Having been in Berlin with intermittent Wi-Fi, I missed a lot of what happened at Elland Road over the last week. Seeing that Vieira was sold to Sampdoria was a shock and not something I expected now the season was ready to start. I’d seen comments previously on one of the groups on social media saying that he hadn’t impressed over the pre-season games; I only hope there are future clauses added to ensure we don’t miss out cash wise if he achieves his potential. We also signed Jack Harrison a winger from Manchester City on a season long loan and Patrick Bamford a centre forward from Middlesbrough. I also found out that I’d made an appearance in the Sky documentary about Leeds that had been shown on Thursday, Leading Leeds United. I was there with my camera at Bootham Crescent at the York pre-season game taking a video as Bielsa came off the coach. He was smiling at me and touched my shoulder and if I remember right it was because I got in the way and said sorry. I got a message from my son Jamie today asking if I was always on the TV? It was still a proud moment to see that I had been included in this though. As always I will share my love of Leeds United around the world through my books, blogs and photos.
With this game already changed to a Sunday with a 4.30 pm kick off for a live Sky game; it hadn’t deterred the Leeds United faithful with a crowd of over 34,000 expected. Included in the total were the Stoke fans who had sold out their own allocation. There was to be a tribute in the South Stand to Paul Madeley, applause before the game for him and fans had been asked to wear white.
It was good to be back at Elland Road for the first game of the season despite being there a week ago for the friendly against Las Palmas. There was a real buzz about the place as I headed to the Peacock with my daughter Danielle and granddaughter Laura. When I’d picked Danielle up earlier we got stuck in diversions and road closures in Dewsbury and I was glad it was still a few hours to kick off. At one point I thought we’d never get out of there as every road we tried was closed but thank goodness we got out in the end.
Can I say a big thank you to a young lady who will remain nameless at this moment in time, for buying all four of my books which will be a present. As always, your support is appreciated. I was hoping my 5th book Back to Reality with Leeds United, 2017-18 would be out but I am still awaiting confirmation from my publisher.
It was great to see that many of our Norwegian supporters were over for the game. Sadly I was still travelling back from Berlin so missed their get together on Friday evening. There were also some of our Irish supporters here too. On my trip to Berlin with my granddaughter Hannah, we went to the Brandenburger Tor as soon as we arrived, having worn our Leeds United shirts whilst travelling. This had to be done especially when flying from “Stockport International Airport!” I was just about to take a selfie when a lad came up to us and asked if we wanted another Leeds fan to take it for us, of course was the answer. He was a Leeds United fan from South Africa and by wearing our colours everywhere, does encourage others to talk to you. Once again this shows to me how much we have a fantastic worldwide fan base.
The Peacock was very busy and the garden was packed. With the sun shining and that “perfect” football weather, there were plenty of high spirits and optimism in the air. Personally I was looking forward to the season with a positive outlook. You’ve got to be that way as far as I’m concerned at the start of the season but as always the proof will be on the pitch. I know many fans haven’t felt this way at all but I like to see for myself how things pan out and will always give things a chance. I realised there was no hope for me as I went to get my camera out of the case and it wasn’t there. I was going to take a photo of some fans and just as I was panicking, they pointed out that my camera was attached to my wrist. I’d already taken some photos before that hence why the case was empty.
We went into the ground in good time in readiness for the start. The stands all looked great with loads of white shirts everywhere and it felt like there was going to be a great atmosphere. One thing I will say is despite the 50+ number of years I have followed Leeds United, there were still plenty of faces that I didn’t recognise today. In the seventies and eighties you would have a large hardcore of fans who went everywhere and even if I didn’t know their names, I would always recognise their faces. Now with our fan base being bigger than ever, it isn’t surprising that I don’t know everyone anymore.
After the applause and the cards in the South Stand (Eleven Pauls) the game was ready to start. It was also good to see Paul’s team mates from the Revie era applauding from the touchline too. One thing I was hoping for was that our fitness levels would be the best they have been for years under Bielsa’s training.
The team was Bailey Peacock-Farrell, Luke Ayling, Kalvin Phillips, Samuel Saiz, Barry Douglas (making his debut at left back), Liam Cooper, Gaetano Berardi, Ezgjan Alioski, Pablo Hernandez, Mateusz Klich and Kemar Roofe. Subs were Stuart Dallas for Klich (76), Lewis Baker for Saiz (88) and Jack Harrison for Alioski (89). Leeds won the game 3-1 with Klich (15), Hernandez (45 + 1) and Cooper (57) scoring for Leeds. Stoke scored with a penalty (52) by Afobe. The attendance was 34,126, with 2,471 Stoke fans.
The game set off with a great pace against Stoke City who had been relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season. We had plenty of possession and our passing was good as the team were collectively fighting for every ball. We had an early chance after Alioski sent over a cross and Roofe’s volley was saved by Butland in the nets for Stoke. (The Leeds fans made Butland laugh in the second half when he was in front of the Kop. They sang he was a s**t Jordan Pickford (England’s goalie) and he started clapping and laughed). That made the Leeds fans sing Butland is a Leeds fan. It wasn’t long before Leeds took the lead though after Saiz kept hold of the ball and passed it to Klich who ran forward into the penalty area to put the ball into the net. 1-0 as the celebrating Leeds fans went berserk on the terraces. We had a good chance to go two up before Ince (getting loads of abuse from the Leeds fans due to his dad who played for man u), hit the crossbar for Stoke. We were playing some good football with precise passing between our players. Alioski brought another save out of Butland which prevented us getting a second goal. There was always a danger that Stoke could get back into the game and I wanted another goal to give us a cushion. This was provided when Hernandez sent a shot into the left hand corner of the goal in front of the South Stand. I was poised to see the goal go into the net and ready to take a photo of the action, only for Danielle to knock my elbow as the ball went in as she celebrated us scoring. It felt good to be two goals up as we went in at half time.
After joining Carole, Ashley, Margaret and Keith at half time, we had to disappoint a Leeds fan as we weren’t taking bets. We have taken to standing behind the betting area beneath the stands and it does raise a laugh though. The conversation was very positive about the way we were playing and long may it continue.
After attacking initially at the start of the second half it was very disappointing when the ref pointed to the spot giving Stoke a penalty. I was hoping they would miss it but unfortunately Peacock-Farrell went the wrong way. Here we go again, especially as the ref seemed to have a brain exchange at half time in my opinion. We were being picked up for fouls and he was letting those on us go so nothing had changed in that respect. For once it didn’t stop us and before long we won a corner and as Douglas sent the ball into the centre, Cooper was on hand to head it into the net for our third goal of the day. The celebrating Leeds fans couldn’t believe it but it was good to see that we were scoring goals too. We didn’t have it all our own way though as in the second half Stoke came close on a couple of occasions. When Peter Crouch came on I couldn’t believe he was still playing as he seems to have been around for ages. He is still a giant though and caused our defence some problems but luckily for us we were able to keep them out and get the season off to a great start with a win and three points.
It was great to see everyone including the subs and those not used, come onto the pitch to clap the fans at the end of the game. Although Bielsa failed to confirm this had happened, he had the players picking up litter for three hours so they could appreciate how long fans have to work to watch them play. All I want to see from a team is them giving their all, fighting for the ball and even if they lose it, getting it back as soon as possible. What Bielsa has done with the team on today’s showing is exactly that and that is all I ask for. We are in for an exciting season and I am positive that will happen because whatever happens next, they are going to play for the shirt and put the commitment in that the fans do. Even Pontus Jansson, despite being an unused sub, went to the South Stand at the end and interacted with them again. That is something he stopped doing early last season and I could never understand why?
We headed into the club shop to see how the refurbishment had gone. To hear that the new shirt was only available in an XL shirt having sold out of the rest, just shows how replica shirts and memorabilia for Leeds fans are high on the agenda. Once in the car I made the mistake of heading towards Elland Road to go up Wesley Street. I’ve no idea what was going on but all of a sudden there were three police vans parked across Elland Road, with flashing lights and sirens going off. They were getting ready to escort the Stoke buses out but I wasn’t sure if they had fans who had travelled by train or not? Someone will know what happened and will put us in the picture no doubt.
After dropping Danielle off, Laura and I headed to Rastrick to pick up one of my other granddaughters Hannah before eventually getting home at 10.00 pm. Once again it has taken a while to write this blog up (as usual falling asleep) so I will post onto my Follow Me and Leeds United page and my own page and then share amongst the groups in the morning. Please feel free to share the blog with any other Leeds fans/Leeds groups on social media that you know would be interested to read it.
Next week sees us travel to Derby on my birthday for another late kick off of 5.30 pm. A great present would be another win so fingers crossed. See you there – LUFC – Marching on Together!