Today was my belated first trip to Elland Road this season for the visit of Birmingham City. A Sunday lunch time televised match had the added spice, as one of my best friends whom supports the Blues joined me for the match. The two and a half hour drive was swift and the sunshine was out for our teams battle. I have been friends with Chris since the 3rd year of High School and football has been the primary interest that made us gel. We have been to Leeds and Birmingham games in the past, with the most notable back in 1996 when my Dad infamously threw a pork pie at Michael Johnson who was blocking his view whilst warming up. This story is still talked about in what’s referred to as Pork Pie Gate Scandal. It still makes me smile when I think back about it, it makes us all smile!
As we walked down to the ground from my car, we were so engrossed in conversation that we missed the turning to the ground. Today had a good feeling about it, the usual superstitious rituals that I’ve carried out since I was a kid repeated, with the added spice of a return to Elland Road of Lucas Radebe. The chief was a big part of my child hood memories watching Leeds and to have him present gave the crowd a lift as kick off drew upon us.
As we walked to the new refurbished Peacock pub opposite the ground for a pre match ale and burger, I managed to get a photo with another Leeds legend…. Don Revie.
The recently refurbished Peacock Pub which closed down during the Ken Bates era has certainly changed. Inside is smart, clean and modern with a nice open spacious feel despite many fans being present. We had a beer, mine was the much hyped Yorkshire Blonde and we made our way into the large rear Beer Garden with a burger in our hands.
One thing Leeds and Birmingham have in common, is the painful way in which we have been taken over and ran in a disheartening manner. The one thing that is very different, is that as Leeds seem to have seen the back of these uncertain times, Birmingham are in the middle of a control battle with current owner Carson Young on trial in Hong Kong. We talked about this in some detail which raised the subject again that football is a business. We finished our pint and made our way to the ground, blissfully unaware of what was to follow.
Leeds United and Birmingham City have had equally stuttering starts to this season. Leeds have slowly dropped down the table after an encouraging start, whilst Birmingham haven’t really got going and have been languishing near the bottom half dozen teams. There was nothing to suggest during the two week international break that we were going to be served a feast of football, what followed was simply breathtaking.
The sun was out and for most of the game you would have thought it was an opening days fixture in August. Leeds United who were soundly beaten at Derby County on their last outing came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders. Within five minutes Leeds could have been a couple up with Ross McCormack having a one on one shot saved and another effort saved at the near post. Chris Burke had a break away effort which he fired wide as Birmingham warned Leeds of the danger they could pose. Another Ross McCormack effort went narrowly wide as the Elland Road faithful grew extremely frustrated at their inability to put away one of these early chances.
The frustration was short lived as Leeds capitalised on a defensive blunder which saw Birmingham City’s goalkeeper Randolph lose the ball on the edge of his area. Rudy Austin teed the ball up to McCormack who fired the ball into an empty net with two defenders desperately trying to stop the inevitable. This spurred Leeds on and the lead was doubled shortly after as Ross McCormack continued to terrorize their defense. McCormack took the ball wide before crossing the ball to Rudy Austin who headed the ball into the net past a hapless Randolph.
As the game approached half time a dejected Birmingham team looked desperate for the half time whistle. Within a minute of me stating “that a third goal would kill off this game” Leeds promptly delivered it. More confusion in the Birmingham defense allowed a Ross McCormack shot to be parried out into the middle of the box for an unmarked Smith to tuck away what would be his first of the day. The whistle soon followed as a shell shocked crowd who hadn’t seen such a devastating display of dominance were left speechless. Chants of “what the f@&k is going on” were equally humorous.
Lee Clark made a couple of changes at half time and changed the formation around in a desperate attempt to stem the flow of one way traffic. This seemed to work and the second half was a far more even contest. Paddy Kenny was forced into making a couple of smart saves including a Murphy free kick which struck the post. Soon after withstanding this pressure Leeds broke clear and another McCormack cross was met by the impressive Smith who headed his second of the match past a hapless Randolph to make the score 4-0
Another one on one this time by Rudy Austin was saved and a Sam Byram effort blocked as Leeds tried to add more to a dominant performance. The crowd of just over 21,000 were treated to a rousing performance as Leeds jumped up to 9th in the league. Brian McDermott was a relieved character as chants around the ground confirmed the support for their manager who has had a challenging month in the hot seat.
My player ratings as follows:-
Paddy Kenny – 9
Stephen Warnock – 9
Tom Lees – 9
Scott Wootton – 8
Jason Pearce – 8
Sam Byram – 8
Luke Murphy – 8
Rudy Austin – 9
Alex Mowatt – 8
ROSS McCORMACK – 10
Matt Smith – 9
Everybody played their parts well and when called upon Paddy Kenny was a rock. Matt Smith was used as a target man well and made many headers that set attacking plays up, his two goals on another day would’ve made him my man of the match. Warnock made three top sliding tackles and was dominant, whilst Tom Lees cleared two goal bound efforts off the line. Rudy ran the most and covered so much ground and deserved his goal. My man of the match went to Ross McCormack who was involved in everything. One goal, two assists and creating all the space. Some would say he was wasteful early on, I’d say he was conducting everything exactly how he wanted. An excellent team effort.