Well it’s certainly never dull being a Leeds United fan after another week of sacking our manager and getting another one in. I know I was wavering last week after the defeat against Cardiff but I so wanted to see stability and things work out and knew it wouldn’t happen overnight. The lad stood next to me at the Cardiff game had said make sure you get a photo of Christiansen as it will be his last game. On hearing on Sunday evening that Thomas Christiansen had been sacked, it was a case of here we go again. Social media went nuts with the news, with lots of fans glad that he had gone whereas I was sad that it had to end like this once again. One thing I will say thanks to Christiansen for is the great start to the season that we had. There was some fantastic football played and it was such a shame we couldn’t keep going that way.
Monday saw the leaking of names as our next manager with Grayson, McClaren, Stam and Hughes to name a few being bandied around. Whilst I like Simon Grayson and thought he should have stayed at the time he was sacked, I don’t think going back was an option. I didn’t want any of the others either. The next name to come out in public, Paul Heckingbottom the manager of Barnsley, left me feeling very underwhelmed. Having recently played them at Oakwell and seen comments he made about hating us, that didn’t go down well with me plus the fact he had only seen one win in 16 games whereas Christiansen had not won in 10 games. It didn’t make sense to me.
I deliberately stopped looking at all the comments from fans as there were many with the same opinion as me. Others were saying he was a young manager and he’d been fighting a bit of a losing battle at Barnsley with his best players being sold. I actually felt so down and the worst I’ve felt as a Leeds fan for a long, long time. My best option was to sleep on things as they never seem so bad afterwards. He was indeed signed as our next manager so now he is here I have no option but to get behind him as I always do. As the week went on I only really listened to what he had to say after Adam Pope interviewed him on Thursday and I’ll admit he did come across well, plus it was easy to understand another Yorkshire accent! I don’t want to jinx anything but I am hoping that he does indeed manage to turn things around for us. He will have to hit the ground running as proof will be in the pudding for me and with a Yorkshire derby on Saturday against Sheffield, he couldn’t get a better baptism to show what he can do with the team.
Bramall Lane has lots of good and bad memories for me. “We took the Shoreham easy, easy”. That chant will have many memories for Leeds fans who went there in the seventies. We got there early and just went in their end. By the time their fans started to arrive it was full of Leeds fans and they went back out of the stand very quickly and left us to it. The following year the police let a lot of our fans into their end again but then decided to stop the rest of us queuing up outside . As we were all sent to the away end instead, my friend Carole had a horse stand on her foot. Those Leeds fans in the Shoreham that year had a torrid time in their end as they were seriously outnumbered. I was glad I was in the other end but didn’t like seeing all the fighting taking place. The other good thing was when we won the league there in 1992 where we won 3-2 with some bizarre goals. Liverpool then beat man u in the later kick off and Leeds United became The Last Champions of the old First Division! What a day and what great memories!
Today will be the first game with our new manager once again, Paul Heckingbottom. It was pointed out by some of our fans last week that they didn’t realise the club sponsors of 32Red meant we were actually trying to receive that many red cards throughout the season. They also said they hoped that his surname wasn’t a bad omen and we were going to end up bottom. No………..! It reminded me of when we were relegated with the sponsors Bet24 and we ended up going down. So to make sure it doesn’t happen I’ve decided to go with the name Hecky instead and all I could think of was (H)ecky thump for some reason! I hoped it meant we could thump some goals in.
Joking apart though, I’ve had time to calm down now and will look forward to what the rest of the season has to come. As always the proof will be in the pudding for me and I go by what I see on the pitch in the flesh. As our under 23 side had a great win yesterday, something that seemed to be lacking for most of this season as they built a brand new side, I am looking forward to the first team emulating that score.
Heading off for the dinner time kick off, I am grateful for Em’s taxis this morning. Thanks to my daughter Emily for helping me out as my car has been playing up and needs some tlc today. We got to the ground in plenty of time for the coach and arrived at Bramall Lane in good time for the early kick off. As we pulled up outside the stand I’d seen a shop near it so Sue and I decided as there was a bitter wind to warm up with a Costa Coffee before the game. The female steward who got on the coach prior to us getting off was all for us winning today as she supported the other team in Sheffield.
After a quick chat with some of the stewards outside the turnstiles, I needed to be a contortionist to get through the turnstiles with my bag. Why the heck they make them so tiny I cannot understand. I had to have my bag by my head and came out backwards, at least I got through it but I’m sure one of these days I won’t make it! After putting my flag up by the corner flag and chatting to a few people I went up to my seat but not before seeing Peter Lorimer coming onto the pitch with Tony Currie. It was good to see Peter looking so well as he battles his illness and nice to see him back at a game. It was also the first game in ages that saw Radrizzani back at a game too. With everything going on this week, it wasn’t a surprise. As “you can do magic” by Limmie & The Family Cookin belted out from the tannoy that took me back to the seventies. I hoped it meant we could somehow get something out of this season after all.
The team today was Wiedwald, Dallas (playing right back), Pennington, Jansson, De Bock, O’Kane, Phillips, Roofe, Alioski, Lasogga and Forshaw. Subs were Hernandez for Roofe (45), Sacko for Alioski (75) and Ekuban for Phillips (77). Leeds lost the game 2-1 with Lasogga scoring for Leeds. Attendance was 27,553 with 2,236 Leeds fans.
We couldn’t have got off to a worse start as we were a goal down within a couple of minutes when ex Leeds player Billy Sharp volleyed the ball from the edge of the area straight under the crossbar and into the net. Here we go again came to mind as my heart sank! For a while we were under the cosh and struggling to get a grip on the game. Roofe sadly once again was failing to make an impact, but playing on the wing is a no, no for me. At times it felt like we were playing with 10 men once again as he was that poor and a weak link. After getting an early booking for Forshaw with his first tackle, I also thought another referee showing his true credentials again. We did manage to get a shot on target and Lasogga came close but we struggled to get any momentum going. Roofe went down injured as some fans chanted for Hernandez to come on, but then carried on. He eventually went off just before half time and we were down to 10 men before eventually Hernandez replaced him. I hoped we’d have a more balanced side now as Roofe has been ineffective in my opinion. We were very unlucky to not get back into the game as our free kick came to Jansson clear in the area only for his header to bring a great save out of their goalie to deny us an equaliser.
I went downstairs at half time and when I was asked about what would happen in the second half, I said we had 45 minutes to do something about it and this lad said no chance! As I went back down the steps it was packed with fans and I thought I’d better get back to my seat because if we scored I’d end up at the front of the stand. No sooner had I got back to my seat did we do exactly that. A lovely cross from Hernandez saw Lasogga connect with the ball to head it into the bottom corner of the net to send the Leeds fans behind the goal into raptures! That gave us a heads up and got us back into the game. We did start playing better and battle more as the game went on to give us some hope. We did have a short spell as we grew into the game that saw some great passing and forward play as the players tried to get something out of the game At that time I was hopeful we could go on and get a winner but then we had the wind taken out of our sails once again with them getting awarded a penalty. We were slow off the mark with their free kick and it looked a cast iron penalty from our end as O’Kane took their player down at the other end. I’ve heard plenty of conflicting reports for and against this so would like to look at it again. Wiedwald went the right way but wasn’t able to save Sharp scoring his second goal of the game. This goal ended up being the winner and although I would have taken a draw, this wasn’t to be. Although a disappointing result, there is a lot to be done team wise. As I wondered why Roofe had been given a starting position (I’d have him as an impact sub), I realised that everyone had been given a chance today.
With our next game not until next Sunday with another live game on Sky against Bristol City, Hecky has a lot to do between now and then. Never mind if the players look good on the training pitch, it is how our formation does or does not work on the main field of play that counts. There was the positive of not giving up in the second half but once again we got off to a slow start with conceding the early goal. We have to learn to play for 90 minutes and are fit enough to do that. As the lad behind me said and I agreed, why do we pull all 11 men back into the penalty area to defend a corner? We need to leave someone on the half way line which will take at least a couple of men out of the attack. We also agreed that the best form of defence is attack so if anybody from Leeds United does read this blog, I would be grateful if this message can be passed on to Hecky for me please! As someone who has watched Leeds United for over 50 years and seen the best team ever play for us, I do know what I am talking about in this respect.
We are where we are and there is nothing we fans can do about it apart from support our team. Unfortunately as we are back to square one, it is going to take more time to turn things around. At least if it had to be done, the sacking of Christiansen wasn’t done at the end of the season because I want to go into next season, fully prepared for it. As some fans are saying the season is over, it is never over until the fat lady sings. What I will say though and why I wrote my last book the Sleeping Giant Awakens, last season was the first one in years where the season wasn’t written off in October! We are now in February and it’s up to the team to stand up and be counted like the fans do week in week out. It’s over to them! 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