By Keith Ingham
Thursday tea time tucking into my rice and curry sauce I received a message from Andy Gregory who runs this great site I've been proud to say I contribute to a couple of years. He asked if I was attending the game on Saturday, I replied "yes" and was then told by Andy that he had intended to go but unfortunately had to change his plans as he had a family holiday to attend. The point of this is the tickets he had he offered to me and my son, Ryan. They were in the Sky Bet suite in the cream clad East Stand, what followed I'll never forget for the rest of my life. I'd like to share my day with the site and it's readers.
My son, Ryan was to accompany me, he's a budding journalist and has had a article printed in this months 'Squareball'. Of course I told everybody who'd listen that Saturday was going to be a special day, we were on a roll and the small dogs looked ready to be beat easily. It was a local derby so sometimes the form book goes out of the window. What made it doubly special is we were doing something normal fans only dream of, a chance to see the other side of football where business is normally alined with the match. The corporate side of the game is building links to businesses both locally and nationally. We were met at the desk by a lovely blonde lady who gave me our tickets and informed us we were on the forth floor in the Sky Bet suite, I also met the lovely Laura Coates, who is part of the commercial team at Elland Road and I've spoken to on a few occasions, mostly about the release date of the forthcoming seasons new shirt. By the way she never gave the exact date of release, she's very professional.
It's a maze of corridors and as we made our way to our suite we passed Terry Yorath, ex Leeds player in the 70's. There is a large room where most of the occupants were enjoying the fare on offer. Mixing with them was Peter Lorimer, another of the legendary Don Revie squad. Then in the middle table was non other than Captain Picard, actor Patrick Stewart. It was a bit surreal and took a few minutes to take it all in. The Sky Bet room led to a balcony and a unbelievable view of the ground, it looked amazing if empty at the time. Dave was our host who asked if we would like a drink, we agreed not surprisingly !. With us were Rob and his wife, he regularly contributes to weallloveleeds and I enjoy his musings. I'm sorry to the others but most of the other people there I forgot their names. Really nice people who like me had very rarely done something like this.
We ate, laughed and shared stories of our years of support of Leeds United, I did pinch myself on more than one occasion because it did seem to be a dream. The ground began to fill up and the team was announced, no Billy Sharp, dropped to the bench while Casper Sloth replaced him. It looked like a more 4-4-2 than the previous game's 4-3-3. We were joined by Sky's Jim White, here to promote the Sky Bet Transfer Fund in which fans can help their team to win a massive £250,000 to spend in the January transfer window and £5,000 for themselves, it's always great when celebrities are just really nice people. He was with his very pretty partner Katie, a Yorkshire lass from Bradford. Ross who had arranged the event was on hand to make sure there were lots of photographs of the event and that everybody was having a great time.
Leeds tore into their local rivals and were soon in front, Rudy Austin lashing a unstoppable shot past Smithies in the Huddersfield Town goal. The visitors had a couple of half chances and Lee Peltier was getting 'some stick' as per usual when a returning player is back at Elland Road. Their were some impressive performances on the field, Austin, Cook and Sloth dominating the midfield area. The second goal had to come and after Antenucci swapped passes with Bellusci, the centre half chipped one over Smithies but it hit the bar and bounced back to Antenucci who gleefully smacked home the rebound. 2-0 at the break and the best I'd seen Leeds play this season.
I'd met Terry Yorath at half time, he happily accepted my invitation to be in a photograph with me and I very sheepishly moved near Patrick Stewart's full table of guests to ask for a autograph. Resplendent in a smart suit with a Huddersfield Town tie he, after encouragement from a fellow guest signed my team sheet and gave me a proper 'man' handshake with a cheery smile. I walked back to my room content in meeting two heroes of mine.
The second half was a more even game but you felt that Leeds could up a gear to make the game completely safe. To be fair Town created a few half chances but when Rudy sent Doukara away, he clinically finished with a shot that beat Smithies easily. He celebrated, shirtless and got booked for doing so. We survived a sending off too, Berardi getting his second yellow card in a mild mannered local derby. 3-0 and Antenucci nearly made it four when he sprinted half the field, only to be foiled by Smithies glove and a post. A compressive win and all around us fans were in good voice.
The game had ended and we were in celebratory mood, the drinks kept coming and it seemed churlish to turn them down. Extremely good hosts were our men from Sky Bet. What happened next will stay with me for a long time, a few of the lads had noticed that Jim White was speaking to the President Massimo Cellino. We saw our chance and we proceeded over to them, to hopefully get a photograph with him. He was pleased to greet us and said "Leeds fans, crazy" and duly stayed until we all had a picture of him with us. He came across as a normal bloke who was enjoying the adjuration of his clubs fans.
That's it, a unbelievable day with some great people. Thank you all that made this possible.
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