Before I start my blog today, I would like to say the following. If any fan is interested in buying my books at a game, please note that I only carry one of each book with me on the day. If I know more than one copy is required, I can sort this in advance if you let me know. Prices are as follows: Follow Me and Leeds United, Once a Leeds fan, always a Leeds fan and The Sleeping Giant Awakens 2016-17 are all £12.99 each. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Leeds United, Leeds United in the 1980s my joint book with Andrew Dalton is £14.99.
As the loyal contingent of Leeds fans headed to Reading today with very little to play for from the team but pride, I thought I must be bonkers when I got up at 4.50 am! I posted that online before I left home and it was good to see comments from other fans doing the same thing. As usual the camaraderie of our fans is second to none.
After the snow had returned two days ago causing havoc where I lived for approx. five hours then disappearing as fast as it came, I was glad to have a clear run to Leeds, despite the heavy rain and a damp, miserable start. This continued on our way down the motorway with some fog thrown in but eventually easing off by the time we arrived at Windsor to have tea with Her Majesty the Queen! Well not quite, but we arrived just too late to see the changing of the guard. Having never witnessed anything like that in person before, I would have loved that opportunity. I’m sure Leeds United will always be in her thoughts though as she handed the FA Cup to Billy Bremner in 1972 after our win! We had a nice stay in the King and Castle pub and I chatted to other Leeds fans in there as well as taking photos. As we left the pub I managed to get a group from the Fullerton Park Supporters Club coach together and this lad asked if I wanted him to take a photo for us? He said he wouldn’t run off with my camera and actually supported that club across the Pennines to which I chanted, “There’s only one United!” Thanks for taking the photo though! I managed another sleep on the coach and woke up just before arriving at the ground. Although it was an hour before kickoff, the last part took us about 20 minutes to get dropped off and at least the weather was fine with even some sunshine! As the stewards checked my bag one was astounded to learn that we had travelled five hours to get there as he didn’t know where Leeds was! I did feel quite weary as I went into the ground with the early start catching up with me but luckily soon perked up.
Inside the ground although there were plenty of Leeds fans all stood around watching the TVs it was quiet and orderly. When I did watch the TV, seeing Allan Clarke’s goal at Wembley in 1972 and Eddie Gray’s goal against Burnley I cheered the goals as if I was still at the games as old habits die hard! Going into the ladies was treacherous as it looked like they had only just finished cleaning the floors as they were wet and slippery and to say it is a newish ground it stayed that way even until the end of the game. Maybe it was the dampness that made it stay that way? Once again we had plenty of our male fans deciding to walk into the ladies to use the loos which upset some of our female fans. I had a quick chat with Phillip Thumbsup Cresswell before putting my flag up at the front behind the goal and it was nice to catch a glimpse of it later on TV when showing replays of the game. Just before the game kicked off, the singing under the stands had lots in a jovial mood showing that the Leeds fans had turned up once again now would the team?
The team was Peacock-Farrell (retaining his place), De Bock, Jansson, Berardi (captain), Pennington, O’Kane, Saiz, Alioski, Hernandez, Ekuban and Forshaw. Subs were Lasogga for Ekuban (77) and Dallas for Hernandez (85). Attendance was 19,770 with 3,467 Leeds fans. Leeds drew 2-2 with Jansson (43) and Hernandez (56) getting our goals.
It was disappointing to see that Leeds didn’t have a mascot again which is a shame considering all the young fans that were at the game. The Leeds fans were in good voice giving the team backing with plenty of WACCOE chants and scarf waving. Despite that within 16 minutes, once again we found ourselves a goal down despite having an early chance when their goalie saved from Alioski. Reading were suspiciously beating the offside trap every time despite looking to be in front of our men. That said they ran at us causing lots of problems with their speed and won the battle to score their first goal. We had Peacock-Farrell to thank for saving a long range shot that was dipping just under the bar and another good save later on. We then had another scramble off the line with Pennington and Peacock-Farrell battling to keep the ball out, with Pennington blocking the rebound as we got the ball away. I thought that could be our saving grace and give us a chance to do something with the game. That happened just before half time when we equalised with a goal from Jansson after a corner was punched out by their goalie and hooked back into the box from Forshaw. It seems ages since we scored a goal.
At half time I went downstairs and had to gingerly pick my way down the steep steps in the stand which were frankly dangerous. That showed when we scored as fans went hurtling down them. It was no wonder Reading stewards were clearing the gangway regularly. It was also precarious underfoot and as I realised I had no grip on my soles, I had to gingerly step over puddles on the floor from spilt drinks which wasn’t good. At least I didn’t end up on my backside in a puddle! Taking plenty of photos, the Midland Whites from Derby, Leicester and Birmingham have to get a mention today for their great support and it was nice to say hello! A big thank you to Allison for buying my second book Once a Leeds fan, always a Leeds fan and your support is appreciated.
The second half hadn’t been going long when Leeds took the lead with a shot from the edge of the area from Hernandez. Sadly this lead only lasted a few minutes as once again down our left hand side, we left a Reading player in acres of space and they were able to equalise. Whitby John stood next to me thought I’d lost the plot when I looked at the scoreboard and said, oh it says 2-2, when did we score two? I’ll blame it on the early morning start and tiredness, having forgotten our first half goal even though I’d taken a photo of the scoreboard at 2-1! Silly me! We did come close a few times with the post getting in the way of a goal for us plus Alisoki brought a great save from their goalie although I thought we grew into the game as a team. We still had some worrying defensive mishaps but at least they didn’t score a third. I felt slightly disappointed that the game ended quietly but it was a point rather than a defeat which I’ll take as a positive. One of our young fans took a chance at the end of the game getting Hernandez’s shirt and my heart was in my mouth when I saw it!
Once again, a big thank you to all the fans who wanted their photos taken today and say they read my blog. As always, I do this as a fan for the fans! We had a great run back to Leeds only to look like we were being diverted once again as the M1 was shut at Barnsley. Luckily we got there just before it was completely shut and ended up getting back onto the carriageway and on our way. That was a relief and despite sleeping a lot of the way home as well as many others, getting home sooner rather than later was a bonus!
With Sheffield Wednesday at home next Saturday, I want to get in to Leeds as early as possible as I want to renew our season tickets first. A glutton for punishment that’s for sure, but even if this season does turn out to be a big disappointment on the pitch; hopefully things in the background will now have stabilized. I’m positive that things have been a mess but we need stability to move on in the right direction. Mistakes have been made and the club should never take our support for granted, because we have been beyond loyal despite everything that has gone on in the past 15 years! See you then – 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