By 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, Leeds United in the 1980s
- The Sleeping Giant Awakens, Leeds United 2016-17
- OUT SOON!Back to Reality, Leeds United 2017-18
Forest Green Rovers away 17th July 2018 at New Lawn
Welcome back to the start of the new season and especially those fans who love reading my blogs and having their photos taken. Last season’s blog has just been turned into a new book which has been sent to the publisher and will be out very soon. It is titled Back to Reality, Leeds United 2017-18 and includes over 150 photos/collages of the fans I’ve met on our travels and the team. I will have a quota of books to sell myself priced at £12.99. If you want to meet me at a game to buy an autographed copy then please let me know and I will arrange to meet you. The book will also be available on Amazon and hopefully the club shop once again.
As soon as the pre-season programme was announced, I could see it was going to be a very expensive time with six games in quick succession. As they were all based in this country it also meant a lot of travelling. Forest Green Rovers was the first game that beckoned as this was also a new ground to go to for me. LUSC Fullerton Park and LUSC South Kirkby (both Leeds United Supporters’ Club branches) joined together to travel to the game so it was a trip straight there and back. After a good journey down I waited outside the turnstiles whilst others went into the beer tent outside the away end. After chatting to a few fans that I knew I decided to walk around the ground. As I got to the far end I realised the team had just arrived so headed to the players’ entrance. It was noticeable that some of the youngsters looked apprehensive on seeing a group of Leeds fans waiting for them to get off the coach, but they’ll soon get used to it.
It was good to be back amongst our fans with lots of familiar faces having their photos taken. As I headed to the turnstiles, I changed my mind as to which one I was going through as I knew I couldn’t be searched by a male steward. Another girl came across to my queue and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing as the male steward had told her that she couldn’t take her contraceptive pill in! Well I’ve heard it all now, unbelievable. After a search of my bags I was asked if I’d any keys so I replied yes my car and house keys. I wondered why they were included in the search and then remembered, I’d seen an email recently saying a new weapon was appearing on the streets which was a key with a blade inside it.
I put my flag up behind the goal and stood with my friends the Bournemouth and Southampton Whites who are great company in readiness for kickoff. With our new manager Marcelo Bielsa recently installed, the team have been training hard under his management and were due to play the full 90 minutes. Personally I thought that was good to hear, as our fitness levels and bad long term injuries were a cause of concern for me last season.
The team was: Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Luke Ayling, Liam Cooper, Adam Forshaw, Pablo Hernandez, Samuel Saiz, Ezgjan Allioski, Kemar Roofe, Stuart Dallas, Gaetano Berardi, and Kalvin Phillips. Attendance was 3,250 with 1,161 Leeds fans. Leeds won the game 2-1 with goals from Roofe (16) and Ayling (25).
As the team was made up of the same players we had at the end of last season, at least it meant I knew who was who. In the pre-season games it is normally very hard for me to work the players out especially as I never get a programme anymore, so I need names and numbers on shirts to remind me. We raced into a two goal lead very early on when Roofe scored our first goal of the season in the 16th minute followed shortly by Ayling scoring his first goal for us I believe. Right on half time Forest Green Rovers pulled one back as Peacock-Farrell was beaten by a shot in the top right hand corner, right in front of us.
As I was speaking to some of our fans the conversation turned to my blogs. I said I hadn’t been sure if I should put last year’s blog into a book before deciding to go ahead with it. Mark said that what I was doing was important; my blog is one of a few that is written about the fan experience and showing what they go through to support their team. That was so nice to hear and I really appreciate the support as it makes me feel that doing this is worthwhile, as well as sharing my experiences of watching games over a 50+ year span.
As this game was the start of getting ready for the actual season to begin I wasn’t expecting too much. I did like the yellow shirts and blue shorts as there was something about them being in pristine condition that stood out for me. It was also good to be back amongst our fans and catch up with lots of them. Due to a 7pm kick off and despite a detour to South Kirkby we made good time getting back to Leeds although I slept most of the way back.
York City away 19th July 2018 at Bootham Crescent
I was struggling to get any enthusiasm for my football due to a workload that has overwhelmed me and made me feel I couldn’t do it anymore. I am grateful that I have a chance to recharge my batteries over the summer holiday period. I had driven to the game and managed to get a good parking spot on a nearby street and as I was there early, I headed to the players’ entrance. Stix who co-ordinates the team and events waved to me from an upstairs window just before the team coach arrived. I thought there was no chance that the coach would be able to get into the area behind the stand but the driver reversed into it with no problems. I decided to film the players getting off the coach and as expected, there were a lot of the youngsters for this game as it was only two days after the Forest Green game. Bielsa had his photo taken with a young Leeds fan and then two friends of his arrived. He didn’t hear me shout him but the girl tapped him on the shoulder and he came back for a photo with me.
I spoke to a few fans and took some photos then found out my mum and sister were at Clifton Bingo so headed there to see them before coming back to the ground. I didn’t even realise I was in the seats so decided to sit on the front row as I was having severe issues with my feet with pain that came on suddenly at the weekend. It meant I couldn’t weight bare for a while and as it still hadn’t settled down it was the best thing to do. As the game kicked off Leeds fans behind the goal started singing they couldn’t get in the stand as it was overcrowded at the top as they came up the stairs.
The team was: Kamil Miazek, Tom Pearce, Laurens De Bock, Jamie Shackleton, Yosuke Ideguchi, Ronaldo Vieira, Lewis Baker (making his first appearance after signing on loan from Chelsea), Mateusz Klich, Jack Clarke, Jordan Stevens and Ryan Edmondson. Score was 1-1 with Sam Dalby scoring for Leeds (58). Attendance was 4,400 with approx. 2,000 Leeds fans.
I knew Vieira was playing but had no idea until after the game that Klich had played as I didn’t bother putting my glasses on. I need to start looking on my phone for the starting lineup I think as that may help too. York took the lead on 24 minutes after they had come out strongly and initially we struggled to get any momentum going. It felt that the first half was more of Bielsa seeing some of the youngsters playing who are part of the development squad. Eventually we started getting into the game more and I hoped the fitness levels would help us to improve. We went into the break 1-0 down although Shackleton was unlucky not to score an equaliser just before the whistle blew.
I’d hung my flag up at the side of the stand but just before half time the lad behind me said it had fallen down. I went to get it then as I realised fans had decided to untie it so they could see when queuing up for food. I’d not given that a thought so I moved it to the front of the stand instead.
The second half started with three changes made, Will Huffer replaced Miazek, Sam Dalby for Stevens and Hugo Diaz for Edmondson. The substitutions made a difference to our performance as the second half belonged to Leeds. Shackleton made some great runs down the side in front of us, beating his man to the bye line numerous times. Clarke also showed great potential with an impressive performance. After York hitting the crossbar it was our turn to do the same with Klich’s shot before Dalby put the rebound in to equalise for Leeds. It may have been a 1-1 draw but there were positives to take with some of the individual performances.
This is probably our last visit to Bootham Crescent as York should be moving to a Community Stadium slightly out of town. We always have a good turnout of fans at this fixture and it is always a ground I relished visiting as I used to live near Selby. After we had played in the European Cup Final in Paris, my friend Sue and I went to see York play man u there wearing all our Leeds colours. Some of their fans came from Barnsley as did some of the Leeds fans so we stood with the lads we knew.
I was so tired on the way home that I had to pull over three times but better to do it that way and get home safely. Sunday is a very early start with our visit to Southend for our third game in a week so see you there.
Southend United away 22nd July 2018 at Roots Hall
I didn’t realise that we were travelling by minibus to this one with Roy driving us there. We left Leeds at 7am as it was a 2pm kickoff and after a short stop at Cambridge services arrived to a very warm Southend. Initially we were going to walk to the sea front but we decided we didn’t have enough time to get there and back. As my feet were still giving me trouble it wouldn’t have been a good idea. We were directed to the pub near the ground that was for away fans only and it was good to see it had a Leeds scarf hung up behind the bar and Leeds coloured bunting. It turned out the landlady Michelle was a Leeds fan and so were her parents. Thanks for buying my book Follow Me and Leeds United and I look forward to feedback in due course. Michelle later shared some great photos that her parents had of meeting some Leeds players. It was good to see Rudi and his son who had come from Norway for the game. It is always good to catch up with the Bergen Whites at our pre-season games.
After talking for ages with fans we headed back to the ground where I hung my flag at the back of the stand. As there was a danger of “flying balls” I decided I would be safer sat behind the goal so joined Andrew and some others. It was roasting and my knees were on fire but it was nice to have some good weather.
The team was: Peacock-Farrell, Ayling, Cooper, De Bock (Tyler Roberts 62 making his debut after his transfer in January but had been injured since arriving), Berardi, Forshaw, Phillips, Alioski, Saiz, Dallas and Roofe. Score was 1-1 with Ayling scoring his second goal in two games (34). Attendance was 3,815 with 988 Leeds fans.
Leeds played with yellow shirts and blue shorts and I found the kits very appealing as they looked pristine. This was another game where Leeds went 1-0 down after 20 minutes and Southend came close to scoring a second. Once again Ayling came to the rescue scoring his second goal in two games to equalise just before half time. It was good to see Roberts making his debut eventually too. We came close a couple of times in the final stages of the second half with their goalie making a double save and another kicking one off the line, but the game ended in a draw.
It was nice to have one of their stewards come and ask the Leeds fans if they wanted their water bottles filling up as well as their own stewards. I had been grateful to have a bottle of coke brought for me unexpectedly at half time by one of the lads sat near me. As he’d brought the others in the group a drink he brought me one too so thank you.
We had a good run back to Leeds without stopping after a delayed get away due to three of our group not being able to find the minibus. Our next game is Oxford away on Tuesday so see you there.
Oxford away 24th July 2018 at the Kassam Stadium
I was looking forward to visiting Oxford’s new ground today having visited the Manor ground in the past. I had treated my daughter Dani to the game today as she’s had a tough time recently so it was time to chill out and enjoy getting back to the football. After doing a detour to pick her up we arrived at Elland Road in good time for the coach. Fullerton Park Supporters’ Club were sharing a coach with the South Kirkby branch again. We parked up then after a quick visit to Howard’s bar for the shop, we returned to the car. On our way back past Billy’s statue we saw that the old signs from the shop had been taken down along with the old railings, as they were being replaced with the refurbishment of the club shop. I would have loved to have taken them home but one, my car isn’t big enough and two, Dani said there was nowhere they could they go lol!
We were then stopped by a couple of interviewers from Calendar who were at Elland Road due to the death of Paul Madeley yesterday. Paul was an integral part of the great Don Revie side and part of the best team ever that I was privileged to have seen. Having signed a blank contract as he only wanted to play for Leeds; sadly they don’t make players like him anymore. RIP Tank and thank you for the memories.
We had a stop at a club in Bicester before getting to the ground at 7pm. It was weird seeing only three stands built at the moment which I assumed was due to financial restraints but may be wrong on that score. There was a sizeable amount of Leeds fans there for this pre-season friendly which was good to see. I put my flag on display at the bottom of the stand. As I tried to shake the flag out I inadvertently caught my camera case, threw it over my head and knocked my beret off in the process. A big thank you to the Leeds fan (he said he’d touched the great flag) and the steward for helping me put the flag up. There is no hope for me but luckily the camera still worked thank goodness. That would have been catastrophic for me because as well as the Leeds games, I have a five day trip to Berlin with my granddaughter Hannah in between the games to look forward to.
As usual I was talking to lots of people downstairs and it was good to see the Hampshire Whites. I then saw Collar and Tony who I’d missed at the Forest Green game so managed to see them and have a chat. It was good to catch up with them and reminisce about Tony’s Leeds United painted Capri car. The troubles he encountered in the past through parking it outside Supporters’ Clubs or in car parks at away games was quite funny, although they weren’t at the time. Because we were talking so much we missed the teams coming out so I was late getting photos of the Leeds mascot and the junior football team of one of our Oxford Whites. Luckily I got some photos of the mascot in the centre of the pitch and the team in the stand opposite. Today also saw Radrizzani was back at a game and as many fans are getting increasingly worried about our lack of transfer activity, sadly it has seen a lot of nastiness on social media. Personally I haven’t given up hope as yet as there is still time with the transfer window being open and the loan window open until the end of August. There is still time until the fat lady sings (so the saying goes); once the windows are shut, that’s when we will see what our ambitions as a club are.
The team was: Will Huffer, Tom Pearce, Hugo Diaz, Mateusz Klich, Jamie Shackleton, Ronaldo Vieira, Yosuke Ideguchi, Lewis Baker, Sam Dalby, Oriol Rey and Jack Clarke. Subs were Jamal Blackman (making his debut after his season long loan from Chelsea) for Huffer (45), Tyler Roberts for Ideguchi (45) and Ryan Edmondson for Dalby (45). Leeds lost 4-3 with goals from Roberts (54), Baker (63) and Clarke (71). Attendance was 4,772 including 1,335 Leeds fans. Leeds were to wear black armbands for Paul Madeley today but it looked like Oxford were the only ones wearing them which was sad really.
The team today was made up of lots of our youngsters; sadly the first half was over before it begun as Oxford scored on six minutes after Pearce, chasing his own pass, was unable to get to the ball first resulting in Oxford taking the lead. They were two up very soon with a third goal before half time. Booed off the pitch by some fans we looked down and out.
As we went downstairs at half time we heard that they had run out of food and it would be 15 minutes after half time before there would be anymore. Apparently Oxford had panicked after hearing thousands of Leeds fans were coming to the game and sent for our stewards to attend.
Luckily for us, our subs at the start of the second half saw a tale of two halves and I really enjoyed the second half which also saw a goal glut. Roberts scored in the 54th minute but then Oxford scored a goal that was marginally offside but was given. If we thought Leeds were down and out we were mistaken, as Shackleton crossed for Baker to score. When Edmondson put the ball into the net for our third goal, this was disallowed for offside. Replays later showed this shouldn’t have been disallowed. When Clarke scored what would have been our fourth goal, the correct score should have been 4-3 to us and not the other way around. I wasn’t too despondent at the end of the game though, because we had played well in the second half plus we showed we could score goals which are always a plus sign.
I was glad I wasn’t at work the next day as we got back to Leeds late. By the time I dropped Dani off at her house, it was 4am when I got back to mine. Our next game is Guiseley on Thursday so it feels like I’ve had no time in between games but see you there.
Guiseley away 26th July 2018 at Nethermoor Park
I picked my daughter Dani up and we headed straight to Elland Road to see my Bremner stone. Norman Hunter, Eddie Gray and Peter Lorimer had the honour of opening the square and when I saw the videos of this, I realised Norman (I think he was the one as I can’t find the video now) was standing more or less on my stone. We found my stone in a prominent position in front of Billy and I am so happy. A big thank you to my family once again, for getting me this present for Christmas. We hadn’t been there long before it started spitting with rain. Dani decided she was going back to the car as I carried on looking around thinking a bit of rain won’t harm me! Well that thought changed very quickly as the heavens opened with a torrential downpour. With that I headed back to the car to join Dani and we decided to go straight to Guiseley to avoid rush hour traffic.
We were there very early but parked up, headed back to the Station Pub and then sat outside with some other fans that we knew. It was very hot, we had a real laugh and they were great company. When we heard a massive crack of thunder I got very nervous but the storm stayed in the distance and it didn’t rain. We headed back to the ground and I was going to get my Leeds United umbrella out of the car but weather forecasts were conflicting with one saying more storms or none at all. We decided to go with the latter and decided to stand outside the stand waiting for the team coach to arrive. It was nice to catch up with Dave (Les Cocker’s son) along with his son Lee and grandson. Getting a photo of three generations of a Leeds legend was humbling and I’m glad I was able to do this.
I hung my flag up next to the players’ tunnel and then we decided to stay where we were rather than go to sit down in the stand to the left of us. That turned out to be a big mistake because just as kickoff approached, the thunder cracked in the distance once more but the torrential rain came. As the rain bounced off the dry terraces we found our feet covered in dirt once it stopped. We felt sorry for the football teams and dance team who were all lined up on the pitch ready for the guard of honour, but they were troopers despite being soaked through.
The team was: Blackman, Shackleton, De Bock, Diaz, Pearce, Klich, Vieira, Clarke, Baker, Roberts and Edmondson. Subs were Stevens for Roberts (38), Rey for Diaz (68) and Dalby for Edmondson (72). Attendance was a sell-out 3,366 with Leeds and Guiseley fans mixing all over the ground.
Once again we found ourselves a goal down after three minutes then two goals down after 29. I thought here we go again but I remembered last year when Guiseley had taken a lead that we got back into the game. When Klich scored just before half time at least we had a chance of getting back into the game. Clarke brought us level four minutes into the second half, then Edmondson scored twice before Guiseley pulled one back but we won the game 4-3. At the end of the game there was a pitch invasion as loads of young kids ran onto the pitch to see the players. The young lad next to us was man handled by a female steward and pushed back over the fence. When there were loads of others already on the pitch it seemed over the top. Some of the players engaged well with the pitch invaders and took a long time to come off the pitch but it was good to see. The female steward then threw a group of Leeds youths out of the ground as they sang “We’ll never be mastered, by no Guiseley b*****ds” saying you can’t do that here. Apparently she had been man handling a lot of the kids and angered some of our fans. It was a friendly after all!
We called at my nephew’s house nearby after the game and then I headed home to Halifax via Wakefield as I’m a good mum!! Our last pre-season game takes place at Elland Road on Sunday against Las Palmas before the season starts for real with our game against Stoke. There seems to be some transfer dealings going on in the background and indeed they have, as today 28th July the transfer of Barry Douglas (left-back) from Wolves has just been announced. I look forward to catching up with old and new friends so see you there. LUFC – Marching on Together!
Las Palmas 29th July 2018 at Elland Road
It was a family affair today as I brought two of my daughters Michelle and Dani plus my three granddaughters Hannah, Laura and Alexis to the game. We had decided to go in early to the game and call at the White Rose beforehand as we thought it easier for the girls to get their dinners at McDonalds. It turned out that the White Rose was shut due to an evacuation test that had gone wrong so we ended up at Birstall instead.
After a trip to the Peacock we went into the ground and for once all our tickets were in the same stand as Michelle, Laura and Alexis were right at the front of the Kop whilst Dani, Hannah and I went to our normal places. I hadn’t been able to buy one of our season ticket seats as it said online that it had been bought by family and friends. It turned out to be an empty seat so I reckon there must have been a blip on the system.
The team were: Peacock-Farrell, Ayling, Berardi, Cooper, Dallas, Phillips, Vieira, Alioski, Saiz, Hernandez, Roofe. Subs were Baker for Vieira (45), Klich for Saiz (45), Roberts for Alioski (64) and Shackleton subbing substitute Baker (88). Subs not used: Blackman, Huffer, Pearce, Clarke. Leeds won 1-0 with Roofe scoring the goal (86). Attendance was 11,499 with approximately 30-50 Las Palmas fans. This turned out to be Vieira’s last game for us as he was transferred to Sampdoria two days later.
The first half saw Las Palmas hit the crossbar twice as both sides had chances but we went in at half time with no goals scored. The second half saw Hernandez unlucky not to score when his shot was saved by their goalie. There hadn’t been too much goalmouth action but Leeds took the lead with a goal from Roofe with four minutes of normal time left on the clock.
With the last game of the pre-season friendlies over next Sunday sees the first game of the season with our home game against relegated Stoke. In the meantime I will be having a short break in Berlin with my granddaughter Hannah and will be flying the flag for Leeds by wearing our Leeds shirts on the journey. See you next week LUFC – Marching on Together!