It wouldn’t be Leeds United without more controversy happening at the club. With a post season tour to Myanmar formerly Burma on the cards, my first instincts were of fear for the fans as I thought the Foreign Office had banned all travel there due to the unrest and atrocities going on in the country. That wasn’t the case as it turned out to be, as it is deemed safe where Leeds are going. Although there is no way I can go there due to cost and having no holidays, I’m not sure whether I would have gone if given the opportunity. My niece visited the region last year and having seen photos from her trip, I can only hope that the people living there get the chance to have some normality. As a group of our most loyal supporters will be going, I wish them all a safe journey.
As I headed to Elland Road for the coach with the Greatest Showman CD once again blaring out in my car that had me singing along, the sun started to come out, making me feel really upbeat and looking forward to our trip to Norwich. Our coach was already there when I arrived at the ground and we got off on time heading for our stop at Thetford. After leaving Leeds in sunshine, even though there was a nip in the air it felt a lovely day for football. Unfortunately it didn’t take long for the weather to deteriorate as the rain came down. We had Fiona Hanley the Leeds United SLO travelling with us today. She had been given an invitation to travel with us to see first-hand the obstacles and distances our disabled fans had to cope with getting to the coaches after games.
The Nottingham Whites and Worksop Whites were already there when we arrived at the pub and the couple of hours stop passed by in an instance. Our group was reminiscing as usual which ensured we had a good laugh. A loud bang made us jump out of our skins as we saw a young Leeds lad who had tried balancing his chair on two legs unsuccessfully, hit the floor with a bang. I thought at first he’d knocked himself out but luckily or unlucky for him, he’d only hurt his knee. I did ask him if he was okay and he thanked me for asking.
We took the opportunity to get off the coach right outside the ground as we were dropping a couple of our fans off and after our search outside the ground went to the turnstile. When a steward saw me with my bag he asked if I wanted to go through an open door at the side instead of having a battle with the turnstile which I gratefully accepted. I do have visions of getting stuck in one someday but hopefully it stays a vision and doesn’t really happen lol!
I had brought my flag with but thought I wouldn’t get a chance to put it on show today, as last year I was only allowed to put it up at the back of the stand but had nothing to attach it to. It was a pleasant surprise to be able to put it onto the netting over the first few rows so put it near to where Paul, Reuben and also Dave were sitting. I then headed to my seat which was a few rows from the back of the stand. I fail to understand why Leeds seem to put the away season ticket holders as far away from the pitch as possible? Unfortunately I puffed and panted up the stairs showing how unfit I am. At least we were dry up there although my friend Sue said she never got warm all game but staying in the stand at half time probably didn’t help. I’d taken some photos of the Flintstones and other characters already today as a few fans had dressed up for the occasion with this being the last away game of the season.
The team today was Peacock-Farrell, Pearce, Cooper, Jansson, Pennington, Alioski, Saiz, Vieira, Phillips, Roofe and Hernandez (just signed a new two year contract). Subs were Grot for Alioski (70), Forshaw for Vieira (74) and Lasogga for Pearce (83). Leeds lost the game 2-1 after taking a lead with a fantastic volley from Phillips (39). Attendance was 26,869 with approx. 3,000 Leeds fans. I was very disappointed to see that O’Connor had been dropped with the recall of Cooper. Whilst nothing against Cooper, we should have stuck with the young ones as we should be building the team around them.
After an initial early chance we found ourselves under attack quite a few times but then we’d gain possession of the ball and race to the other end. The linesman in front of us was never up with play and missed no end of offside decisions for Norwich and the first time he eventually put his flag up was on 42 minutes. We hadn’t been able to have a real chance of scoring though and many times we started passing back to the goalie something we hadn’t done so much as of late when Cooper has been out injured. A change of tactics perhaps but I will always maintain that the best form of defence is attack. To me Hernandez was showing the signing of a new contract syndrome with really bad passing but he wasn’t the only one. On 36 minutes we took a surprise lead when the ball came back out to Phillips on the edge of the area who volleyed a perfect shot into the bottom of the net. That was a fantastic goal but as usual we shot ourselves in the foot just before half time. We had a corner but wasted it only for Norwich to gain the impetus from our failing by attacking us and sadly despite Peacock-Farrell’s great effort found the ball in our net after in came off the inside of the posts. I initially thought that was a narrow escape only to see the ball cross the line for them to equalise right on half time. What a bummer! Why can’t we actually keep a lead without conceding more or less straight away? It was a bitter blow and the timing was crucial too giving Norwich hope.
At half time I went downstairs and saw lots of fans for photos. A big thank you once again for those who say they love reading my blog. As always the comments are greatly appreciated. After watching some of our younger fans have a good time singing Leeds songs, I went back up for the second half not realising we had already kicked off. After stopping to chat to someone I knew on the way back up to my seat, I stayed there for a while but as we kept encroaching on the stairway and being asked to get back into the row of seats, I thought I’d better return to my seat.
To be honest the second half was dire in comparison to the first as I had high hopes we could win today. Peacock-Farrell got my man of the match having made some vital saves once again. Sadly we stood off Norwich instead of closing them down which was the worst thing we could do. The next thing they had a powerful shot that beat Peacock-Farrell to put them into the lead. It didn’t feel like we could get anything from the game then sadly although we should have had a penalty for a blatant handball which even I saw! There were wide open spaces down the far side of the pitch as Norwich attacked the stand to our left. I was very disappointed to hear Heckingbottom blaming Pearce for leaving lots of space down the wing which encouraged Norwich to attack. He is in defence so where was our midfield protecting him???? When Grot was brought on for Alioski there were chants of “you don’t know what you’re doing”. Alioski had been chasing the ball and putting some tackles in so personally I wouldn’t have subbed him plus with his height, I thought why is Grot on the wing anyway? We had a couple more chances late in the game but nothing good enough sadly. Unfortunately the gallows humour from the Leeds fans came back to haunt us all. To be honest when some of our fans sang how sh*t must you be we’re winning away, I thought it was much too early to be singing it which proved to be the case.
It was very disappointing to see the team, despite clapping the fans, not come anywhere near us. The only one who did was Alioski and fair play to him. He gave his bench coat to a young Leeds lass, who had written a sign, in Macedonian I presume. He also gave his tracky top away so well done Alioski for showing the others what they should have been doing. I’d gone to get my flag from the front of the stand and found it absolutely saturated showing how much it had rained.
Fiona Hanley got first-hand experience of what our disabled fans have to put up with. Just as we were pulling away from the coach park, I pointed out Ian from the Griffin branch being assisted by a couple of police back to his coach. It was far too long a distance for the lad on our coach too. For the sake of using one of the police vans, surely they could be taken back to their coaches in relatively comfort rather than having to struggle? We had a short stop on the way back but we actual came a shorter route back so were at Elland Road by 9.30 pm. Luckily for me I slept most of the way back too plus whilst trying to write this blog! I couldn’t believe it when I got on the M621 to come home only to find I’d to come off at the next junction for road works. Detours, detours the story of Leeds fans lives!
There was lots of summing things up at the end of the game and not very complimentary from some fans. We look to be heading for our “normal” end of season place of 15th at this moment in time. Whatever happens for our last game at home next week against QPR, the stats for our performances or should I say none performances, make dismal reading since Boxing Day. We can thank Thomas Christiansen for at least getting us enough points from our early run because without that, we’d be down and out again from this division but in the wrong direction.
We have a big summer ahead of us and we really need to change things but how, I don’t really know anymore. See you next week 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