Up at the unearthly hour of 5.00 am can only mean one thing, a football away day with Leeds United. I daren’t have that extra 25 minutes sleep before my alarm was due to go off just to make sure I didn’t miss it. It was going to be a cold one today before all of the snow heading our way tomorrow according to the weather forecast. After defrosting the car, I saw it was minus two so I was glad I had many layers of clothes on.
7th December saw the sad 20th anniversary of the death of my hero Billy Bremner and today would have been his 75th birthday. He epitomised what being Leeds was all about always giving 110% and showed me the love and loyalty of following my team. He was a legend for Leeds United and my thoughts go out to his family. It was nice to see his youngest daughter and family went to visit his statue which will always see his name live long in the hearts of Leeds United fans. Also it’s great to see that the club are going to have Bremner Square around the statue so I’m hoping Father Christmas will be kind to me! A shout out too for WACCOE the message board I frequent, for putting flowers with King Billy down at the statue. They looked great and bring a lump to the throat.
The anniversary of his death also saw me appear on Radio Yorkshire with Darren Harper on fan Thursday alongside Kevin Markey and Andrew Wrigglesworth. Andrew who sang a solo of the Ballad of Billy Bremner when we were recording our cd recently gave a fantastic rendition of it for the show too. He had grown men nearly crying and well done to him.
We also had the draw for the 3rd round of the FA Cup during the week too and this means it’s a new ground for me with the away trip to Newport. Personally I’m glad we get the chance to go there seeing as the league cup game earlier in the season which should have been at Newport was changed to Elland Road due to their pitch being re-laid. I was gutted to think I’d miss that one as for once I was missing having had a lifetime opportunity to go with my family to Disney World having never been able to do that before. We also were refused permission to play Newport in a friendly game when they had financial problems, which was silly as we’d have taken loads of fans. As it is we will have just over 1,000 fans there on the day with the tie being beamed back to Elland Road hopefully.
With our visit to QPR today, great memories return of us being crowned First Division Champions in 1974. The tickets for this game were going on sale at the end of the last home game but due to absolute chaos in the West Stand car park plus the crushes that occurred, the tickets were going on sale the next day at 9.00 am. That meant we were back queuing outside the ticket office at midnight making sure we were at the front of the queue. We had a “nice tarmac bed” outside the West Stand Ticket office that used to be outside the main entrance. We got our tickets enabling us to celebrate with the team. My friends Carole and Margaret were drinking champagne on the pitch at the end of the game!
We had a nice stop in Uxbridge before getting to the game where we had a good laugh reminiscing about being banned from games, but remembering Leeds fans overcoming the obstacles and still getting to them.
We got to the ground just after 2.00 pm and then had the long walk around the ground to get into the upper tier. After a quick search I got through okay although it was a squeeze through the turnstiles with my bag or maybe the amount of clothes I was wearing contributed to this too! It was only after that some female fans complained that the female steward who searched them had inappropriately touched them and they were not happy. An official complaint will be going in about this. Also I can’t believe the women’s toilets were already not working before the game even kicked off. There aren’t many of them anyway and we even found a man caught in the women’s loos, you know who you are! I won’t name you to ease your embarrassment.
I went to hang my banner up first and I wanted it near to where my seat would be so put it up next to the Sky camera that was cordoned off at the top of the stand. There were a couple of our Norwegian fans who helped me hang it up. I was ready to thread the ties through a beam when I realised that one of the lads had tied it to a hook in front of it, so it was very easy to hang up. I had a chat with them and a big thank you to Rolf for buying my first book Follow Me and Leeds United and as usual, thanks for the support which is appreciated.
I went and stood at the front of the stand to take photos and once the team were ready to kick off, was going to find my seat but it was chock a block behind me by this time. I stayed where I was until the fans arrived to claim their seats then stood at the top of the steps with others for the first half.
The team today was Wiedwald, Ayling, Cooper, Berardi, Jansson, Roofe, Saiz, Alioski, Phillips, Vieira and Ekuban. Subs were Cibicki for Ekuban (38) who went off injured (he was on crutches at the end of the game and it could be a repeat of the broken foot that he had only just recovered from), O’Kane for Alioski (70) although at first they did say Cibicki was going off and Pennington for Vieira (80). Attendance was 15,506 with 3,149 Leeds fans. Leeds won 3-1 with Roofe getting a hat trick with goals scored on 63, 68 and 90 + 4 minutes.
QPR set off on the attack but for some strange reason I felt quite calm. They were a lot stronger than us in midfield for a while but we more or less held our own and limited them of scoring chances. The nearest one I think went wide of the post. The flag went up for offside as the ref blew his whistle but the QPR player carried on to put the ball into the net. The lad behind me hadn’t seen the flag up and thought they’d scored and was glad to hear all was okay. When someone thought we weren’t doing so well I said remember last season, we were already a goal down within five minutes so I’m happy scores were even at halftime. Unfortunately Ekuban got injured but the ref played on for ages. He tried to get up before going down again and Ekuban was then allowed treatment. At the time I wasn’t sure if it was a precaution or not but Leeds subbed him immediately. With Cibicki coming on to replace him it meant that Roofe went to centre forward. As this is his strongest position I wasn’t too fazed that we were forced to make the change although I was sad for Ekuban as he looks like he has a lot to offer in that position too. As we changed shape slightly we seemed to overcome the midfield issue and ended the half strongly. We were very unlucky not to go in with a goal lead when Roofe had a great chance but the QPR defender recovered to make a crucial tackle to get the ball away.
At half time I went downstairs but as there wasn’t much room down there I didn’t stay long. Having not had to show my ticket to get into this part of the stand before the game, the stewards had gone into overdrive. I’d to show my ticket, and then told I couldn’t stand where I had for the first half and should get to my seat. As a third smoke bomb had gone off, it looked like we were getting the brunt of their displeasure despite us having nothing to do with it. I raised my eyebrows and said I would move and find my seat but I said I couldn’t get to it from there anyway. I stood at the top of the stand talking to the same fans I had earlier and one said his seat was underneath the cordoned off area for the TV camera! The row I was on wasn’t accessible from here either. The next thing the steward came rushing up to tell me I could still get to my seat from there and shouted at another Leeds fan asking him if he was asleep? I asked the fans in the seats to let me past although this was further down the stand on the wrong row. I realised then that I would have to climb over the seats to get to my row which was two rows behind this one! I was initially going to try and get my leg up and climb over but decided to stand on the seat instead. Luckily a young girl stopped me falling off as the seats were very flimsy and I hoped they wouldn’t break underneath me. I then also had to climb over another row, not very good organisation QPR and a health and safety issue really. Luckily I’m agile enough but it would have been no good for some of our supporters to do that.
I was then stood with the usual fans around me who are also a good bunch. My mate Andrew who sang the Ballad of Billy Bremner so brilliantly on our Yorkshire Radio interview this week was stood behind me. In the second half Leeds got a strong grip on the game and started putting some great attacks together. We were still a bit frustrating at times as when we got near the goal we were trying to walk the ball in when a shot would have been a better chance. We put ourselves under pressure when we passed back to Wiedwald a couple of times when we should have turned and passed the ball out instead. There was a fantastic cross between Saiz and Alioski and it was fantastic to see this bond growing between them as it was a pinpoint pass. Leeds had taken the game by the scruff of the neck although the ref started ignoring some fouls on us. When one time he ignored the foul on our player I hoped it wouldn’t mean them getting a goal as that has happened so many times. When he booked Alioski I thought he shouldn’t have done that as it wasn’t a booking in my eyes and it was no wonder Alioski got upset. Leeds took the lead with a great goal taken by Roofe after a fantastic cross from Alioski. Roofe got a second goal with another great cross this time from Cibicki to send the Leeds fans into raptures. Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells, Jingle all the way, oh what fun it is to see United win away, rang out from the stands but I didn’t want to sing it too early so as not to jinx the score line. Christiansen brought on Pennington to shore up the defence and took Vieira off to try and maintain our lead but also I thought it was to prevent him getting a second booking then sent off.
We made a couple of defensive mishaps, one passing the ball back and also kicking it out for a corner. With five minutes left I had to climb over the seats as I was going to get my banner down. Unfortunately I kneed someone I knew in the back and as I apologised he said that I should stay in my seat until the end of the game. Sorry but no, I make sure I get my banner before the end of the games to ensure I don’t get delayed getting it down. I found some of the SLI lads there in front of it so I took a photo of them. We were all discussing how many minutes of injury time would be put up; I said four or five and someone else said seven! Just then out of the blue the ball was put forward in a QPR attack and the ball bounced in front of Wiedwald as he came out for it, misjudged it, only for it to bounce high over his head. Even though he scooped the ball out and away, unfortunately it had gone over the line to give QPR a lifeline. The next minute he redeemed himself with a great save with a one on one that denied QPR an equaliser. As I looked at my watch only a minute had passed. Leeds then put the game to bed when Saiz ran down the middle towards us with another Leeds player on each side of him. He passed the ball to Roofe for him to claim his hat trick. Game over and three points to Leeds and an excellent win!
On our way out of the ground it was nice to get some great feedback about my blog and the fact fans were looking forward to reading it later tonight. I also did a video for BBC Radio Leeds but just as I got my phone out to do it, the battery died! Luckily I had a battery charger with me although when I plugged it in, it said it was 32% charged. Damn thing! As we were walking back to the coaches I told one of the Keighley Whites that I’d got a photo of him earlier. It’s nice to hear that he is receiving my latest book as a Christmas present and he will bring it for me to sign at a game. As always I am happy to autograph any that are bought for fans, you’ve only to ask!
We had a very good journey home and didn’t stop so were back in Leeds by 9.30 pm. Luckily by the time I got home at 10.00 pm although we still had snow, it had kept off falling some more. According to all the weather forecasts (we’ll see how right they are), tomorrow is going to be bad so I’m glad I can stay at home and watch it from the warmth of my house.
Next week sees the first of two home games before Christmas with first Norwich and then Hull City. Keep going Leeds I’m glad you listened to my tweet this morning saying believe, you can do it lol! Just keep playing to our strengths and let the other teams worry about us. Getting as many points as possible into the New Year will set us up nicely for the run in until the end of the season and you never know, we may sneak that automatic place!!
Don’t forget to pick up my books; they’ll make a great Christmas present for the football fan in your life! See you at Elland Road against Norwich, 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 2016-17
Video done for BBC Radio Leeds