It seemed such a long time since we’d had a game with this Sunday lunchtime kick off with a large support from Leeds once again heading to Wigan. I surpassed myself this morning by forgetting we were leaving Leeds at 9am; the realisation hit as we were getting ready to leave the house at 7am! As my daughter Dani had stayed the night, we both could have done with an extra hour’s sleep.
I felt there had been a lot in the news this week about Leeds; firstly about Berardi being out for 16 weeks with a hamstring tendon rupture that will heal without surgery. He must be gutted to be out with another bad long term injury. We also had little Freddie Callaghan from Ireland making his appearance on Soccer AM dressed at Marcelo Bielsa and well done to him. When I first saw his photo appear on Twitter showing him dressed like that for Halloween, I couldn’t get over the likeness to Bielsa! A further thing has been the “Sky TV are f***ing s**t chant which has found itself in the news this week. As many of us have long suspected, our chants are muted when televised which wouldn’t be so bad if it was just these chants not that I sing it personally. When our fans are on song, the atmosphere is out of this world and should not be muted so our worldwide fans can join in with us. There had been a “debate” amongst Leeds fans if you can call it that, on one of the Facebook groups I frequent. The owner of the first comment posted that Leeds fans were hypocritical for singing that when they will have Sky at home. Along with others who said that it affects the travelling support, especially our long distance fans, who have to change their travel arrangements and costs them money, his answer was they still have three weeks before the game to make a booking. As pointed out to him, fans book for the cheapest prices they can and also once they have got a ticket they need to have their travel arrangements sorted. Unfortunately there was no getting through to him, so I left it that the fans who sing it are entitled to their opinion whether they have Sky or not!
I would like to say a big thank you to John for buying all five of my books today so happy reading and I look forward to getting feedback in due course. Evie was made up after buying my first book Follow Me and Leeds United then having her photo taken, so thank you once again. Just a reminder, that autographed copies of all my books are available through me at any game. Follow Me and Leeds United, Once a Leeds fan, always a Leeds fan, The Sleeping Giant Awakens, Leeds United 2016-17 and Back to Reality, Leeds United 2017-18 are all priced at £12.99. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Leeds United, Leeds United in the 1980s is £14.99. As Christmas is coming don’t forget these will make great presents for the Leeds United fan in your life. With lots of recollections from my early days of following Leeds to the latter two books depicting the last two seasons travelling home and away with Leeds, there are plenty of stories that will resonate with our great support. With lots of photos in them, you may even find yourself in one! Our stop today was in Leyland again which was packed with Leeds fans plus a few Man City ones before we made our way to the ground. I was to meet Phil Thumbsup Cresswell there who was buying my new book Back to Reality so thank you to him for the support.
The team: Peacock-Farrell, Douglas (back from injury), Dallas at right back, Cooper, Jansson, Philips, Roofe, Forshaw, Alioski, Hernandez and Klich. Subs were Shackleton for Klich (90+1). Attendance was 14,799 with 4,856 Leeds fans. Leeds won the game 2-1 with goals from Hernandez (9) and Roofe (46).
By the time we reached the ground it was 1pm and luckily although there was plenty of traffic, we didn’t get caught on the gridlocked roads after an earlier car crash next to the ground which the team got caught up in. By the time we’d walked to the ground, put my flag up and walked to where Dani’s seat was, I didn’t realise the teams were already out on the pitch and ready for the minute’s silence. This was for both Armistice Day and the Leicester City owner and staff who were killed in a helicopter crash leaving their stadium last week. The silence was immaculately observed in the stands but underneath on the concourse, no one was aware it was taking place.
With Wigan unbeaten at home so far this season I was hoping that for once we could turn that stat around. We’d had a conversation in the pub about Dallas playing at right back. I didn’t like him playing in that position but I said I would be happy for him to prove me wrong. As my friend Sue said, she thought it was more about him moving forward than the defensive part and I hadn’t thought about that. As it was I thought he had a good game today.
Within six minutes of the start, we found ourselves a goal down after Wigan were awarded a free kick just outside the area. Despite it taking ages before the kick was taken, the ball was kicked into the right hand side of the net, opposite us. I thought if we’d have had someone on both posts for set pieces and corners, it would make it harder for the opposition to score. Once again we’d given ourselves an uphill battle at the start of the game. For once though, within three minutes we had equalised with a fantastic move that saw Klich asking for the ball in open space, pass the ball across the goal where Hernandez was there to stick it into the net right in front of us. Sending the Leeds support into raptures was certainly true as the lads behind kept falling into me. I was trying to keep on my feet to get some photos which proved difficult, but celebrations have to be done! With that, loads of Leeds fans started coming out of the stand to our right and were brought into ours. This upset some Wigan fans who didn’t like the fact we’d had loads of fans in their stand too. We had a couple of great chances but their goalie was on hand to palm the ball away. We had lots of possession from then on and Wigan weren’t in the game very much. They had small pockets of attack, but I thought we coped with the game very well as we went in at half time 1-1.
I took a few photos of fans beneath the stands and had a chat with Tina and Kev before going back to my seat. As I got to the top of the stairs I said “when did the teams come back out?” as that seemed to have been a quick half time. With that the ball was passed across the goal by Hernandez and with Roofe bearing down on their goalie whose defender got in the way, contrived to Roofe getting the loose ball and sticking it into an empty net. That was a welcome goal with many fans missing it as they were still down below the stands. I headed back to my seat and in the middle of taking one photo, nearly jumped out of my skin as someone let one of those “bomb fireworks” go off in the seats to my left close to where Dani was. I’m sorry but I won’t agree these should be at a game and I wish those who bring them into the stands wouldn’t do it. I know this will fall on deaf ears though sadly. We came close to scoring again and the Leeds fans were in good voice, as they had been for most of the game. With Wigan fans resorting to a drum to whip up any atmosphere, they were pretty poor to be honest. When all their fans stood up and started clapping, I had no idea what it was for as I hadn’t seen anything on social media beforehand. As I tried to clap too, no Leeds fans joined in so gave up. I saw something mentioned later about Dave Whelan their owner, so need to read up on that as I assumed that is who it was for. The lads in front of me were going mad as a woman in front of them had not taken any interest in the game and spent the whole 90 minutes playing games on her phone. I found it very strange to be honest unless she’s attended under duress, but with tickets being sold out in minutes if you don’t want to watch the game, there are plenty of fans who do.
After having some strange decisions made by the officials plus heavy tackles flying in left, right and centre from Wigan, it was good to see one of them booked. The longer teams get away with fouls, the more they do. A couple of times Wigan attacked and it looked like they had got the better of our defence, but one thing that shone out, is the fact our players play as a team. With about six of our players bearing down on their attacker, we got the better of him and then started another attack once more. With Shackleton being the only sub today at the start of five minutes of injury time, he was unlucky not to score. As I headed to get my flag, one lad shouted “Heidi where are you going?” My response was to go and get my flag, so that was alright lol! The Leeds fans were singing, “we’re Leeds United, we’re top of the league”. I couldn’t sing it until the final whistle blew so as not to jeopardise anything and it was a relief to hear the whistle blow for full time. We broke another stat by this being the first game since Boxing Day where the opposition had scored first and we ended up winning, so well done lads.
As a very happy support came out of the ground, we got to the coach and were soon on our way. Stuck in traffic our coach kept stalling so our driver turned right up a road and it was only as we got to the top of it, we realised we weren’t going any further. With no power at all we couldn’t get the coach onto the main road. I said would it help if we pushed the coach to which the driver said yes that would be a good idea. With that a dozen of us got out and started to push the coach from behind. Although I managed to get a couple of photos, I did push it too though despite getting accused of just taking photos lol! It certainly did the trick as we got the coach over the incline and set off. I thought it was going to mean no Sunday tea at my elder daughters for us but luckily we made it back to Leeds in one piece. I’d been asleep when we’d passed a crash on the motorway so hopefully no one was hurt in it.
It felt good to get a win today and next week sees us head to West Bromwich Albion for the first time in a long while, for another evening kick off. There are plenty of tales from our times at their ground, with one in my first book being Jonny Giles’s testimonial which a group of us attended in the seventies. When lads with Brummie accents pretended to be Leeds fans then showed their true credentials, it turned out to be a bad night for my friends and I! I don’t think that’ll happen when we visit them next week! 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
The Sleeping Giant Awakens, Leeds United 2016-17
OUT NOW! Back to Reality, Leeds United 2017-18