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It was a beautiful sunny day when I left Halifax at 7.40am to head to Leeds for the coach. Our stop was in Leek today and it was good to chat to friends and have a laugh. Just before we left we managed a Leeds United Supporters Club Fullerton Park branch photo and thank you to the ladies from Stoke who took it so I could be in the photo too. As we arrived at the ground 45 minutes before kick-off I headed straight to the Power League which was a few minutes’ walk from the away end. I was going to meet Ian (my daughter’s Godfather) together with his brother Les and his wife. It’s a long time since I’ve seen Les who is a Stoke fan, but both lads came to watch me play football for charity in the 70s and made a flag saying Big H rules. Les already thought they’d lose today and on Tuesday but I was more cautious. That saying, I felt more confident this year that we wouldn’t make the same mistakes as last year especially as Bielsa will have watched everything very closely.
I managed a few photos on my way in to the ground and had a couple of fans trying to recreate the Beatles on the zebra crossing. I had to get my flag out for the steward to check it and had some lads saying “Heidi what are you hiding in there, a couple of cans?” I took the banter in the good spirit it was meant to be. There was a great atmosphere under the stands as I made my way to the green aisle for my seat. I got to the front of the stand and then made my way over to the left hand side to hang my flag up in the little space that was left. I hadn’t realised that there were loads of flags at the opposite end in between both sets of supporters until the end of the game. Never mind, but sadly it meant I didn’t get any photos of them.
The team: Casilla, Dallas, Berardi, Hernandez (captain with Cooper out injured), Phillips, Forshaw, Klich, Bamford, White, Alioski and Harrison. Subs: Nketiah for Bamford (74), Costa for Hernandez (80) and Shackleton for Klich (85). Leeds won the game 3-0 with goals from Dallas (42), Alioski (50) and Bamford (66). Attendance was 24,090 with 2,913 Leeds fans.
The Leeds fans were in good voice as I took my place near the front of the stand behind the goal. At one point I realised the fella behind me was sat down so moved slightly into the aisle for a while. Even though I was quite confident, I wasn’t taking anything for granted and knew that Stoke would raise their game for us. Last year they had just got a new manager in but this year they were rooted to the bottom of the table and on shaky ground. Stoke took the game to us for a while but Leeds were able to quell any attacks with Casilla not being very busy, just involved with our players passing the ball to him. With some misplaced passes for a while from Dallas and Hernandez I just thought they’d grow into the game and wasn’t too worried. It was a case of, let Stoke have their 10 minutes and then we’d take charge of the game. Just after that Klich’s shot brought a save out of their keeper. Hernandez was very unlucky not to get on the scoresheet on 15 minutes when their keeper made a great save to keep him out and then caught the rebound with a deflected shot from Klich. We had a couple of near chances although the half so far hadn’t set the world alight. Ben White was playing really well in defence and was so cool, calm and collected when picking the ball up. A couple of times he waited for the Stoke player to come near him before dancing round them with ease. As some fans were heading downstairs for the break, Leeds attacking the far end showed some great movement, before Hernandez sent a great pass across to Dallas who was clean through to hit the ball first time into the net. As the Leeds fans celebrated, fans in the aisle next to me tumbled down the terraces and all ended up in a tangle at the front of the stand. Just as they started to try and get up, loads of fans coming back from downstairs came hurtling down the terraces with loads landing on top of one another. Some of them looked in a bad way as eventually they were helped up. What I couldn’t understand, was why no stewards did a thing to help plus they didn’t even ask any First Aiders to come to where we were? A girl was let out at the front as she’d hurt her fingers in the melee and eventually came back with an ice pack on them. Just before the whistle went Klich had another shot saved by their keeper as we went in one nil up at the break. I spoke to the lad who looked really badly injured to see if he needed to go to the First Aid but luckily he’d started coming round and was able to walk.
After catching up with a few fans downstairs including another one of our injured fans who I’d tried to help up, I went back to my seat. The lad behind me had scratches along his back and a big hole in his t-shirt. The lads seem to have been very lucky to have got away with being seriously injured thank goodness. Although Stoke started off with a rare attack it didn’t take long for Leeds to get a second goal. Bamford passed the ball across the goal for Alioski to fire home to put us further into the lead. Leeds were on top at this point as they continued to attack towards us with Harrison’s shot creeping past the wrong side of the post. We had some long range shots that didn’t come off before we got a third goal. Forshaw played a great ball into the area where Alioski found his shot saved by their keeper only for Bamford to follow up and put the rebound into the net. Leeds had been playing some lovely football with great footwork and although Stoke brought a save out of Casilla, we continued to dominate the game. With both Klich and Forshaw denied goals with saves by their keeper, we ended the game with a 3-0 win and another three points to keep us on top of the league.
It had been a great day out and I’m sure our performance will make other teams around us sit up and take notice. Bielsa ball is great to see despite whatever happens in the future and I for one am enjoying watching our team play.
Tuesday sees us play Stoke again but this time at Elland Road in the next round of the Carabao Cup. The team will be made up of our youngsters and give players who have not featured much in the Championship some game time. I am taking all three granddaughters to this one and as I couldn’t get all our seats together in the Kop, I will move from my seat to be with one of them. Thanks to everyone who wanted photos taken today and for all the positive comments about my blogs, books and my appearance in Take us Home: Leeds United the documentary. As always I appreciate your comments which are gratefully received. Also I’d like to say a big thank you to Harry and Martin both Bradford Whites, for buying my books Back to Reality, Leeds United 2017-18 and Once a Leeds fan, always a Leeds fan respectively. Talking about books, my latest one from is called Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United which is based on my blog and last season. Despite the way it ended, this was our best season in a long while with some fantastic football on show. As usual I have included lots of photos of our fans and this will be available soon. If anyone is interested in buying one please do not hesitate to contact me. See you on Tuesday, LUFC – Marching on Together!
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
- Back to Reality, Leeds United 2017-18
- Out soon: Marcelo Bielsa’s Leeds United
Website: www.followmeandleedsunited.co.uk Twitter: @FollowMeAndLUFC Facebook: Follow Me and Leeds United: Instagram: Heidi Haigh – lufcheidi @followmeandleedsunited