Sitting down in our local Tap House me and my fiancée were enjoying The Mills Winter Ale. The background, a buzzing atmosphere as many chatted away. It wasn’t long before we asked each other the standard New Years Eve question.
Now before I go into it, I must add that this was the first time since we’ve been together that neither of us were struck down with a cold and we were away from our house on New Years Eve.
Immediately I dismissed it as a pretty standard year, 2014 appeared quiet and a lot calmer to that of previous years. It wasn’t until I thought a little harder about the question that it became apparent that 2014 has had its fair share of positives and some sad chapters as well.
In a year that saw a fantastic family wedding, an intimate In The Woods festival, camping trips and glamping in York, a birthday weekend away in Canterbury and many disappointing sporting woes from my beloved Leeds United it was hard to really answer this question with so much going on.
For those of you who have followed my blog since I started it in 2013, I’m hopeful that you’ve started to paint a picture of me and my life. I will always share what I feel comfortable with sharing and it’s because of this I feel that my followers understand how valuable I rate life. I will therefore answer this question honestly.
One of my main highlights of 2014 involved me and my fiancée moving into our first house together in February. I initially moved in with Lisa when I left Stratford and despite having a lovely place together then we made a decision to get a bigger place with our own garden. We have certainly benefitted from this and have spent most of the sunny days out in the garden cooking BBQs, growing plants and encouraging wildlife in to enjoy it with us. We have done many jobs to make this house our own and have just agreed an additional 2 year extension to our contract which is fantastic news.
The bird feeder was one of my Christmas Pressies and despite the return of our resident scatty Wood Pigeon, it’s clear he isn’t afraid of heights and is giving it a go. Unfortunately he is just a bit too big to use the feeders. The scattered seed on the grass from other birds is his reward.
On a professional level 2014 saw me secure the biggest promotion to date in my working career. I became a Branch Manager in August and have been responsible in ensuring the Branch has finished the year in an excellent position. I work for a Builders Merchants and 2014 has seen the Banbury depot succeed at its highest level in recent history. Five months into my new job and I am fully aware of the numerous challenges that await, however it’s important at times like these to enjoy the successes and ensure I benefit from the welcome festive break. Time to recharge these batteries!
With my new job I enjoyed my first Managers Christmas party and was very fortunate to be treated to a weekend around Cheltenham Races. It gave me the perfect excuse to get smartened up in a year that saw my fiancée improve my style and construct a far more fashionable wardrobe for me!
It is from this that 2014 sadly saw the passing away of one of my biggest influences in my professional career. In 2000 I started working in the Building Industry for a company called Underground Supplies. I was interviewed by the MD, a gentleman by the name of Andrew Bygate. I recall the meeting I had with the Recruitment Agency prior to this interview as if it only happened yesterday.
The lady at the Recruitment Agency advised me that Andrew was a positive man who admired forward thinking and driven individuals. I arrived with this in mind and following the interview Andrew simply said to me that he would be back in touch via the agency to let me know if I was successful. It was at this point I simply asked Andrew for the job. He looked at me, slightly perplexed by my forward nature before smiling and simply saying “ok then, the job is yours, well done”.
This was the start of nearly a decade working with Andy (Andrew was far too formal, once I started working for him!) Andy was diagnosed with a Brain Tumour in 2006 and undertook the biggest fight and challenge in his personal life. Andy fought hard and carried this on throughout 2014. Unfortunately Andy lost this battle in late 2014 but fought so bravely and inspired many people who crossed paths with him, this included me. Thank you Andy for inspiring me to succeed and play a major part in where I find myself today.
2014 saw one of my biggest personal challenges and one that me and Lisa were able to complete together. We had more than a few personal battles to overcome but on a bright dry day in Wales, we climbed and descended Mount Snowdon. If ever there was a challenge and one that needed team work of the highest order then this was it. Towards the end of the decent my legs packed in and I needed some heat pads and assisted stretches to keep me intact until the end. The important thing is we got through it and loved the breathtaking views and experience we shared together.
All I can say is I hope my readers and followers can take a moment to reflect and look back on 2014. It’s always nice when you can recall some stand out memories. Have a great 2015 and I look forward to sharing some more moments with you as I head into a big year!
A year ago I decided to start my blog, over 80 posts, 5,000 views and 70 followers later I have never felt more accomplished than I do right now.
I must once again place my thanks on record to my friend Jaki Jelley whose similar minded approach to her blog gave me the final push I needed to start my own. So what has happened this year and have my random ramblings really entertained my readers or drove you to despair? I’d personally like to think it’s been a mixed ride with many different topics covered.
So what have been my highlights? Well this year I’ve written about Leeds United on quite a few occasions, I am still hopeful that I will get a piece published by one of the fans pages this season. I’ve had some fun adventures and holiday trips with my awesome fiancé, mainly involving the tent.
I’ve written about my travels, gardening and nature stories including our ever so near attempts to get a blue tit nesting in our garden right through to creating a hotel for our bee to lay it’s eggs in. I’ve cooked pickled Beetroot, attempted to grow tomatoes and even written up a couple of my favourite recipes.
I’ve managed to get an article on the Autumn Towcester Beer Festival published on the about my area website and have written further blogs about my love for local ales. There have been some exciting pieces on Music Festivals including the surreal In The Woods Festival.
I’d like to thank you all for taking that little bit of time out of your busy days to read my blog and I promise that this second year will see even more stories from my crazy world and the life I lead.
On one final note I’d like to share some awesome news with you all. I secured my promotion at work and have finally become a Branch Manager. This is something I’ve wanted these last three years and from the beginning of August I’ll finally be there. This is a big deal for me and I am so proud of myself and also would like to place on record my thanks for the support my fiancé has given me throughout my career.
So as we embark on another adventure this weekend in Snowdonia, I can already feel my next piece formulating together in my head. Here is to the future and the exciting times it promises to bring.
I am a fan of Leeds United and if there is one thing that’s built into fans of our club, it’s the passion and tenacity to keep on going. There are also times in Football when the majority of supporters regardless of their teams colours stand together in support of each other when that time comes around.
Today (11th May) marks the 29th anniversary of the tragedy at Valley Parade. 56 supporters who were enjoying the match between Bradford City and Lincoln City never returned home. If ever there was a more poignant and harrowing reminder of how fortunate we are when we return home after each game we watch, this is sadly it.
This blog post is not for the sake of going into all the details or how, what and why it happened. This is to serve the purpose of remembering the tragic event and to make sure all people (fans of football or not) who didn’t know about it do so.
Watching the video footage of this event still brings tears to my eyes as what started as a small fire in the stand quickly erupted into a fiery inferno. Police and fans united in helping those frantically escape from the heat, flames and black smoke. Within a couple of minutes the stand was fully engulfed in flames with the stand starting to collapse.
The 56 who lost their lives included children and elderly people, normal everyday fans watching their team. Where the publicity of Hillsborough is always in the press for those determined to get the justice they deserve, it’s also important that we remember this disaster at Valley Parade. So please join me in taking a moment today to remember those who lost their lives in the most tragic way, just doing what the majority of us football fans do, watching their team.
Saturday saw me and my friend Chris visit St Andrews for the “2nd leg” between our teams. After the totally unexpected 4-0 win for Leeds back in October the season has seen both of our sides struggle for any type of consistency. If anything Leeds record of 2 wins in our last 3 suggested we would go into the fixture as the form side. Either way Birmingham who currently have a European record of having the worst home form this season needed to win. Precariously positioned just above the relegation zone before kick off, it was a time for Birmingham to show some belief and fight for a result that their season depended on. In a strange twist to previous Away days, I found myself sat in the Home End, so saw the games events from a different viewpoint to normal.
Birmingham find themselves in a position that Leeds fans are all too familiar with. They are in an ownership quandary with Carson Yeung currently in jail for money laundering and are trying their best to keep the club running until the seasons end. The squad is unbalanced and there are a handful of players who are either young and inexperienced within the ranks or those who have been injured with very little playing time behind them. The fans that turned up today were very vocal in their support and managed to keep the 3,000 traveling support from Leeds quiet during a disjointed first half.
A half that was full of probing intent from Birmingham should of seen them score within the first 5 minutes, when put through on goal the young Adeyemi could only lift his shot over the frame of Butlands goal. That was a warning shot in the arm for Leeds and despite lengths of possession the home side couldn’t test former star Jack Butland in the visitors goal. Towards the end of the first half Leeds produced the first shot on target, when Michael Tonge tested Randalph with a low shot. As half time came around there was a positive feel amongst the Birmingham City support who had earlier displayed a flag showing their support for the club whilst venting frustration with the current regime.
Whilst drinking Bovril at half time the conversations between surrounding home fans suggested that this was the best they had seen Birmingham play in a while. From a Leeds point of view, I could see how by hounding the players, they were preventing us from having any real possession which in turn created rushed and hurried plays resulting in lost causes. The second half couldn’t be any worse and the feeling was if we could make some chances that a goal wouldn’t be beyond us. Quite how the second half would turn out following my brave +3.5 goal prediction before the game was a surprise to all.
The sun was out following a period of gloomy rain and the same confident, assured Birmingham side had suddenly appeared to have lost their game plan. The chasing down the ball and clean tidy passing had stopped and Leeds soon realised that there was an opportunity to take advantage of this. The home support could see what was happening and with Leeds first real attacking move of the game, Michael Tonge crossed to Matt Smith who duly headed past the stranded Randalph in the home goal.
Before the crowd could take breath and assess what had just happened, Leeds went straight back up and a cross wasn’t dealt with properly and Danny Pugh who I had earlier lambasted for being inconsistent drove the ball home from just inside the area to make it 2-0. These two goals in two minutes suddenly transformed the once positive St Andrews crowd into a frenzied vocally discontent bunch. Fans got up and left as a familiar ringing of Leeds fans started chanting “We’ve only come, to send you down” echoed around the ground. It was at this point Blackpool scored at Wigan to confirm Birminghams slip into the bottom 3.
As I sat there trying to show my concerns and frustrations, Leeds put together a passing move that felt like an eternity to the Home fans. Each pass was greeted with an Olay and it was at this point it was over as a contest. Leeds made it 3-0 when a McCormack cross was turned into his own net by Caddis and a farce of substitutions by a desperate Lee Clark caused a further wave of disgruntled home fans to leave.
It was at this point Macheda the most recognized striker who was brought on, scored a consolation with his first real touch. The frustrations were clear to see as Birmingham suddenly looked like a team who could play. A second goal nearly came, but as the game fizzled out after a nasty injury to Alex Mowatt (who required stretchering off) the game ended.
Being a Leeds United fan isn’t easy and this season has had far more downs than ups, but the world hasn’t stopped turning around. This was a great win and it’s when things like this happen, you truly appreciate the frustrations of other teams who are in similar situations. We are very very fortunate to have an amazing fan base and it is because of this that we finally appear to have attracted an owner with the financial clout to manage our demanding expectations.
I really hope Birmingham City avoid relegation and our 7-1 aggregate win can be challenged again next season in a rematch. Birmingham fans deserve better and their summer will be an important one, Wigan at home this Tuesday is also their cup final.
For us it’s been a solid end to a season of unfulfilled promise. A final day win at home to Derby next week would be an unlikely strong end leading into a Summer of excitement and change. I’ve seen 6 away games this season and was fortunate to see 3 wins at Charlton, Yeovil and this game at Birmingham. The defeats at Reading and Burnley were frustrating but the one beating we took at Watford was deserved.
Onto next season!!
In a week that started with more Tuesday night humiliation who could have predicted the way it would play out by Friday evening. Following his successful purchase of Leeds United, Massimo Cellino celebrated in the way most Yorkshire folk do, by hitting the local for a pint or two.
In an alternative look at this weeks events we start at The Old Peacock. Massimo Cellino has just secured his purchase of Leeds United and in the process posed for a photo or two with some fans. Massimo quipped in a somewhat believable Yorkshire/Italian accent that “he was-a extremely excited, hey hey, a, bellisimo pleased to be-a in charge of ze greatest team in a England” he followed this by saying “hey up love, I’ll av another pint of 1919”
David “Devil” Haigh hits the local news by stating his intent to join Massimo as his Chief of stationery ordering, it’s at this point nobody questions his purchase of security equipment via his Staples online account. This turns out to come back and haunt him as the week draws to an end. David is politely told by Massimo to “join the devil and burn in hell” it’s still not clear who he means as last week Haigh was referred to as the devil by Massimo.
The Square Ball threw their opinions out into the open and the most creative cover seen in a long time confirmed what we’d all feared. Poor old Brian has been controlled by Haigh, Patel and Narooooodin. Sadly for us it’s become apparent that despite the harmony we were led to believe, Brian has been pulled in all directions. It’s still a mystery as to who controlled his hand that threw his little notepad in the dug out. The said notepad was last seen in the Vicarage Road turf as Wootton and Lees gave Watford a 3rd goal.
Friday saw the most bizarre twist yet as Cellino opened up an Order Confirmation addressed to the Chief of Stationery ordering. Nobody knows the exact date of this document but it confirmed the purchase of some not so discreet security cameras. Some think it could date back to the purchase of Gold Fish in the Quidsdale days, however if this is the case then he negotiated some pretty damn good repayment terms which makes it highly unlikely, ruling him out.
Once Massimo called in the CSI Leeds crime lab to carry out a thorough sweep of Elland Road, Haigh quickly departed grasping his belongings including the shiny Leeds scarf he wore for his photos at the club. Now whilst the timing of his resignation is purely coincidental the further discovery of cameras in the toilets has done little to help his defense.
As I sit down completing my usual Away prematch ritual, I find myself slightly more excited than normal. The drive down today was pleasant and parking the car a minimal exercise. I’ve had a lovely burger and ale at Mollonys along the High Street and the wander to the ground was not only paved by the golden shirts worn by tonight’s hosts.
The sunshine is out on a pleasantly warm Spring Evening and the buzz amongst the Leeds United faithful brings back similar memories of that Summer night Semi Final playoff at Elland Road against Preston. It’s been one amazing story since the news broke out on Saturday afternoon that Cellino won his appeal against the Football League.
Tonight as I headed towards Vicarage Road the news broke that Massimo Cellino had officially taken control, the promise this takeover brings is unknown but for one thing it’s come at the ideal time. Reports of the club declaring debts of £9.5m a handful of months before the Football Leagues fair play rules come into play confirms once again that this was needed to not only compete but to survive.
As I sit soaking up the inevitable vocal support that we bring to every ground we visit, I wonder what the future brings. Vicarage Road is a ground currently going through some development and the new stand being built to my left is a visual state of intent from the Pozza family keen to get Watford up to the promised land.
Since 2006 and that horrible memory at Cardiff it’s clear to see that whilst Watford enjoyed a year in the Premiership, Leeds United via League One are now competing on a level playing field. Tonight sees Leeds v Watford, Cagliari v Udinese, Cellino v Pozza, it’s Italy v The Football League.
So as kick off approaches let’s enjoy this moment a little longer. It’s fun being a Leeds fan!
Just like in an episode of 24 hours in A&E it has been absolutely mental crazy at Elland Road. I know Monty Python have reformed this year, maybe just maybe they wrote the script for what has happened at Leeds United in these 24 hours. I have felt every single emotion known and a few extra ones as well. This has been an absolutely crazy day!
So last night it was reported that Brian McDermott had been sacked by new owner Cellino. He announced that he wanted a coach and not a manager and because of this it was why the decision was made. I was in shock and twitter went into melt down. The Sky Sports transfer deadline day show piece suddenly turned into a who could sell Ross McCormack show, similar to Bid Up TV. Simon Jordan who is quite simply a tool tried his best to belittle McCormack whilst trying to encourage teams to bid for Ross. If rumours are to be believed a £6m bid from Cardiff was rejected once the reports of McDermotts sacking had been made public.
Heading into the last minutes of transfer deadline night we were all frantically refreshing twitter and willing the clock to count down faster until our Captain put all our minds and fears to rest. The tweet above confirmed he was staying and that we all needed to Unite ahead of tomorrow’s local derby with Huddersfield. A few comedy photos at ER saw some fans blockading Cellino in the ground and the local police had to be called in to assist! Why oh why were there not any cameras from Sky available at this hilarious moment.
I woke up hoping it had all been a nasty dream, it became apparent very quickly that it wasn’t. The hours today leading up to the game were not very informative. There had still not been an official announcement on the clubs web site regarding McDermott or anything that had happened last night. The only story was the signing of a new midfielder from Cagliari who was listed immediately on the clubs web page. There was still somebody working that site, despite many thinking it had been left to rot.
What then happened at Elland Road was simply the story of fairytales, it was out of this world. Gibbs & Redfearn were put in charge of team affairs and the side out out was one not too dissimilar to our departing boss. The only worry was putting McCormack up front on his own. Huddersfield deservedly took a 1-0 lead after half an hour as Leeds looked ragged and were clearly feeling sorry for themselves. Then stepped up our Captain who took matters into his own hands. Right on half time he scored to level the match. Unknown to many McDermott spoke to the team at half time and his talk galvanized the side.
Kebe scored his first for the club to put Leeds 2-1 up before a Ross McCormack double secured his second Hat-Trick of the season and gave us a 4-1 lead. Young Mowatt scored his first senior goal as Leeds ran out 5-1 winners. The result was bizarre but the most bizarre news was still to follow.
Brian McDermott was still Leeds United’s Manager. It was officially announced on the clubs web page that he was still in control of the First Team and would be involved in ensuring Leeds United moved forwards. As Phil Hay tweeted, you couldn’t make this up! Leeds United just don’t make things simple, it’s no wonder us fans are slightly crazy!
So in a nutshell as we head into Saturday night, we won 5-1, McDermott is still our boss, we have a rich Italian owner and Ross is very much our Captain after netting his 20th, 21st & 22nd League goals of the season!
It was only at the beginning of the month that David Haigh revealed to the world that he was confident in finalizing the terms of his takeover. This would have given Brian McDermott the funds and most importantly the time to make the right decisions and subsequent additions to his squad. A couple of wingers arrived quite quickly albeit on loans and the excitement quickly took over all other emotions to those close to Elland Road.
But in something not to dissimilar to a Timothy Burton Classic, the white roses of optimism soon shriveled into thorn riddled clumps of uncertainty. The knots were so entwined and thick that not even those closest to the takeover table could understand what was actually going on.
So back to today the 31st of January, a date that is best known to Leeds Fans as “Jump ship and move to East Anglia day”. The optimism has now been officially drained whilst we wait and see if either the Italian or Manc win their takeover battle of Leeds United.
One thing is for sure, there will not be any arrivals coming into the club today. There could possibly be a loan or two but with nobody in control of the purse strings, a bonafide offer of a transfer fee and contract with all this uncertainty will not be happening.
Based on this there is only one name that I can see joining us today. It’s that of former striker and modern day crowd favourite Luciano Becchio. He was one of many that saw the glow of the Norwich Yellow shirt as an appealing option of playing Premiership Football. Unfortunately for Luciano his time at Carrow Road has been a complete waste of time. He has only managed half a dozen league appearances in a year and not found the net. He has made it clear that he wishes to move back to Leeds and as Norwich now have sufficient backup in the striker department I can see this move happening over any other possible deals.
Roll back 6 months and you’d be lucky to find anybody willing enough to take a squad player of ours, well times are a changing. We suddenly have some quite appealing options that could help reduce the financial burden at Elland Road. Here are my tips of four players that come tonight will all be at different clubs.
Luke certainly did his reputation at Elland Road no harm at all by refusing to play against Ipswich on Tuesday night citing the reason because he didn’t want to risk injury. Blackburn are known to be after Varney who frustratingly on his day is one of the most complete strikers you could wish for. Performances against Sheffield Wednesday and Tottenham last season backed this up. He has struggled to hold down a regular position and needs to go. If we could get around £250k for him then this would be good business.
I really like Paul Green, I am just so frustrated that he hasn’t made it into the Leeds side. He still plays at International Level for Ireland and has always shown glimpses of his potential when given the chance. The problem is the emergence of Mowatt and the signing of Murphy that have kept him out of the side. Ipswich are reported to be making a loan offer until the end of the season. I would be sad to see Green go, but this move makes sense to all involved.
I think Diouf has been a good bit of business for Leeds in his time at the club. Where he has failed at scoring the goals to lead us to promotion, he has dazzled in some big games which proves he is in the wrong league. He may not be quick but he is smart. Not once has he brought the club into disrepute nor been involved in off the field incidents. The one red card at Brighton was silly but he has remained a true professional around his personal issues at Leeds. I think West Ham will make an offer and anything around £150k would help the club.
Danny has been a success story of the highest accolade. I think they will even make a film based on his story. From stuck in the reserves for so long to thrown into the first team and holding his place on merit, Danny Pugh has shown us what can be achieved. I think this is now the opportunity for him to get his move so he can enjoy playing regular first team football he deserves.
Whilst there are strong rumors of McCormack and Byram attracting bids today I just can’t see them being sold. With Haigh still as our MD and Brian our manager, they will not let this happen. One things for sure, it’s never easy being a Leeds fan, on transfer deadline day it’s just a little bit harder!
My second away trip of the season took me into London to The Valley. Leeds United have not really had such a good record on the road so far this season and the weather looked set to make things even more difficult. On top of this, injuries to key players meant Brian McDermott was forced into giving some of the forgotten men a chance to stake their claims. Danny Pugh came in to replace the injured Stephen Warnock and an injury just before kick off saw the impressive youngster Mowatt pulled out in place of war veteran Michael Brown.
I travelled down from Bedford and got the train into St Pancras International. A short tube trip to London Bridge and I was soon to meet the familiar sighting of our traveling support. We have an awesome away support and it’s because of this that I forget I’m on my own. The train to Charlton was eventful and one that would bring mixed emotions.
Word got out on the train that there was a Pitch Inspection at 1.30pm and there was a real possibility that the game could be postponed. Despite the grey skies it had been relatively dry, so this news was greeted with stunned concern. By the time we arrived at Charlton station, there was news of a second pitch inspection at 2.15pm.
The walk from the station to the Valley was relatively short and the location of the Away stand meant that we had a street to ourselves as we approached the ground. We were stood outside the stand waiting patiently for the news. The turnstiles were kept shut until just before 2.30pm when we were advised the game would proceed, but with a delayed kick off at 3.30pm.
I headed straight to my seat through very dated man operated turnstiles. The computer operated turnstiles no where to be seen. I got to my seat and was presented with the ever familiar sighting of minimal leg room. It was a good job I was on the back row, I was never going to stay sat on this seat. I started talking to a father and son from Anglesey in Wales and before we knew it kick off was upon us.
The pitch was showing some obvious signs of surface water and it quickly became apparent that the field was going to cause some trouble. The opening exchanges were disjointed and the ball was in the air and out of play more than it was in. It was a surprise that we managed to carve out a decent opening within 20 minutes where Dexter Blackstock knocked the ball down to Ross McCormack to steer past from close range to give us the lead. The remainder of the first half petered out into a scrappy affair and in typical Leeds fashion we conceded through sloppy defending. The goal itself was a fantastic finish, but our inability to clear the ball properly led to it. We were fortunate to go into the break level as another Charlton effort was cleared off the line. What was to follow in the second half couldn’t have been predicted as the teams left the field, the home team buoyed by their late surge.
The second half started with a disheartening pump into the air and out from the kick off. We were either trying to use the wind or were being plain lazy. What then happened was a master stroke as from their throw in, Danny Pugh won the ball and was brought down as he strode into the area, a penalty was awarded. Step up Ross McCormack who calmly slammed the ball centrally into the roof of the net to make it 2-1.
Leeds had chances and as the next twenty minutes passed we were starting to hit them on the break as they pushed forwards. Once again as we were looking the most likely to strike again, slack defending saw Pearce and Lees beaten twice by the same player. A simple knock back saw Kenny beaten and we were back to 2-2.
Once again just as Charlton appeared to have the ascendency, Leeds broke clear and a delightful volley from close range saw Ross McCormack claim his hat trick. He ran down to the opposite end where me and the other 3,300 Leeds fans were and celebrated his first professional hat trick. As the game entered injury time a foul on Rudy Austin presented us with a free kick to the right of the goal and Ross McCormack picked out the top corner to claim 3 points and his fourth goal of the game. As the whistle was blown we were on fine voice celebrating the 4-2 win and 3 vitally important points.
The first away trip of the new season saw me head to the Madjeski Stadium on Wednesday night in Reading. This new season has started positively and the feel good factor since the appointment of Brian McDermott and subsequent buy out by David Haigh et all at GFH has given the club a real lift. This is the same club, but only by name that had seen its heart ripped out and shoved on a steak for the vultures to surround and peck all the good bits away over these last ten years. Ken Bates did save us from Peter Quidsdale and the infamous goldfish, but the way he had put us back into administration left a really sour taste in most fans throats.
That was the past, the future is now here and this season feels great. The false optimism is discarded with a sense of confidence and 3,500 Leeds fans headed to Reading with a real belief that victory could be achieved. The drive from Bedford took a little under two hours despite the M25 and M4 combined efforts to delay me. I arrived and parked up just after 6.00pm and was fortunate to park next to a fellow Leeds supporter who had travelled from Coventry. The one thing I love about Away Days is the way I never feel like I’m alone despite traveling and watching the match by myself. Leeds will always be a family and it’s nights away from Elland Road that truly allow you to appreciate the warm glow that this brings. The comedy moment from the start saw us walk straight into the Hotel Bar built within the stadium which was only accessible to Home Fans. We got in with our Leeds colors slightly on show and got served and sat down amongst a sea if Blue and White. It was even more amusing as we sat at a table with Reading fans talking about away trips abroad watching Leeds United and boasting about how lucky we are to have their old manager Brian McDermott in charge.
Readings stadium is very generic which comes with new stadiums but is very smart and compact. It struck a chord which made me imagine how Ken Bates vision of Elland Road could’ve turned into had he stayed in control. We had our drink and made a bee line for the away end and grabbed a Deluxe Cheeseburger from the van outside Gates 9 & 10. I think this was a bad choice as for a couple of pounds less I saw others eating the standard cheeseburgers which looked like they were only missing Salad!
I saw the Leeds United team arrive in their coach which had been caught up in traffic. This resulted in them having less than an hour before kick off to warm up and get ready. The team received a positive reception from the fans watching and we were slightly relieved they had finally made it to the ground. The reception and atmosphere generated as the team walked onto the pitch before kick off was deafening and for almost the entire match we drowned our the disappointing home crowd. The Madjeski stadium from the inside is very smart and the fact we’d never won here before increased the difficulty of the challenge that awaited us. If there was one thing for sure, the vocal support from us wouldn’t be the factor that let us down tonight.
We played exceptionally well after a scrappy first half which saw both sides have a couple of half chances. Jason Pearce and Rudy Austin in particular were the two that stood out with commanding performances. We played some slick football at times and the way we counter attacked and used the space created was encouraging. We played better with the introduction of Dominic Poleon and there were a couple of decent chances that Ross McCormack couldn’t quite get on target and work our former keeper Alex McCarthy who received a good reception from us. It was the disappointing groans that followed to only 4 minutes of added time that showed we were going for the win and if Jason Pearces header had just gone the other side of the post from a free kick we would have claimed the three points.
What followed was heart breaking and painful to stomach. Reading won a free kick of their own which saw Steven Warnock dismissed for his second booking. Adam Le Fondra picked himself up to convert Drenthes cross and head the ball past Paddy Kenny. The goal was timed at 98 minutes and the Reading fans who had been quick to leave to beat the traffic suddenly reappeared and made their only telling vocal contribution of the evening….. Sorry their second following their loud cheers as Noel Hunt was substituted! It was absolutely gutting and the final whistle followed seconds after the restart.
As I made my way out totally stunned and got into my car it felt as if the whole world had stopped turning. The wait to get out of the car park was agony especially as the filter system was a free for all. It was after I grabbed a coffee from the petrol station that I remembered how well we had played and that it was us going for the win. It’s been a long time since we’ve gone to other teams grounds and pushed them that hard. It was at this point that a smile crossed my face, we are Leeds and this is going to be our year. The confidence is instilled and that’s the one thing that money can’t buy. On another note it was nice to see Brian McDermott get a fantastic reception on his first visit back after his scandalous sacking last March. It was even more pleasing to see his reaction after we conceded at the death. He was devastated and showed everyone that he is Leeds through and through. We will win many more battles this season starting with Burnley on Saturday. MOT!!