I’d put my Yorkshire Evening Post Leeds shirt on today as a tribute to the Last Champions – Leeds United in 1992! Being pregnant in those final days I will always have a constant reminder of the year as my daughter Danielle is pictured with her dad and the cup when she was five weeks old. Bring them up as Leeds right from the start and she is still Leeds to this day!
As we headed to Elland Road for our last home game of the season, the sun was trying to come out and warm things up for us but it felt a good day for football. There were five of us today with my other half, two daughters Michelle and Danielle and granddaughter Laura. We’d made arrangements to get there early for once and arrived at Elland Road by 1.30 pm. With a sell-out Leeds crowd it was going to be busy. The Peacock was heaving but I decided to queue up and get a drink and had a chat with a few people I knew. Also a girl spoke to me who had received my first book Follow Me and Leeds United for Christmas so it was nice to get some feedback from her. There was a buzz about the place which was made even better by having a rendition of Marching on Together by the band in the garden just before I left. It never fails to move me when everyone sings along to it. Just as I was leaving I bumped into some of the Norwegians over for the game who were also attending the end of season awards tonight. I normally bump into them on pre-season tours, which shows what fantastic support we have from the region.
As the girls had gone up to the White Hart to meet some of the Halifax lads, I headed into the ground in plenty time to get in a good position for some photos. It was good to see the ground filling up but when fans were still clamouring for tickets, it was a shame to see the away part of the ground with plenty of spaces. It would have been nice to have kept the bottom tier for our fans, although I realise that with some disabled away fans etc this may have caused some issues. As I headed into the stand I’m glad I wasn’t at the top of the stairs as I’d have ended up with a stray ball from the players practising shooting on the pitch on my head! I did end up having a plastic beach ball land on my head when taking photos though! Admittedly that did have Laura in stitches when she saw it! The third thing was ending up with an elbow in my head when we scored later on, oh well things do come in threes they say!
The team today was Green, Ayling, Berardi, Bartley, Jansson, Roofe, Hernandez, O’Kane, Wood, Dallas and Vieira. Subs were Doukara for Dallas, Pedraza for Ayling and Phillips for O’Kane. Attendance was 34,292 with approx. 1,000 Norwich fans. If I’d thought the singing in the Peacock moved me, then that was nothing in comparison to the Marching on Together sung in the ground. With the full ground singing in unison, it was absolutely fantastic to hear. Before the game kicked off we had one minute’s applause for all the Leeds fans that have died over the season which was humbling.
My gut feelings were that we wouldn’t make the play offs but you never know in football. After having a conversation with a Huddersfield fan at work yesterday, I said that anyone can beat anyone in this division. I’d no idea how Norwich had been playing as of late but we were soon to find out. I didn’t even realise that Jonny Howson our ex player was in their team until I saw Norwich getting into the game more and more. His brother Danny travels with our branch to away games so he often chats about him. With 20 minutes on the clock Norwich were making it look easy playing against us. I thought at that time that a single goal would seal the game. As Laura needed to go down to the toilets, I waited at the top of the stairs for her to come back. I had a good view then as another Norwich attack meant we didn’t close them down and a long range shot went hurling into the top of the net. I swore without realising but luckily the steward just smiled at me! When I went to find Laura she said that she didn’t want to come back and watch the game which was an indication of how things were going on the pitch. We’d got back up to our seats when before we knew it we were two goals down. The reality at that time showed just how far away we are from going up and to be honest; I didn’t want to see this happen week in week out no matter how loyal a supporter I am! With Norwich nearly getting a third shortly afterwards it was tough to watch then before they did actually score to make it 3-0! With a minute of injury time on the clock we got an important goal when Wood seemed to be totally on his own with loads of space in the box, to put the ball into the net in front of the South Stand. Just before half time meant we weren’t totally down and out and could herald a comeback in the second half.
At half time my daughter Michelle told Laura a song that she’d to sing. We’re going to win 4-3! When we left to go back in the stands Margaret said that we’d go for the 4-3 then! Well the team must have heard that too because we put up a tremendous fight back in the second half. Talk about a tale of two halves! As we attacked the goal in front of us from a Hernandez comer, Norwich looked to have cleared the ball off the line before Bartley put it into the net to send the Leeds fans into raptures. The volume at this time was deafening as was the thought of getting back into this game showed it was far from over.
Norwich started getting back into the game and Green denied them with a good couple of saves. With Leeds on the attack again Berardi was brought down on the edge of the box and it took ages before the free kick was taken. Berardi trying to get the ball off their time wasting players got involved in an altercation that had a few handbags thrown about. From the resulting perfect free kick from Hernandez the ball went sailing into the back of the net to equalise. Again fantastic scenes as that 4-3 score line became a reality. As it was, Norwich nearly got that score when they came close. Despite them having a player sent off in the last couple of minutes plus six minutes injury time we had to settle for the draw.
I was really glad we had that fightback in the second half as it gave us something to believe in. If it have ended at half time with the score 3-1 it would have been gutting. I’d had a few people come up to me today saying that they read my blogs and looked forward to reading them. All I can say is a big thank you to each and every one of you who does read them or have their photos taken. I write as a fan on behalf of fans everywhere of a football experience that takes us up and down the country following our team. The sacrifices many fans make is absolutely fantastic and the things they have to do to follow Leeds at times is incredible. I must say I was so sorry to hear Brian Searson who attends every Leeds game from Cornwall couldn’t make the game today despite having tickets. To hear his car had broken down was really sad to hear when so much effort is put in to following Leeds. Laura enjoyed the second half and was cheering Leeds on. She also had her photos taken with some of the police and got the honour of wearing their hats! Talking of hats she even pinched my beret at one point to be a mini me but I was glad when I got it back as I realised it wasn’t that warm!
Before the end of the game Leeds had put a notice up on the screen but I thought it was really bad PR when it said that anyone going onto the playing field would get an automatic one year ban. Now fair enough they want to keep fans off the pitch but if we had achieved the play offs today, denying everyone celebrating with the team is off in my opinion. Others may disagree but when I think back to our promotion against Bristol Rovers there were some fantastic scenes and celebrations that day on the pitch! We waited for the team to come around the pitch and we’d seen that Howson and Phillips had exchanged shirts. Howson then proceeded to come and clap the Kop and then the South Stand. You’re Leeds and you know you are Jonny!!
At the end of the game I met up with my sister, niece and children at our usual meeting place at the crèche and stood for ages catching up. I wondered why the police horses started heading our way as we stood near Billy’s statue but as usual I was oblivious to goings on, as I had missed the police escorting someone to one of the vans on Lowfields Road. I’m not sure what had happened for him to be arrested, but as it was long after the game had ended there hadn’t really been anything going on along Elland Road that I could see. After Laura had further photos taken with the police when she told them that someone had been arrested, she said this had been the best day of her life! Out of the mouths of babes, as they say! Different reasons for some of us though.
Listening to BBC Radio Leeds on the way home with Monk and Bartley being interviewed, it was telling that both said they had had no contact from the club regarding contracts. Bartley was saying that he was still a Swansea player but would not stay anyway if Monk wasn’t here. Radrizzani’s potential 100% takeover is completing on 1st June 2017, which is when we will know what direction the club is taking. What we have achieved this season has been fantastic compared with those of late and we have to build on this. Monk and players like Bartley and Jansson for starters are required for us to move on and have a good chance of automatic promotion next season. We cannot have no continuity and start again as we have done nearly every year over the past few years. We need to build to give us a chance and now is the time for the club to show that they believe in that vision too. For too long Leeds fans have been used as a cash cow for their fantastic loyalty and now need to see some return on that loyalty. As we are now mathematically not going into the play offs, the 14,500 season ticket holders including myself who renewed before end of May last year will get refunds of 25%. The club who hadn’t sent out the forms needed to claim this back despite saying they had to be back at the club by tomorrow the 30th April deadline, said they will deal with them next week. Apparently they had been forgotten with us being in a play-off place for so long! I will take them at their word as long as this is forthcoming and woe betide there are any problems with fans getting this refund. I’m sure it will all work out fine in the long run though. Some of us including myself have already renewed our season tickets for next year despite not knowing whether the refunds would be forthcoming or not.
Next week sees our final day at the early kick off away game at Wigan. Despite everything being over for promotion I am looking forward to a great day out with other Leeds fans. Our fans are what makes this club and this is the first team under Monk for ages, that has given us belief again and connected us with the club. This is the basis for moving on with a team that gets it and are proud to play for Leeds and knows what it means to the fans. It’s over to the club now to get it too!! As Bartley said in his interview, onwards and upwards, see you next week LUFC – Marching on Together!