alioski, Costa and Klich. Subs: Douglas for Costa (45), Nketiah for Bamford (62) and Roberts for Phillips (76). Leeds lost the game 2-1 with Alioski scoring the Leeds goal (46). Attendance was 16,311 with 2,221 Leeds fans.
With a baying crowd behind them, Millwall started on the attack seemingly spurred on by their manager leaving. I’d tried to banish negative thoughts about their performance so far this season because there was no doubt in my mind that they would raise their game as they were playing Leeds as per usual. Although Dallas had two shots neither were on target. The game turned on its head 15 minutes into the game when their player went down in the penalty area in front of us. After awarding a penalty with Berardi given his marching orders, we were up against it when their player hit the ball into the net with Casilla going the wrong way. The referee was being really harsh with Casilla saying he had to go back and stay with his feet on the line, in the end he stepped back over the line to see if he’d be happy with that! Later, social media was in uproar when it showed their player appear to dive with Berardi not touching him. As it all happened so quick I thought I’d missed the actual challenge but it was right in front of the referee so he’d no excuses. He should have evened things up for us when Harrison had his leg taken from under him in the penalty area at the far end, only this time the referee ignored the plea! For the rest of the first half Leeds were up against it having to regroup but this half belonged to Millwall. We weren’t really in it during the first half as Millwall kept attacking and Casilla was forced to make a save to keep them out. Just before half-time though catastrophe struck when Leeds were unable to clear the cross and they got their second goal. We looked down and out at that time and had an uphill battle on our hands.
As I went downstairs I met Danielle and she said it had all been kicking off on the stairs. Apparently the stewards and police were trying to target Leeds fans who had made gestures back at the Millwall fans and were trying to kick them out. With the Millwall fans being their normal vile selves by making stabbing gestures, singing Galatasary, where were you in Istanbul?, always look out for Turks carrying knives, it was no wonder the Leeds fans had reacted to them. On the way to the ground I’d read about Millwall being abroad recently which ended with one fan seriously stabbed, a few more stabbed and others beaten up and put in hospital. Why they think revelling in the deaths of our two lads when they were close to it happening with their own fans is beyond me? We had been stood outside the doors to the stand which had been opened for smokers when all of a sudden beer went flying as things started kicking off again. One man had just bought two full pints which were knocked out of his hands and straight over him so was dripping wet. Obviously he wasn’t happy especially as he’d just spent the money to get them in the first place.
We went back up in to the stand just before the second half kicked off. Wasn’t I glad we’d made that decision because within 16 seconds Leeds had pulled a goal back through Alioski. Harrison had beaten his man on the left of us to cross the ball into the middle where Alioski had loads of space to bang the ball into the net. The lads didn’t celebrate though as they got straight on with the game. Douglas had come on in place of Costa at the start of the second half to give us a bit more steel as he had been very lightweight and not up to battling in my opinion. Although Leeds kept attacking, Millwall also hadn’t given up and came close with Casilla called into action once again. As Millwall backed off we continued to attack and I thought Leeds would get something out of the game then. I though Phillips looked impressive at the back and it was a shame we’d been reduced to 10 men. It was funny seeing Phillips and Ayling’s arm signals to the Bench who were all doing the same. Sadly our finishing wasn’t good enough to come close to scoring though. As Millwall continued with their time wasting tactics their keeper surpassed himself. He should have taken the goal kick in front of us but instead walked around the whole goal and then got back to the same place he started from. It took until the 80th minute approx. for him to be booked. The worst thing was the linesman was watching the keeper do all this but just ignored it and the referee was walking back to the middle not even watching. There was even no added time for timewasting which was a surprise. It may have made no difference to the score line but definitely should have been added. I was surprised to see Nketiah coming on as I wasn’t sure a battling game was for him. He did a few good moves then didn’t really get into the game for me. Once again though, I feel that Bielsa’s last substitution with 14 minutes to go was a big mistake. To take Phillips off when he’d been involved in so much of the play didn’t make sense. Whether there were any injury worries or if it was tactical to bring Roberts on, it didn’t work for me. All that did was give Millwall the impetus to put us back under constant pressure which woke their crowd up again. We had the odd break away but not enough to really trouble Millwall as we never got to grips with the game after that especially as Phillips had been the king pin at the back of the defence for me. For the majority of the second half we had had the upper hand and made Millwall defend. I’d have liked to have seen us keep that shape and attack till nearer the end of the game because we had more chance of a goal at that time but didn’t look like scoring once the subs were made.
As I went to get my flag the final whistle blew and Leeds had suffered their third defeat of the season with London not being a happy hunting ground for us once again. I still don’t like coming to this ground which still lives in a third world. The Ladies toilets were a disgrace they wouldn’t flush, the sinks had only cold water and as for the hand driers…. what a waste of space they were as they wouldn’t dry if I’d have stayed there for a month of Sundays!
The longer the trip home took, the more down and demoralised I felt. Our 10 men had battled in the second half but I felt the later substitutions impacted on our game and stopped our attacking. With people falling out left, right and centre I couldn’t wait to get back home after a long day of 18 hours and put this game behind us. I am glad we have got a break next week before our Centenary home game against Birmingham. It is still early days so let’s see what happens next. See you then – 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