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Sunday, 9 May 2010

The Final game. Leeds Utd v Bristol Rovers. 8th May 2010

As you might expect Selby station was overflowing with nervous expectant Leeds fans. The day was here when we could finally win promotion.....or not as the case might be. As usual the Happy Chocker and the Quiet One were accompanying me to the Theatre of Hope along with Big Steve, GB & Fabien. We all knew that beating a team who haven't won for 5 games would win us promotion but we also knew that supporting Leeds is never easy and surely it couldn't be as simple as that? With Millwall, Charlton, Swindon and even Huddersfield breathing down our necks we were all set for a nervy afternoon. The atmosphere began to build as soon as we got to Leeds station. Firstly the queue for the shuttle buses stretched back almost to Elland Road itself. "It's a lot easier when we played Walsall" commented HC.

At ER everywhere was chockerblock with fans even the Kop bar was heaving like never before as 39000 fans tried to get some pre match refreshment to settle the nerves. The team went into a now familiar huddle for one last pep talk before the latest "must win" game. Beckford was back and wearing the captains armband, Nayls had been replaced at the back by Bromby and Snoddy's recent indifferent form had seen him relegated to the bench. Elland Road was absolutely bouncing as the game got under way. Surely we must finally get ourselves out of the third tier of the football league?

Leeds started brightly with Gradel and Killa to the fore. Bradders rattled a ball across the Rovers goalie, Becchio nearly got his foot to a Gradel cross with the goal invitingly open and Beckford so nearly got his toe to a bouncing through ball. All promising stuff but as we approached the 30 minutes mark we still hadn't made the all important break through. The familiar faces around me in the kop were getting more tense with every goalless minute that passed by. Then the mercurial Beckford had the ball in the net only for the celebrations to be dampened by an annoying linesman's flag. Now from my seat I couldn't see what happened next. "Becchio will get a red for that" HC confidently predicted as a melee of players surrounded a poleaxed Jones in the Bristol penalty area. The red card was produced but for Gradel not Becchio.................well there is a certain likeness? An hour left at 0.0 and down to ten men. Once again Leeds had been reading the guidance notes from www.leedsdon'

Lord Larry reorganised his troops leaving Becchio and Beckford up front and three shoring up the midfield as the game inched to HT. Elsewhere the news we were down to 10 men and apparently choking on the last 3 points at ER was consumed with glee as Charlton, Millwall and Swindon pushed on to pinch the last promotion spot. On the field Rovers failed to make their one man advantage tell as the referee and the Rovers left back received equal amounts of abuse.
My mind drifted back to the game at Charlton when promotion seemed so near yet so far away. The half time whistle blew with Leeds still in the automatic promotion spot courtesy of Millwall's equaliser at the New Den. We all knew that we couldn't rely on the Wall drawing with Swindon though. I tightened my seat belt as far as it would go and prepared for the the final 45 minutes of league action for this topsy turvy season. "An early goal would be nice" I commented to HC.
Your wish is my command I could hear God saying as Duffy turned the ball into the Leeds net not quite understanding my plea. 38000 fans inside ER stood in stunned silence. Does anyone know how to perform the Heimlich maneuver on our choking team?

Leeds were now wobbling and the 3 man midfield was submerged by the eager away foursome. Another goal for Bristol and we would be planning trips to playoff semi finals!

Managers are judged on results and to get the right results they need to pick the right team and play suitable tactics to beat the other team. They are also judged and how they react to a crisis when plan A is falling apart around their ears. Lord Grayson.............................Come on down!

Recognising that the midfield was over run he brought off full back Lowry and sent on Hemingbrough's own Jonny Howson to bolster the midfield in one last throw of the dice. He made an immediate impact winning a couple of tackles and igniting an attack. The crowd was lifted and cranked the volume up another notch.

Grayson's hunch was rewarded on the hour as Becchio teed up the super sub who curled an unstoppable shot past the flailing goalie to send the packed stadium into raptures. Get innnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!

It was game on now as Leeds piled forward looking for that all important 2nd goal dismissing the fact that they only had 10 men. Lungs were bursting as the Leeds team were operating on pure adrenalin. In the crowd the fans were now scenting blood. "They've gone" HC observed and he was spot on. Mightier European teams than Bristol Rovers have crumbled in front of a packed and committed Elland Road as the success starved fans roared their team on.

There was only one player who was going to score the promotion winning goal, Jermaine Beckford. In some eyes he has gone from hero to villain to hero this season as his off the field ambitions and his on the field problems have split the fans down the middle. Not this afternoon. There wasn't a more committed player in the famous white shirt on the pitch as he strove to go out with a bang. His chance came as Bradders latched onto an awful throw out by the Rovers goalie and fired the ball goalwards....................the ball was stopped and bounced invitingly on the 6 yards box....................Jermaine's reaction was like a Cobra's strike and the ball nestled in the back of the net. Pandemonium broke out as grown men and women cried tears of joy. Within 5 minutes the whole season had turned round and we were now 27 minutes from promotion. Howson had helped start the much needed Heimlich maneuver but Beckford had given the team the pat on the back they needed to stop the choking. The noise was deafening in contrast to the resigned frustration flowing through the New Den where the Wall were now leading.
Minutes later Bromby rose to meet a cross perfectly only to see the ball bounce back off the post with the goalie beaten.

Beckford was playing a role on the left midfield as every man in a white shirt put their bodies on the line to keep the precious one goal lead. The clock started to go backwards as the final minutes of the season approached. Bristol managed a couple of half chances that had the potential to fill Leeds General Infirmary with an overflow of heart attacks but Higgs kept his cool.

Watt came on for Becchio with two long minutes left and then Beckford departed on 90 minutes to a standing ovation. We could now taste promotion. Nobody saw the board with the added time lifted but after what seemed like 90 minutes of added time the ref finally blew his whistle signalling a return to the Championship for the mighty whites.

The pleas to keep off the pitch were ignored as fans poured onto the pitch to celebrate Leeds first success for 18 years. A tearful Hughsey was hoisted aloft by the fans in front of the kop. Fans were kissing and hugging complete strangers as Bedlam ruled around Elland Road. The Quiet One returned from the pitch with a handful of the hallowed turf stowed in his pocket.
The celebrations couldn't have been more emotional if we had won the Champions League. The players eventually returned and did a lap of honour. Kissy led a chorus of MOT and even Mad Max tried to sing a song. Happy days were back at Elland Road.

Our motley crew retired to Akbars for a celebration Curry. Leeds city centre was still awash with singing Leeds fans as we made our weary way home after demolishing some rather tasty Chicken Dhansk. Mrs MOT joined us for the meal along with Mrs Big Steve. Not sure either of them really understood the unbridled joy of every single Leeds fan we bumped into?

So a season that has seen us beat the Salford Yanks and finally struggle over the promotion line ended in glory in front of a packed Elland Road. Next season we can look forward to some mouth watering local derbies and the chance to throw our hat in the ring for promotion to the Prem. We couldn't go straight up could we? I know one thing.............
Can't wait!

Have a good close season blog readers and god willing I'll be back for more next August. In the meantime any ideas what to do next Saturday?


Anonymous said...

Hi Andrew
Thank God we made it. Have to say things have changed since I met you in Brighton Late November. Went over for the Millwall game in March only to experience it was rearranged to a Monday night. Thank you for a perfect combination of hunorous and interesting wiews concerning our club. Keep up the good blogwork in our temporary stop in the CCC. Can`t wait... for the fixture list. MOT!
Olav from Norway

Andrew Butterwick said...

Great to hear from you. Hope you get chance to see some games live next season. Won't be long before your 7 Chelsea supporting mates will be asking you the way to Elland Road!
Prem here we come.

Unknown said...

Leeds Way!

At last promotions here

We’re going up and that is certain

Out of this tinpot league after three long years of hurting

We did it in the end

We went to each and every shithole

And more, much more than this we did it Leeds way!

Great wins, we had a few

Especially the one at Man United

We did what we had to do to win the points and get excited

Simon planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway

And more, much more than this we did it Leeds way!

Yes, there were times I’m sure you knew

We started great then blew a fuse

But through it all, there was no doubt

We pulled together to fight it out

We faced it all and we stood tall and did it Leeds way!

We won, we lost, we drew

We had our fill, our share of losing

And now as we move on we find it all so amusing

And we must say, not in a shy way

Oh no, oh no not us, we did it Leeds way!

Now this is our club, what have we got?

Great fans, top players and a boss

Now chairman please put your hand in your pocket

We don’t want to fall we want to rise like a rocket

The table shows we took the blows and did it Leeds way!

We did it Leeds way!

Andrew Butterwick said...


Peter Nugent said...

Hiya MOT. Leeds dont do easy, huh? So glad to see them go up at last.

Have enjoyed reading your blog every week, keep up the great work, mate.

By the way, I seem to recall you speculating that the season might go down to the last game and Becks gets the winner - funny old game innit?



Andrew Butterwick said...

Thanks for the comments. It is a funny old game. i thought it was so fitting for Beckford to get the winner yesterday especially after all the stick he's taken from a minority of fans.
You never know there's an outside chance that he might still be with us next season.

Anonymous said...

great beckford article here

sue_lloyd said...

great beckford article

Dominic said...

Just wanted to say that this blog has been my first port of call after each match - really enjoyed following you on your travels from out here in Vienna (ex-Wakefield). Keep up the good work and see you next season IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP (does it ever feel good to be able to write that!)

Andrew Butterwick said...

Thanks for your support for the blog. I will be posting fortnightly over the summer as we build up to the championship so keep an eye out.

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