My love of sport, especially football stems from my father. He was a successful amateur cyclist and played snooker in a local league. Match of the Day was on every week and, in the 1960s, I became aware of Leeds United.
My dad was an armchair supporter, his cycling training and family commitments didn’t allow for trips to Elland Road, but the seed was sown. Watching England win the World Cup was a pivotal moment, especially with big Jack Charlton in the team.
In the early 70s I was persuaded to go to Elland Road. Now two things were holding me back. Football violence was at its worst and just travelling to a game wasn’t without its problems. I was also a tiny slip of a girl in my late teens. My first game was in 1971, Leeds v Liverpool. Standing in the scratching shed I could barely see a thing. However when something exciting happened, like Peter Lorimer scoring the winning goal, I disappear over the top of the crowd. I loved it! Cut to 2017 and I am a season ticket holder in the more sedate West Stand.
My all-time favourite player is Billy Bremner. It is hard to describe the commitment, talent and effort he gave to the club. He turned down two of the biggest clubs – Arsenal and Chelsea, to come to Leeds. Once describe in the Sunday Times as “10 stone of barbed wire”, the diminutive Billy ripped opposition apart. If only you could have bottled the essence of that man!
Having seen that amazing squad play it is hard to pick out other players as favourites, but two do spring to mind.
Lucas Radebe is one and Alan Smith is the other. Lucas Radebe was a formidable player but an absolute gentleman of the pitch. Alan Smith was Leeds United and I loved him for it. Many will disagree with me because of where he went to after the financial meltdown happened but I will always hold a soft spot for him.
Now a pensioner (how did that happen so quickly?) I still get excited waking up on a match day. Knowing I’m going to Elland Road or an away game. That excitement never diminishes.
I have sat through some awful League One games on a freezing Tuesday night but I would never give it up. I didn’t attend many games in the 70s and 80s but attended more in the 90s. This was an exciting time to follow Leeds especially as my two children often went with me. My son is an avid fan too and my daughter’s boyfriend is a Leeds fan so that is fine. The 90s saw one of the best midfields we have ever had – McAllister, Batty, Speed and Strachan. They were a joy to watch.
I have been lucky to see many great games in person and on the TV. Two favourites are the game against Manchester United in 1972 when Leeds won 5-1. Pure joy! The other game which I watch regularly is Leeds V Liverpool 2000 when Mark Viduka scored all the goals in a thrilling 4-3 win. If I want to cheer myself up I put that game on.
Leeds away games can be some of the best days out, and some of the worst. I don’t get to as many as I would like because my husband works Saturday mornings in school time. We also used to have a dairy herd and the cows had to come first. The most impressive stadium I have been to is the Etihad, it’s a stunner! I also liked going to the Riverside in Middlesbrough. We didn’t lose many games there. Oakwell is my least favourite, just for its setup and the fact Barnsley have a habit of beating us.
Massimo Cellino saint or sinner? For me he is both. I appreciate the sorting out of the finances and the investment in players. I was disappointed in January when no striker was brought in. I feel we rely on Chris Wood too much. I pray every night for his wellbeing. As fans we have no say in who owns the club so I feel we have to make the best of it. I choose to put my money into Leeds United. There was a time when the club nearly disappeared altogether and that is the worst thing that could have happened. I will take an owner with a risqué past over no owner.
Garry Monk, what can I say? WOW, hasn’t he done an amazing job in a very short space of time. I was fearful in the early days that he may be sacked as the results were poor but I’m so glad he is still with us. I think the cup game against Norwich was a huge turning point. Driving in I heard the team announcement and my heart sank. However it turned out to be an amazing night and I was so proud of my team by the end of the game. There was a real sense of being a team and I knew then something special was happening. Garry has certainly been the best manager since Simon Grayson. I think the appointment of Mr Hockaday was a particular low in the club’s history. What a lack of ambition that appointment was.
I am hopeful we will be in the top six come the end of the season. I expect Newcastle to go up but feel it could be Huddersfield who sneak into second into the second spot. The next few games are going to challenge us. We are blessed this season with a fantastic back line. Luke Ayling has to be bargain of the season. It is wonderful to see us defend so well. The warrior Beradi has had a great season too. We have ground out some good results through grit and determination. As a fan that is all I ask of my team. Like all Leeds fans I want the promotion and this is the closest we have been to it in years.
Anyone at the Derby game in January could see the potential we have. It was a fantastic performance. I know our history with playoff finals is dire but we have broken some curses in recent times e.g. last season wins home and away against Cardiff. Hadn’t happened in over 30 years. Can you imagine the 12th man at Wembley cheering the team on to victory? I can.
By Gill Ward
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