It may be a couple of weeks away yet but as I’m off to Elland Road on the 31st I think I’m entitled to get a bit excited.
Not too excited though, I mean not to the point where I drown myself with cheap cider and run on the pitch thinking I’m Jonny Concrete as a minority of arseholes did at Darlington the other night. In the unlikely event of that happening at Leeds I’d imagine that those starry-eyed youngsters will get a short, sharp dose of reality and will get back with interest what they give out.
Anyway, back to my scheduled trip. With a car full of people I’ll be heading up to Yorkshire and the process of military type planning can get underway. When it comes to getting to football I don’t make mistakes – Mark will back me up on that!
Sometimes I do need a hand though as I research the area, what it’s like, where to go for a drink, where to park and so on. In fact I’ve been to most grounds now so know for myself what they are like, but I’ve never been to Elland Road so it’s all a bit on an unknown for me in truth even though I’ve spent a lot of time working in Leeds over the last few years.
This is why I enlisted the help of David from Leeds United fansite The Scratching Shed to give me a guiding hand although, as you’re about to read, it turned into a bit more than just a pub guide!
Hi there David. The reason I’ve got in touch is because we’ve got a friendly in the next few weeks against your lot. I’m coming and I’d like a drink without any bother if possible. Can you suggest anywhere? Somewhere to park would also be nice, ideally so I can return to it and it won’t be smashed up as a result.
You should be alright anywhere in Leeds, there’s no real animosity between the two clubs and it’s only a friendly so I wouldn’t expect trouble. That said, away fans generally use the DrySalters which is about half a mile from the ground and has a good mix of both home and away fans exchanging some friendly banter. As for car parking, there are a few paid car parks around Elland Road where your car will be fine, but they’re a little on the expensive side at £5 for the match.
Nice. Cheers. You know Leeds fans were voted ‘most hated in the country’ not so long back? Are you bothered by it? We get called deluded all the time, but it would be nice if people could come up with something original so I just wondered if you felt the same?
I’m sure there are some fans who hate the Dirty Leeds tag, but I revel in it to be honest with you. I always find it strange when we head to places like Norwich who have never really been on the radar for Leeds in terms of rivalry and they passionately hate us. It seems that after all these years in the wilderness we’re still the team everybody looks for when the fixtures are released and most clubs record their highest attendances when Leeds are in town. A lot of that comes from what most would consider a negative reputation, but it makes the atmosphere more intense and generally results in a better match.
Hmmm. I can see where going somewhere with this! Both sets of fans hold the club close to their heart. Both get good attendances, both are the only club in the city. For Newcastle we managed to dodge a bullet and avoided “doing a Leeds” like we were tipped to do after relegation. In short we’ve both been to some dark places in the last few years, like Doncaster for example, but do you think that both sides are on the up again?
It’s a special kind of place Doncaster, isn’t it? Up there with Old Trafford and The Emirates.
I said when we were first relegated that it’d take a good decade for Leeds to recover from the problems we had. Unlike Newcastle, we didn’t have the money to keep some quality players and the debt problem still wasn’t under control. With Simon Grayson at the helm, I think we’re definitely heading in the right direction but we desperately need some kind of investment to help us make that final push – Ken Bates seems to have convinced himself we can get promoted to the Premier League on a shoestring and seems far more interested in building pointless hotels and conference facilities on the side of our ground.
Going through what you went through must have been tough. I remember the stories in the paper at the time, like the one about Peter Ridsdale and the fancy coloured fish. It can’t have been easy reading all the facts from the fallout and realising that the people in power have been treating the club you love with such contempt and with such a disregard for the future of Leeds United can it?
Time’s a great healer and as a Leeds United fan I have some small amount of empathy for Ridsdale. Don’t get me wrong, the man is a deluded megalomaniac, but he was also a Leeds United fan who responded to our demands and threw ridiculous amounts of money at the squad in a bid to conquer the world. The lesson really is that fans shouldn’t be in charge of football clubs. We don’t have the self-restraint that the best chairmen and managers do and will inevitably lead our club to financial ruin in our desperation to compete at the top of the game. Since Leeds, Ridsdale seems to have fallen in to the trap of trying to prove he was right by repeating the same mistakes elsewhere, most notably Cardiff – which was one club we should thank him for almost destroying.
Of course all the debt, the outgoings and everything was all in aid of searching for Champions League football. The question is, would you rather have the memories of the Champions League? Or would you rather not have the memories of dropping down to League One as a fallout from chasing the dream?
It’s a question Leeds fans ponder regularly and everyone has their own answer, but for me, travelling around Europe with all the Leeds United fans was one of the best experiences of my life and I wouldn’t change that for anything. The ups and downs are part of supporting this club. After the hugely successful Don Revie side, we sank into the wilderness for a decade and half before Howard Wilkinson came in and got us promoted back to the top flight. He then went on to win the title in 1992 before almost getting us relegated again shortly after. Then there was another uneventful period before David O’Leary came in and almost conquered Europe. We’re nothing if not consistent in our inconsistencies, but we’ll emerge again as defiant as ever and look to mix things up once more (before disappearing again for another decade or so no doubt).
How do you think Leeds are doing right now? I’ve heard a few noises of unrest from some of your fans about a lack of spending and how you only seem to be signing up free transfers. Strangely enough they echo the concerns of some NUFC fans! Do you think this is the right approach? Is Bates doing a good job?
I passionately despise Ken Bates, the man makes my blood boil. As I said earlier, the man seems more interested in building hotels and conference facilities than he is in the team and it really is frustrating hearing him rattle on about how some players are out of our reach due to ridiculous wage demands when the supporters have been charged Premier League ticket prices for Championship and League One football. The most infuriating thing is that Ken will tell us about the greedy players out there we’ve told to “get f****d” then in the next breath announce he’s spending millions of pounds on executive toilets the fans couldn’t care less about.
In fairness, the stadium has seen better days and a self-sustaining Leeds United free of debt is undeniably a good thing. But I don’t think Ken’s priorities are in the right order. If he wants to redevelop the stadium then so be it, but it could be done much easier when we’re back in the Premier League with the extra income that would provide us with.
Enough about you lot now! When we were relegated it was horrific. The worst. It’s not the first relegation I’ve seen though so I’m old hat at it compared to some of our younger fans. Mike Ashley took a large chunk of the blame for that, but what did you make of it?
I honestly can’t figure Mike Ashley out. He must have some intelligence and business sense to have built the massive fortune he did, but his football knowledge seems non-existant and his business sense seems to have escaped him in the football world. Buying Newcastle United was an extremely clever move, but since then he seems to have thrown a lot of money down the toilet on distinctly average players and extortionate wages when he should have been steadily building the club and building the brand at home and abroad to further boost revenues. Newcastle must already have one of the highest incomes in the Premier League, so making them a success shouldn’t be that difficult – getting you relegated suggests extreme incompetence to me.
I grew up in a former mining town where a lot of Geordies had come to work and Newcastle United was probably the second most commonly supported club after Leeds. Since a lot of my mates were Toon fans, I’ve always kept a close eye on Newcastle and seeing them try and replicate the nosedive we did gave me no pleasure whatsoever. Both clubs should be competing in the top half of the Premier League, but you can’t pick and choose your owners unfortunately. Glad to see things are looking up for you now though and I hope we’ll be up there again with you sooner rather than later.
Hopefully we’ve come out the other side now, but how do you think Newcastle are doing in general? Is Mike Ashley doing a good or bad job in your eyes?
To his credit, he made an awful lot of mistakes when he first took over but he has stood by the club and helped right those wrongs. It seems he now has you on the right path again and he may well surprise a few people yet by bringing some long-awaited silverware to St. James’ Park. I’m still not convinced of his competence in the football world, but if he surrounds himself with the right people then all he really has to do is sign the cheques.
That is the problem – he isn’t surrounding himself with the right people and relies on his mate Derek Llambias to run the show when he used to manage a casino!
You mentioned St James’ Park….. What do you think of St James’ Park? Ever been?
I’ve been to St James’ many times and it’s one of my favourite away grounds in the country. The most important thing for a football ground is not how pretty it looks or how long the toilet and bar queues are, but the atmosphere they create and St James’ is right up there with the best of them in that sense.
Sum Newcastle fans up in one word?
Do you want Alan Smith back? I’ll drop him off for you if you like?
It’s fine, you can keep him. There’s a growing number of Leeds United fans that are desperate for him to return, but I’m not one of them. For me, he was a very average football player the first time around who was over-hyped because he was born locally. Since then, he has only gone downhill and considering the wages he’s on, I think the money could be better spent elsewhere.
Favourite current Newcastle player?
Cheik Tiote. He’s just what we need at Leeds United. Keep Smith and we’ll take him off your hands!
Favourite all-time Newcastle player?
David Batty by a mile. Absolute legend at both clubs and deservedly so. Always liked the shampoo salesman you had too – Ginola was it?
The usual guy who writes these away fan articles would ask about a player who has played for both teams. We’ve mentioned Smith and I’d guess you can work out from my offer of a lift that I think he is a bit past it these days, so how about some past players? You got the good Mark Viduka and we got the fat one. What are your memories of him?
I remember he got a lot of stick from fans for being lazy, which is bizarre considering how many goals he scored at the highest possible level. Nothing but respect for the guy personally. One of the best strikers we’ve ever had.
I loved Lee Bowyer, he was an incredible player to watch. Such a composed and talented player, even at the young age he was at Leeds. Will always be remembered for the court case that caused a lot of problems at the club though.
Like Bowyer, will always be remembered for that court case but we always knew Woodgate was one of the best centre backs in the world. His career will unfortunately be remembered for ‘what should have been’ though. Very unfortunate with injuries.
Do you think you guys will make it back to the Premier League? In all honesty a club of your size should be in there, but then again so should the likes of Nottingham Forest, the Sheffield clubs and so on. Will you be celebrating come May?
I think we’ll finish in the play-off positions personally and considering our success in those, it’s unlikely that we’ll be celebrating in May. You never know though, everyone starts as equals and it we can get our of the starting blocks quickly then we may do better than expected. The teams coming down often underestimate the league and could struggle early on and with an experienced Championship squad already in place we may have an advantage early doors.
And how do you think Newcastle will do?
I’d be surprised if you finished outside the top half. The top six of Chelsea, Man United, Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal, and City are unlikely to be broken up, but I think you have a real chance of competing with the teams immediately following them such as Aston Villa and Everton. Getting Tiote to commit to a six year contract was a real statement of intent. I’ll say 8th.
So that was David from The Scratching Shed giving us more than I had originally hoped. I know a lot of people don’t like Leeds but I have a lot of time for them. The one thing that strikes me is the amazing similarities there are between our situation and there situation, from the the debt, the deluded megalomaniac owners who got their fingers burned (Shepherd in our case), the spending policy and so on.
Hopefully Leeds are on the up and will make it back to the Premier League sooner rather than later. I know football is judged on results, but I’d much rather have a Premier League full of teams with fans who support their team at the ground, like Leeds and us obviously, as opposed to the likes of Wigan and Sunderland who despite having their fourth best finish in over half a century still couldn’t be arsed to go and watch their team!
All the best to Leeds United!