As we headed to Preston at 4.00 pm I thought we were going straight to the ground but luckily despite the crawling traffic a few times we managed an hour stop in Leyland. From there we got to the ground with a police escort just before 7.00 pm. I was meeting Martin and his son who were over from Belgium although they weren’t going to be sitting with our fans. I always helped Martin out in the past by getting tickets for him as he was a regular who went everywhere. It was nice to meet up with him and his son after all these years and I recognised Martin straight away. On our way into the ground one of our stewards said this was his last away game as a steward having been one for 18 years. He will just do the home games in future so he can have some family time but well done.
Inside the ground I went and put my flag up and then went to look for Nikki and her dog Rita as I will be attending the LUDO end of season do on 21st April with my daughter Dani. As I got there I was introduced to a journalist from America who had decided to forego watching the Champions League game tonight and come to join us at Deepdale. He also bought my book Follow Me and Leeds United so a big thank you to him for that. John who was stood on the row behind asked if I’d anymore books so he bought Once a Leeds fan, always a Leeds fan so again I thank him for that as the support of fans is greatly appreciated. I managed to see loads of people I knew including Ian who is Godfather to my eldest daughter Michelle. Ian was a regular on Wallace Arnold coaches with us in the seventies along with his friend Gary and we are still friends to this day. Being a Leeds United fan, the one thing I love is our unique bond and camaraderie that we have between us that stays forever.
The team today was Peacock-Farrell, Anita, Jansson, Dallas, Hernandez, Grot, Roofe, Ekuban, Phillips, Vieira and O’Connor. Subs were Hugo Diaz making his debut (replacing Jansson who went off injured) (57), Saiz for Roofe (67) and Alioski for Grot (68). Leeds lost the game 3-1 after leading 1-0 with Roofe scoring for Leeds (13). Attendance was 14,188 with 3,550 Leeds fans.
As soon as the team was announced before the game, loads on social media were thinking it was a joke and that the real team would be announced later. Many were saying that if they’d known this earlier they wouldn’t have bothered travelling to Preston. I was optimistic at that point and after seeing two magpies outside the Peacock I thought our luck was in. Talking of magpies, my friend Sue found a live one in her house last week that must have been brought in by her cat. To say she was shocked was an understatement. Also Brian from Wales was missing his first game tonight and said it would be typical of Leeds to win because he wasn’t there so I was hoping he’d be proved right. Obviously the reality was completely different and a tale of two halves once again followed.
As Preston attacked the goal in front of the Leeds fans they had a couple of chances as Peacock-Farrell was called on to make a save that went out for a corner. Leeds actually took the lead in the 13th minute when the corner taken came back out to Phillips, who then crossed the ball for Roofe to score! Immediately some Leeds fans sang “How sh*t must you be we’re winning away”. I just thought please don’t sing that so early but wait until we’d more goals under our belts. Instead that song came back to haunt us by the end of the game. It looked like we were playing with a front three so I thought just before we scored that maybe this would work. As it was Preston did lots of attacking and came close to equalising. The one thing I noticed was their passing and control of the ball was so much superior to ours and also they kept being in so much space on either wing. Luckily for us though their shooting boots weren’t on! We had a couple more shots on target which forced saves from their goalie before Preston hit the post just before the break.
I still thought we would be able to go on and win the game at this point but with the second half only a few minutes old, we had the stuffing knocked out of us when Preston were awarded a penalty after a foul by Anita. Peacock-Farrell went the right way but was unable to prevent the ball going into the net for the equaliser. The lad next to me said Gallagher who was taking it never misses and he was right. To make matters even worse, Preston took the lead a couple of minutes later after Peacock-Farrell had already denied them a second goal with a great save. Controversy followed as Jansson stayed down injured for a while and then was taken off. Loads of Leeds fans have slated him going off as it looks like when the going gets tough he goes down injured. Doubts actually crossed my mind tonight. Young Hugo Diaz came on as sub and played well. We had a corner and O’Connor pushed their goalie over who acted like he’d been shot. With that Preston players manhandled him and then fisticuffs started. The next minute it was all kicking off around us at the front of the stand where I’d stayed for the second half. Stewards including ours were in abundance as I saw one of ours was trying to calm down the lad who’d been stood near me. I got involved then as the lad was getting very agitated due to being held and to prevent him getting taken out, I tried calming things down. Eventually we managed this between us all. He hadn’t actually done anything wrong only run towards the perimeter fence but it was pre-empted that he was going to do something he shouldn’t do. After things had calmed down and O’Connor was booked the game carried on. I’m not sure if any of the Preston players were booked for the retaliation which would have been deserved, especially as one had him by the throat, but someone said no one was.
I went to get my flag but wasn’t sure how many minutes were left but it turned out to be at least 10 minutes. Their scoreboard in our end is terrible and I couldn’t even look up there without getting dizzy so it was hard to work it out. As I got my flag I was talking to one of the Preston stewards who praised our fans by saying we always had a lot of fans both there tonight and at Elland Road. As we chatted I said as long as Preston didn’t get another goal so we were down and out that would be fine. Unfortunately that happened and it was indeed over for us. The penalty decision was the deciding factor and it will be interesting to see if our shout for a penalty in the first half should have been given or not. Whether that would have made a difference to the score I’ve no idea but it really was a tale of two halves. Who could have seen that final score at half time? Why can we not defend a lead once again? It was so deflating for us all and you just end up resigned to it all. Orta out was sang by many fans who are all convinced that he is the one dragging the club down. Personally I don’t know what to think anymore but the longer the season has gone on it does feel that there is something seriously wrong at the club. I don’t have any evidence but something isn’t right. I’m still not convinced by Heckingbottom either as results and performances have not improved under him after the sacking of Christiansen.
The coaches were parked right outside the ground and we quickly headed away with a police escort. Instead of the quick trip to the motorway, we found we had diversions again as the entrances slip roads were closed! That wasn’t the only diversion as apparently the exit road off the motorway was shut too plus we had roadworks to contend with near Rochdale.
I can’t remember what got us talking about the Istanbul murders but I think I mentioned I was glad the plaque for Chris and Kev got cleaned and treated in time for the families to visit. John said that they nearly walked into the square as the attacks happened but were warned away from there by some shoe shine boys. As they headed downstairs to a bar slightly away from the area the small group of Leeds fans couldn’t believe their eyes seeing the attacks being shown live on the TV. He is convinced that this was a set up because why would this be on the TV so quickly? Such an horrendous thing to happen. The next day all the hotels where the Leeds fans were staying were on lockdown and flights to Turkey cancelled so no more could arrive for the game. Incidentally this game should never have been played because of what had happened which is why all the Leeds fans turned their backs at the start of the game. John and his group were going to meet Phil Beeton to travel on his coach so they were in two taxis mostly wearing their Leeds colours. Unfortunately the first taxi crashed into someone and it was then that things got very scary as groups of men surrounded the taxis and saw them wearing their colours. John had visions of them being attacked in there but luckily for them one of the drivers had rung ahead and two relief taxis turned up and got them out and to the hotel. As they got out of the taxis, no one could believe their eyes because no one had known there were any other Leeds fans out there for the game.
This got John talking about a couple of incidents that had happened in the past. One was at Newcastle when they were cornered on the steps of a building. There were about a dozen Leeds fans including PC Barraclough. It was like the Alamo having to fend off all the Newcastle fans, with the baton being used in great abundance as well until the Newcastle police turned up to put a stop to it all. The second was coming out of a game at Chelsea to see their fans all holding up walking sticks. This was just after the Clockwork Orange film came out. It’s not something he is proud of now but it was self-preservation when a Chelsea fan lunged at him with the stick, he grabbed it and nutted him to stop him. I’m more than happy to leave trouble in the past but unfortunately it isn’t always the case that you can sadly.
We arrived back in Leeds just before midnight despite all the detours and I’d found out we had a group of Danish Leeds fans travelling with us. As well as Norwegian fans there tonight, I feel for Inverness White and Bournemouth Whites who have such a long way to travel back home. Why did he bother to make the trip was Inverness Whites comments after the game and I can’t blame him. The detours didn’t end there as I had another one on the way back to Halifax.
On Friday we travel to Aston Villa for another night game and live on Sky I think. I will be travelling in early for this one with Paul and Reuben who have kindly offered me a lift. I am taking part in a Fan Girls documentary and will be doing some filming for it before the game. I’ve had to tell my seat number too so I’d better behave during the game lol! I really can’t see us getting anything from the game but who knows. Always Leeds, Always Loyal is the Supporter’s Club motto and one thing I do know, is that at times Leeds United do not deserve our support but it’s what we do! See you at Villa – 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
OUT NOW! The Sleeping Giant Awakens, Leeds United 2016-2017