Newcastle 14th April 2017

It’s been a pretty stressful week. Being sat at a funeral wake on Tuesday to hear my granddaughter was on her way to hospital from the doctors to rule out meningitis meant everything else went out of the window. Whilst I wouldn’t wish acute tonsillitis on her, the relief to know it was that rather than meningitis was overwhelming especially as it came so soon after the anniversary of my daughter’s death.  After going straight to the hospital to join them, I was happy when she was discharged.

After the win against Preston I was more optimistic for our trip to Newcastle today. As long as we don’t give them the respect we did at Elland Road and standoff them, we could upset the apple cart tonight. As I set off for Elland Road, the butterflies and knots started in my stomach and by the time I reached Shibden Park I felt quite emotional. I realised then how much the game and result meant to me. After queuing for ages at Wyke garage due to a crash at the traffic lights it gave me time to reflect and made me glad that I had allowed myself plenty of time to get to Leeds. As the ambulance was already there I realised that it hadn’t happened long before I got there but hopefully the people involved in the crash were okay, although seeing the stretcher being unloaded meant there were some injuries.

As I parked up at Elland Road I realised that there were a lot of families around but it wasn’t until I headed to Billy’s bar that I realised it was for the ground tours as John McClelland led them out of there.

Our stop today was at Green Hammerton before making our own way to the game. Hooray as that meant no police escort from Washington Services. Whilst I’ve no objection to the escorts, being kept there until 7pm before getting escorted in was a joke last time we were there. We arrived at the ground at kick off and I proceeded to run up the first three flights of stairs then staggered up the rest. I realised I wasn’t fit enough to run up 14 flights of stairs and then had another load of steps to get to my seat! To be honest I would hate to have a seat that high up , permanently as it is too far away from the pitch, not a good view of a football game or being part of it for me.

We had only been travelling for 40 minutes when I started feeling really hot, sweaty and feeling sick. I had to take off my beret which is normally glued to my head and my waistcoat to try and cool down. I was so glad we didn’t have long to wait until our stop. Hopefully it was more travel sickness than anything else but I didn’t feel well at all and even felt like lying down in the aisle rather than being in my seat! I was so glad when we pulled up at the club and got straight to the front ready to get off into the fresh air. I did this and then had to hang on to the side of the coach as everything started to go black around me. As I was nearly passing out I was very grateful for Richard helping me across the road and a big thank you to him. I’d sent a message to my friend Sue to have a pint of water ready for me and sat outside to drink it. Eventually after having a further couple of pints of water and some pie and peas normality returned. We decided later on that I’d been dehydrated and my induction trip to the gym yesterday along with another hour long class I did was probably too much.

I decided the best way to try and forget how I’d been feeling was to start taking photos and talking about Leeds!  We had the Welsh Whites stopping at the club too so had a great chat with some of them. A big thank you to Brian Bevan the Number 1 referee in Wales for buying my book Follow Me and Leeds United!!  I’ll look forward to getting his feedback but we all had a laugh discussing memories including his own refereeing exploits! It was a really nice few hours spent before we departed for the ground. As the A1 was really bad traffic wise, we went up the A19 and couldn’t believe how easy the journey was in comparison.

We pulled up on the road leading to the ground and as quite a few of the fans headed for the pub opposite where we’d parked we headed into the ground. I remember our exploits in the Magpie pub opposite the ground all those years ago. I’d had a conversation with Richard earlier (who’d helped me when I was ill) saying that we wouldn’t be kicked out of there today!  A group of us had gone in there in the 70s and although the Newcastle fans had chanted how much they hated us it wasn’t until we left to go to the game that things kicked off. We lasses got out okay but Richard and another lad got literally kicked out of it! Mick Bates had got me a couple of complimentary tickets for that game but we were so scared, we daren’t go near the players’ entrance after that!

The team today was Green, Ayling, Berardi, Bartley, Jansson, Hernandez, Bridcutt, Phillips, Pedraza, Wood and Roofe. Subs were Sacko for Pedraza, Doukara for Bridcutt and Taylor for Berardi. Attendance was 52,301 with approx. 3,000 Leeds fans. I took it steady climbing all the stairs to level 7 but some fans struggled with it. The good thing is, at least there is a lift for our disabled and other fans who would not be able to climb the stairs. To be honest if I hadn’t have come round from earlier I’d have been in the lift too! I was pleasantly surprised to see we were on the balcony and on row C right behind the goal. It was a lot better view than I’d hoped for and not as high as before. Because I’d felt ill before I sat down for most of the game. A big thank you also for the Leeds badge I was given.

As expected with the tough game ahead, Leeds were put under plenty of pressure at the start of the game. We nearly took the lead with our first attack of the game as we hit the crossbar and had the ball cleared off the line. Although we didn’t do much attacking I thought we were defending well. In fact it became one of those games where our backs were against the wall but we were playing as a team and defending well despite all the attacking Newcastle were doing. Green again shows how important he is to the team making some fantastic saves and I know we are in safe hands with him. Although Newcastle nearly scored when the ball hit the post after a mistake from Hernandez, it was good to know we had kept the score level at half time. For once in my life I felt quite bolshie and felt that as long as we kept going and didn’t give up we could get something out of the game. The Leeds fans had been in good voice during the first half and we had a new Vieira song although I couldn’t understand the second line. It wasn’t until I lip read some fans as I was going onto the concourse at half time, that I realised what the whole song was; Ooooohhh Ronaldo Vieira, Oooooohhh he’s only a teenager, Oooooohhhh he never gives the ball away, 1234 – rinse and repeat as someone else said!

The second half was more of the same with constant Newcastle pressure and some great defending from Leeds. Jansson showing more than once how important he was in our defence along with Green. Although it was a mistake from Sacko when his pass wasn’t strong enough that saw Newcastle take the lead. Green made a fantastic save but unfortunately for us it had gone over the line, although it wasn’t far into the goal it was enough for it to be given. I stood up then for the rest of the game as old habits die hard. This was the wakeup call for the Newcastle fans to start chanting and singing. To be honest they had been very poor and not very vocal although for the next ten minutes the noise was deafening from them. Sing when you’re winning comes to mind! It probably took that long for the Leeds fans to get going again but they got behind the team. With all the diving from some of the Newcastle players I’d thought we’d be lucky not to concede a penalty so the fact the goal came from open play was better. You could tell they’d been in the premiership recently. Overpriced players throwing themselves about and trying to cheat their way through games is not what I like to see. I’d not given up though and felt we could still get something out of the game as we deserved it. It reminded me of the Don Revie days and Billy and the lads defending for their lives in some of the European games. It was a case of not losing this game either and if it meant by defending this way then so be it. When Bridcutt went off we moved higher up the pitch and with Newcastle wasting time we started coming forwards and attacking. The ball was cleared from Newcastle before coming back to Hernandez who put the ball out wide to Roofe whose cross was met by the one and only Chris Wood and the ball was in the net. Cue delirious scenes of joy on the terraces above the goal with the Leeds fans going mental and me saying I knew we could do it! What a fantastic ending for us and fully deserved as far as I was concerned. The team deserved their plaudits at the end of the game. Wood was the last man off the pitch after being interviewed by sky tv.

It was great singing the Vieira song going out of the ground. As we got to the bottom of the stairs underneath the stand I realised we had a welcoming committee at the other side of the stand. Although it was cordoned off between the two sets of fans with police and stewards, it always looked like things were going to kick off. At one point I’m sure the Newcastle fans broke through the cordon but I knew the Leeds fans would stand between us and they wouldn’t get near me. There was quite a crush at this point and it seemed to take ages to get out of the ground. As we were going back to the coaches I met a couple from Melton Mowbray who were on our coach. They couldn’t find it but I said we were quite far up the road. They followed me but we kept going for what seemed ages and I hoped it hadn’t been moved at that point! Luckily we got there eventually but it was a relief to know we’d got back to it okay. I’d heard a lad shouting SLI do you know where the coach is, as he ran back past us. I feel there were a few who couldn’t find their coach for a while.

It wasn’t until we set off and got near the pub that we saw the police surrounding a lad laid out in the middle of the road. He wasn’t moving and as Leeds fans were around him we assumed he was one of our fans. There were fans lined up outside the pub which the Leeds fans had gone in earlier which we thought were Geordies. I hope the lad is okay but as an ambulance passed us not long after, Sue and I assumed it was the lad being taken to hospital. Fingers crossed as he looked in a bad way.

Today was a welcome point as we head into our game with Wolves on Monday. I will be heading to Selby market in the morning with my family before we head to Elland Road for the game. We will all be wearing our Leeds things as my elder daughter Michelle and three granddaughters join me and my daughter Danielle at the game. My youngest granddaughter Alexis aged three keeps pointing to the Leeds badge on my shirt every time she sees it and shouts Leeds, Leeds! Well we couldn’t disappoint her so I’m hoping to see Lucas the Kop Cat for a photo with them all!

As we run out of games at the end of the season, let’s just enjoy ourselves and let other teams worry about us as we play to our strengths. At the end of next week with the Burton away game, we will have a better idea of where we are. Fingers crossed things go our way, see you on Monday – LUFC – Marching on Together!