Photo from my younger years
I had a stark reminder on Tuesday of the impact the power of love I have for following my team everywhere and our fans has on my well-being. Coming home from work and being down in the dumps, had me feeling sorry for the myself. Getting contacted by Natasha and Vicky to join them and Rhiannon on the All Leeds TV Leeds United lasses programme that evening was the best tonic I could have had. I really enjoyed having the football banter and talking about Leeds United despite our loss the night before. Thank you for inviting me onto the show and for showing how great the Leeds family is. The link to the recording is:
I’d also like to thank Ken for buying my book Leeds Are going to the Premier League and as always, your support is appreciated.
I also started reminiscing as the reality of pretending I am 35 hits home as I prepare to retire from work in the summer. 50 years ago, on leaving school, my friend Sue and I made a pact to see how many Leeds games we could attend without missing one. I then went seven years without missing a game home or away and went abroad to see the greatest Leeds team ever. I’m sharing some of my photos of the young girl in a man’s world, which takes me back to those days. Despite all the troubles and trauma of following my team in that era, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I was privileged to be there and to see Billy Bremner lift the FA Cup in 1972. Going to both Salonika in 1973 and Paris in 1975 remain special despite the results. Following this team has made me the loyal Leeds United fan I am today. Although we are playing Chelsea at Elland Road today, I’d told my mum I was going to see Leeds play at Stamford Bridge whether she liked it or not having told me I couldn’t go to Southampton the previous away game. I was working and earning my own money and my love affair of going to away games too was born then and continues to this day.
Team: Meslier, Ayling (Captain), Struijk back from injury, Llorente, Bamford (100th appearance), Alioski, Phillips, Dallas, Harrison, Raphinha and Roberts. Subs: Rodrigo for Bamford (injured 35), Costa for Harrison (64) and Klich for Rodrigo (79). Subs not used: Casilla, Koch (back on the bench after knee surgery), Poveda, Berardi, Shackleton and Jenkins. The game ended in a 0-0 draw. Attendance: Zero – behind closed doors. Referee: Kevin Friend. Booked: Roberts, Alioski and Rodrigo.
Bielsa made three changes to the team that played West Ham with Costa and Klich on the bench, and Cooper not in the team. Phillips was limping in the first minute after a challenge but was able to carry on. Dallas playing in midfield made an early tackle letting Chelsea know they were going to be in a battle today. Chelsea nearly took the lead as the ball was pounced on the line by Meslier to stop it going in. Within 14 seconds a Leeds counterattack saw Bamford pass the ball across to Roberts in the penalty area who blasted it into the net only to see it chalked off for Bamford being offside in the build-up. With things coming thick and fast it was Chelsea’s turn to see us clear the ball at the other end only to see it rocket off Llorente, the rebound hit the crossbar and was then scooped up by Meslier. Back to the other end Roberts had another great chance only to see his shot pushed onto the woodwork from their keeper. Leeds were playing well, chasing after everything as Chelsea had another attack and straight away I shouted that it was offside. I didn’t see the flag go up at the end of the attack, but the comments were justified as I was proved right.
Roberts was booked for a challenge from behind as he studded the back of their player’s knee as he was falling. With 25 minutes played, Chelsea were making us play deep across the back four which in turn invited them to attack us. As Struijk deflected the ball over for a corner, Chelsea looked to be getting a foothold in the game. Bamford was hurt in an aerial challenge as their player barged his hip and looked to be struggling as he hobbled about before going down injured. Eventually Chelsea put the ball out so he could get treatment. At that point I wasn’t sure if he would come back on, but he did, although he didn’t last long and had to be subbed. Poor Bamford, a memorable game for his 100th but for the wrong reasons. Ayling’s flop was quite theatrical as the referee waved play on. After a couple of Leeds attacks which won us a corner and a throw in, another one broke down as Chelsea went straight to the other end in injury time and brought a save from Meslier to keep the score 0-0 as we headed into the break.
The commentators praised Leeds for playing Marching on Together at the start of the second half to create an atmosphere. To have us singing it in the ground again will be awesome. With Raphinha on the attack in an offside position Chelsea won the ball back as the referee waved play on. Chelsea then came close to taking the lead two minutes into the second half but put the ball over the bar. Roberts had made some great running into space down the left-hand side, but his shot did not have enough power on it and was saved by their keeper. Rodrigo looked to have been moved to play deeper in midfield, with Roberts up front but he wasn’t as effective in that position as he’d been in the first half when he played higher up the pitch. That saying, Rodrigo was involved with our next attack. Chelsea were upping the tempo but it was Leeds who came closest to scoring with a save on the line from Raphinha; their keeper reacting well, when he looked to be anticipating the ball at the near post. Roberts going forwards on the wing again was proving to be effective.
Although we were closing down as quickly as we could, it seemed we had lost our way a little as Chelsea brought a save from Meslier. They were through again but put the ball wide with Leeds players closing in to put him off. When Costa prepared to come on, I was already typing for Harrison, before a decision had been made. We need to be able to keep the ball upfront more. As Raphinha was pulled up for a foul the commentators said he had caught their player in the face. Now that’s funny, how can his arm be described as his face? The whistle blew for a free kick to Chelsea but Ayling carried on forwards only to end up on the floor in agony holding his knee. With a Chelsea player trying to drag him up, my concerns were that they were making an injury worse as I knew immediately Ayling wasn’t pretending to be injured. He eventually walked off the pitch after treatment so fingers crossed, he will be okay. As Roberts made another run forward, I was hoping a run in the team will do him good. When Alioski chased back after their player when our attack broke down, I knew he was going to get booked for the tackle as he went to the left of their player instead of the other side of him. A long-range shot was saved by Meslier and stats showed they’d had 14 attempts then to our four, so we were up against a strong team. Rodrigo found himself in the book too before the referee went straight over to have a word with Alioski seemingly saying he would be off if he did it again. I’ve no idea what happened at that point as it sounded like something had happened off the ball.
Leeds were putting pressure on Chelsea as we won a corner, then had a Llorente shot deflected for another one. Rodrigo was unlucky to see his header straight at their keeper, saved by him at the second attempt. Klich was then brought on to replace Rodrigo which was a surprising sub to me even though I admit he wasn’t doing too well playing in a deeper position. A bad clearance from Leeds had Chelsea back on the attack but even though it was offside, Meslier came out to the edge of the box and claimed it anyway. Our new pitch looked to be holding up well after all the recent rain and looks to have embedded better. Some of our players were wearing deeper studs too which will have helped them keep their footing better and there were hardly any slips in comparison to previous games. Roberts was pulled up for offside, but it looked like their far player was playing him onside to me. He was given the man of the match award, had played well, and was looking to prove me wrong for saying he wasn’t a 90-minute man.
As we played the final minutes of the game Chelsea had another shot in our penalty area which luckily was straight at Meslier who saved it. Some good defending from Struijk and then Alioski (who went down injured) saw Leeds keep them out and keep the game at 0-0. That was another thing proving me wrong as I had been saying we do not get draws but am more than happy for that to happen. One point is better than none and we did well to get something out of the game. It was a tough game today and Leeds United rose to the challenge. Getting a draw is what I consider to be a good point under the circumstances so well-done lads. With another Friday night game facing us back in London, I loved it when we took over the neutral part as well. Getting Struijk back in defence with his height has proved effective for me and has also got us another clean sheet. Let’s keep that up and get three points next time. LUFC – Marching on Together!