Monday, 10 September 2018
It is possibly only football fans who aren’t sorry to see the end of summer. That undeniable nip in the air, the nights closing in much quicker and the light covering of dew on the lawn is a sure sign that September is here. The kids mumble and moan as they shuffle off back to school and people who don’t like football get on with whatever weird stuff it is they do. But for football fans September signals the pursuit into Autumn and Winter months and proper football weather, and it also sees the football season begin to take shape after a frantic start.
For Leeds United, too often September has signalled the slow realisation that nothing special is going to happen for another year, but that couldn’t be further from the truth this time around. The summer was yet another time of change, but there was an air of mystery and intrigue about what was happening at Elland Road, and the start of the season has put Leeds United front and centre of the football world as, not only the early leaders in the Championship, but the focus of one of the most explosive transformations media critics and fans alike have seen.
Marcelo Bielsa’s revolution has seen mediocre bottle-jobs emerge as marauding world-beaters, as largely the same team that failed miserably last season has acted out Bielsa’s blueprint to the letter. So far Leeds have faced four of the expected front runners in the Division and remain unbeaten after six games, in the meantime playing a standard of football no Leeds fan has witnessed since the Champions League era. Sharp passing, fluid movement, hard pressing, organisation and teamwork; it has been a breath-taking start to the season that sees Leeds top of the table as we enter into the first international break, and the team on everybody’s lips as Bielsa has brought exactly the level of spirit and imagination that everyone predicted.
At the Old Peacock, August passed by in a whirlwind and we were similarly blown away by the sheer pace and excitement of the first few weeks of the season. The summer heat quickly faded away, but nevertheless we saw three crowds over 30,000 and two midweek cup games also serving up a generous attendance. Before you knew it, summer had gone but it was impossible not to get swept away by the wave of optimism and now, for once, we don’t mind walking the dog in the dark and arguing about when to put the heating on, because when football is played like this, nothing else seems to matter and the real nitty gritty of the football season can’t come soon enough.
The question of course is; can Leeds maintain the pace this time around? A similarly encouraging start faded away in limp fashion this time last year, but Leeds look better conditioned physically and are definitely better prepared mentally this time around, while they are under the tutelage of one of the world’s most renowned coaches and these players might also just be a little wiser and more savvy for last season’s experiences.
Bielsa’s maverick approach has been refreshing and rewarding and it seems there’s plenty still to come with some of the new signings, big players like Pontus Jansson and players carrying injuries barely making an impression as yet. September sees international games make a swift but brief comeback and it is testament to Leeds’s start to the season that we have all quickly forgotten about England’s heroics in Russia over the summer.
The next month sees just the two home games at Elland Road with Preston North End visiting in midweek on the 18th and Birmingham City arriving just four days later for our only Saturday fixture in September. It allows us a little breather at the pub, but as Leeds fans, if we can enter the next international break in another six games’ time, still top of the table, it will definitely shut some of the doubters up.
We have received some great feedback from customers over our new matchday food menu, which of course has been delivered via our restaurant partnership with the Spiced Mango. Mo and his team are experts in serving up delicious Asian cuisine, and the first two months of their residency at the Peacock has been a resounding success, but the matchday operation is all completely new. While we have experienced some teething problems, the new menu has been received really well on the whole, but we are always happy to hear about anything you feel we can improve. It’s a delicate balance between providing something new but catering also for what people like and expect, and hopefully we are somewhere close to that. The same can be said for our new container bars in the beer garden. We hope they have improved the experience for everybody, relieved the stress of getting served inside and allowed those in the beer garden to get served quicker. But if there’s anything we can improve upon, just let us know.
Certainly the atmosphere at the pub for the home games so far has been pretty special, even by our normal standards. However Leeds are performing, the fans always love the buzz of the matchday experience and we are proud to play a huge part in that. But you can imagine how thirsty people have been over the last few weeks and it seems Leeds fans just can’t savour the Peacock atmosphere enough at the moment.
It’s great to see Leeds fans visit Elland Road at any time of course, and we have definitely seen an increase in people popping in during the week after visiting the new Superstore, or the brilliant Bremner Square redevelopment, or simply to buy tickets. The Peacock has always been an aspect of how visiting Leeds fans can pay homage in between matchdays, and it is great to feel that expectation and the draw of the place in better times. People just want to be at Elland Road right now, whatever day it is.
As ever, we hope to be of service in that respect. And certainly as the calendar months tick past we can only pray that the lads can keep this up and continue to rampage through the Division, because we will happily wave goodbye to the sunshine and say hello to the good times, when Leeds United give you a naturally warm, fuzzy feeling like this.
Thursday, 2 August 2018
There have been a lot of new beginnings at Leeds United in the last decade. Indeed it’s hard to recall the last new season that felt like a natural continuation of the previous one. Whether it’s ownership, the manager or the players, Leeds United is in a constant state of flux in the 21stcentury; new faces, new ideas, new structure, but the same direction. Well, that’s no direction at all actually, simply standing still.
And of course we have seen change once again this summer. Except that this does feel a little bit different. Not only have Leeds appointed one of the world’s most renowned coaches, but the better players from last season have been retained and the new players added have for once represented quality rather than quantity.
It does look from our close vantage point over the road that the club has adopted a measured patience in their pursuit of manager and players this summer, and this has led to a more considered refinement of what went wrong last season, rather than ripping everything up, ransacking the coaching structure and implementing yet another round of wholesale change. In that respect, as the new season approaches rapidly, things feel different but a bit more ‘in control’, and that can only be a good thing.
All that said, of course there was an uncomfortable sense of familiarity about the team that started against Las Palmas, in the final pre-season friendly at Elland Road last Sunday. At the Old Peacock we had opened our doors to the thirsty hordes once again, and introduced some changes of our own, but on the pitch over the road, things looked pretty much the same.
Marcelo Bielsa started with eleven players who had all been here last season, and who had all disappointed to varying degrees in a campaign that flattered to deceive and had painfully familiar ending dragged out over the final three months. While the players looked sharp and organised, many of the same traits and problems existed, and it was only until some new arrivals were introduced in the second half that you could begin to see some progress from the hours of hard graft undertaken at Thorp Arch during the recent heatwave.
And since then we have seen more new arrivals. While Leeds fans have long since held the loan system in contempt, that is usually because the club has used it in ill-considered desperation or as a cheap option. This summer we have taken well regarded youngsters from Chelsea and Manchester City who on an individual basis will all improve the first team and are all better players than those they have replaced. Jamal Blackman, Lewis Baker and Jack Harrison are the three loanees so far and it already appears that they will bring much more to the team than the players Leeds have unceremoniously shipped out this summer.
Meanwhile, Leeds have also spent a cool £10million on two key signings in positions that we have been traditionally weak, and you can already sense a buzz from the immediate impact they are likely to make. Left-back Barry Douglas was one of the most important players to Wolverhampton Wanderers as they waltzed to the Championship title last season, and quite how Leeds managed to tempt him away for only £3million still baffles me today.
Likewise, striker Patrick Bamford became a key player at Middlesbrough last season and many of their fans were dismayed to see Leeds snap him up for £7million this week. Bamford arrives in much the scenario as Chris Wood did a few years ago. A highly rated striker who has proved he can hit goals at this level, but who has suffered from being farmed out on numerous loans. Chris Wood definitely found a home at Leeds United and it is to be hoped that Bamford flourishes in similar fashion from being given the number 9 shirt and from the trust being shown in him as the ‘main man’.
It seems Leeds might still be looking to do some transfer business in the final few days of the transfer window, and if we can add some more quality to a couple of weak spots – we still look light of options upfront and in central defence – then you have to conclude this is the best summer transfer window we have seen in a long time. And after a frustrating summer of waiting for the club to land some players, everything is now building up nicely to the new season.
Sunday’s opening game against Stoke City is something we have been building up to at the Old Peacock ever since the fixtures were released back in June. Every summer we look at the huge operation that is a matchday at Elland Road and try to find ways we can improve things. The problems are usually obvious; we just can’t serve beer quick enough. But having invested in the marquee a couple of years ago we have this summer installed two more outside bars in the beer garden, to better utilise the space available to us and to provide more beer pumps to hopefully get people served quicker and more often.
You will also no doubt be aware of our new restaurant partnership with the Spiced Mango. This began in July and has so far been a huge success. The guys at the Spiced Mango are also undertaking the matchday food operation and while they are serving up some of their delicious Asian delicacies, in Sheek Kebab wraps and Chicken Tikka wraps, they are also ensuring there is something for everyone, with cheeseburgers and fries also on the agenda.
With the Spiced Mango partnership we are looking to offer something different, and that extends to matchday too. We feel that football fans get short changed with the limited offerings at football stadiums, and hopefully we are breaking ground in that respect.
So Sunday is going to be a huge day, with a late afternoon Kick-Off and a big crowd expected. And August continues apace, with Bolton coming to Elland Road in the League Cup on Tuesday 14th, Rotherham on Saturday 18thand Middlesbrough on Friday 31st.
There’s nothing like the start of the season to whet the appetite at the Old Peacock, and while a lot of things might feel the same, there’s also a lot of difference. So look around, experience it and enjoy it, because this new beginning might just be the real deal.
Tuesday, 17 July 2018
When something feels right, it is often hard to describe why. You can dissect the most beautiful relationships, trying to work out the reasons why it works, but it usually leads you nowhere. Like Lennon & McCartney, Fred & Ginger or Bremner & Giles, there’s an undefinable magic sometimes that might look unlikely on the outside, so you would be advised to just sit back and enjoy it.
There is something of that ‘stars aligning’ symbiosis about the partnership of Ossett Brewery and the Spiced Mango restaurant at Middlestown; a serendipitous ‘happy accident’ and a relationship that has grown naturally to bear wonderful fruit, rather than being a structured outcome from the minutes of an impersonal business meeting.
Mohammad Ali, or Mo for short, is the owner of the Spiced Mango and he has built the business up over the last five years, since taking a redundancy package from his IT job and deciding to take the plunge and realise his dream in the restaurant business. Jamie Lawson, MD of Ossett Brewery, was a regular customer at the restaurant and their relationship grew from a mutual love of good food and good company. Pretty soon it became clear that the two should work together, but this was no unit-shifting corporate strategy, just a desire to follow a path that felt right and could continue the wholesome and natural image that both organisations hold great value in.
“Jamie was a customer at the restaurant,” Mo begins “and we’ve been talking for about 18 months about doing something. We provided the food for a special Curry Night at the Flowerpot in Mirfield last August, and that went really well, so the conversations just went from there.”
The partnership with the Old Peacock, which begins on July 13thafter a three-week re-fit of the kitchens at the famous Elland Road pub, is the first venture of its kind for the Spiced Mango and they aren’t planning to stray too far from what has been a winning formula at their Middlestown restaurant.
Converted from the White Swan pub, the Spiced Mango has become one of the most successful Indian restaurants in the West Yorkshire area, winning a ‘Certificate of Excellence’ award from Trip Advisor for its consistently great reviews. And consistency is the key to the partnership with the Old Peacock, with Mo taking nine staff members and exactly the same menu with him to the Peacock’s kitchen, which is actually twice the size of the one at his Middlestown restaurant. So there’s really no excuse not to recreate the same magic down in LS11.
A major factor in the discussions that led to the Old Peacock’s exciting new partnership with the Spiced Mango, was the pub’s identity as a famous landmark in the matchday traditions for generations of Leeds United fans. Mo won’t profess to being a Leeds fan, but he has ‘Leeds United sympathies’ through his father. However, it was made very clear that matchdays are a huge part of the Peacock’s business model and Mo has built that into the project the Spiced Mango are delivering.
“I came to the pub for the recent England game,” Mo continues “so I know how busy it gets and how demanding the fans are. But in my opinion food delivered to football fans all over the country has traditionally been pretty standard with little imagination. They are a captive audience, and like motorway service stations, you have no choice but to buy what’s on offer and pay the prices. So we wanted to offer something completely different and with a bit more quality. We will be offering Chicken Tikka wraps, Seekh Kebab wraps and Biryani Rice boxes, which will be both chicken and vegetable.”
So Leeds fans flooding through the Peacock’s doors from August are in for a treat, and as if the pre-match build-up couldn’t get any better, they will now enjoy an Indian feast to go with their beer, live music and the amazing atmosphere that Leeds fans create.
The clock is now ticking towards the grand re-opening of the Spiced Mango at the Old Peacock on Friday July 13thand with minimal internal décor changes, the concentration is on getting the kitchen fitted. All the equipment has been delivered, including a traditional tandoori oven, and everything will be in place for the big day.
Naturally Mo is excited at the prospect of what will happen with the Peacock partnership, but he is not used to the big build-up: “At the Middlestown restaurant we didn’t do any marketing at all,” he explains “we just wanted to perfect what we were doing and then let the food speak for itself. I believe we serve good quality, honest food and our success has come from studying best practice and learning from others.”
Certainly the stage is set for Mo and the Spiced Mango to make an impact in LS11. With no Indian restaurant in the area, there is an opportunity for a culinary revolution to hit Elland Road and for the Old Peacock to lead the charge into a new era. And with consistency at the heart of the Spiced Mango’s success story, there is every reason to believe that this new partnership with the Old Peacock will have people flooding to Elland Road, not just to walk in the footsteps of Charles, Bremner, Strachan and Viduka, but to sample the finest Indian cuisine in Leeds.
Thursday, 5 July 2018
When you get a summer like this, it feels like it can last forever. Usually we get a handful of hot, sunny days and occasional tea time periods where post-work folk like to bask in our sunny beer garden with a hard earned drink. This year, the steps outside onto our sun-scorched grass area have never seen so much action and every day feels like a holiday. Why do things have to change?
Well, change is natural, it’s what makes life interesting and while we can’t stop the weather changing, there are certain things we can change because we think it will make life better, and that’s what is happening at the Old Peacock at the moment.
It has been a fantastic summer so far, and while the country is bewitched by World Cup fever, England’s exploits in Russia and the multi-cultural festival of football, change is afoot here on Elland Road. All is pretty quiet over at Leeds United where everybody is busying themselves conscientiously in the build-up to the new season, while it’s business as usual on the pub side at the Old Peacock, where our regulars are happy watching the football and enjoying a beer as normal. But in the kitchen there are exciting things happening.
On Monday June 25th our old kitchen closed, as we took the decision to leap into a whole new era. You may have seen the banners at the pub already and our posts on social media, but we are taking a three-week period out to refurbish the kitchens, update some décor and train the staff to welcome a whole new dining experience.
Friday July 13th signals the start of a brand new partnership with the Spiced Mango Indian restaurant, which is based at Middlestown, between Wakefield and Huddersfield. We will be bringing authentic Indian cuisine to LS11 via an amazing menu that has proved to be a huge success at the Spiced Mango’s celebrated, relaxed and family-friendly signature restaurant.
We are privileged that our new friends are sharing their expertise and amazing Asian flavours with us and we can’t wait to get started. As you know, for many years we have had weekly food events such as ‘Curry Night’ on Wednesday, ‘Steak Night’ on Thursday and a traditional ‘Sunday Lunch’ on Sundays. While these have been a great success and have proved very popular, we felt it was time for a change, and we hope people can understand and appreciate why.
There is no doubt that the Old Peacock has never been so successful on a Leeds United matchday. We have got that formula completely worked out, although we are still looking at ways we can serve more beer to more people even quicker. So watch this space on that. Where we need to maximise our business is during the week and the many occasions whenLeeds United aren’t playing.
Of course we have been very lucky in 2018 that the Leeds Rhinos have played at Elland Road twice, while Josh Warrington held his world title fight over the road and the England team also played their last friendly before the World Cup at Elland Road. These were occasions that we didn’t budget for, but unfortunately they are ‘one-offs’ and not something we are likely to see again any time soon. As a business, therefore, we need to look at ways to increase revenue on non-matchdays, and that thought process ended up with the nation’s favourite dish; curry.
Quite apart from the fact that there is no Indian restaurant within four miles of the Old Peacock, our management team at Ossett Brewery have made a great success of pushing the boundaries elsewhere in the region, and challenging the conventions of what pubs and bars are supposed to do. Just a few miles away in Leeds city centre, the brewery took the bold step a couple of years ago of changing a winning formula at Candelbar in Granary Wharf. It had an identity as a bar selling fine ales, fine wines from around the world and fine pizzas. But a pioneering food partnership was formed with Edo Sushi, to bring exclusive Japanese cuisine to Candlebarand it has proved to be a great success.
A similar approach has been taken with our new partnership with the Spiced Mango. The experts are taking over the food, while we look after what we know best; running one of the most famous pubs in Leeds. So things on the pub side won’t be changing one little bit, but you won’t be able to miss the unmistakable fragrances coming from the kitchens as the Spiced Mango serves delicious eastern cuisine in the shadow of Elland Road’s East Stand.
Our new menus have been posted on social media already and you can start booking tables for July 13th onwards. We will be serving homemade sandwiches at lunchtime prepared on site by our staff, but from 5pm onwards, seven days a week, our kitchens will be serving exclusive and authentic Indian cuisine of the very highest standard. We have been assured that the guys at the Spiced Mango will have a takeaway collection service available too, and they have also prepared a great matchday food menu for Leeds United games; incorporating Chicken Tikka wraps, Seekh Kebab wraps and Biryani rice boxes (chicken or vegetable).
All in all it is a really exciting development for us and we can’t wait to get started and make the Old Peacock one of the most popular venues in Leeds, not just on matchdays, but every night of the week. And with the new football season just around the corner and plenty of new faces expected at Leeds United, there is change everywhere and that’s just how we like it.
All the best
All the best
Tuesday, 12 June 2018
Fabian Delph parading around an Elland Road pitch that he had just graced with a majestic England performance and giving the Leeds salute to all four sides of the ground, was a perfect ending to quite a month at the Old Peacock. Wall-to-wall sunshine, bank holidays, family fundays, end-of-season parties, world title boxing and then England’s triumphant send-off for the World Cup, all eyes have been on our little part of LS11 and we’ve loved every minute of it.
The curtain finally came down on a pretty turgid season at Leeds United, but at least they had the courtesy to win their final game against Queen’s Park Rangers, and the EFL had the good grace to stage the final game on a bank holiday Sunday with a lunchtime Kick-Off. So the Old Peacock beer garden was awash with people very happy to see the back of another wasted season and the party atmosphere lasted long into the night.
Since then of course, we have had the strange post-season tour to Myanmar and manager Paul Heckingbottom has been relieved of his duties and as I write, we await the identity of the new manager. But on face value it appears that Leeds United have finally decided ‘enough’s enough’ and are attempting their version of ‘going for it’. We await confirmation of what that actually is.
While we have attempted to put Leeds United in a small box under the stairs for the summer and go out and actually enjoy life, there have been plenty of other things to occupy our time. Preparations for the Josh Warrington fight were surrounded by some uncertainty at the pub. It was a pretty unique event for us and for Elland Road, and it was difficult to predict how many people would be around the pub and what time they would start coming.
Of course there were things happening around the ground all afternoon and the fights on the undercard started quite early, but the main event was not until nearly 10pm. Consequently, we took a bit of a flier on how many bar staff we needed and at what times, and all in all, it went really well. We were blessed by the weather and naturally, Josh’s win was celebrated long and hard. It was a fantastic night for the city of Leeds and a real festival of what we do so well.
Our Family Funday soon followed on the next bank holiday weekend and once again, we couldn’t have asked for better weather. The beer garden was overflowing all day and the pub was a hive of activity with face-painting, tug-of-war competitions and live music all day. There was plenty to eat and obviously the beer was flowing too, and it seems that everyone there, including the kids, had a great time.
We finished off a hectic few weeks with Elland Road’s staging of an England international, for the first time since 2002. We are used to seeing sell-out crowds at Elland Road, so this was nothing new to us, but it was good to see fans of several different clubs mixing nicely in the pub both before and after the game. We saw flags from clubs like Arsenal and Hull City in the beer garden, but everyone had England on their minds and there was a real positive atmosphere.
And so now we move on to the World Cup itself. We’ve played our part in sending the team off to Russia with a wealth of goodwill and positivity behind them, now we sit back and watch it unfold. And you can do that perfectly well in the cosy confines of the Old Peacock.
We will be showing every game of the 2018 World Cup on our big screens throughout the month long tournament. There are few better feelings than taking an afternoon off work and settling down in your local with a pint and something special ordered from our menu and having a feast of football played out before you. That can be you and if previous tournaments are anything to go by, the Old Peacock is going to be a pretty special place over the next few weeks.
England might not win the tournament, but a reduction in expectation and a bit less of the usual OTT hullabaloo hopefully means there is a little less pressure on the team and they can go to Russia and express themselves naturally, without feeling the weight of the nation on their shoulders.
All we know is that you can watch it here with us while supping your favourite beers, with your favourite people and in your favourite place. It’s been an amazing month, but the fun times haven’t ended yet, because football’s coming home to the Old Peacock.
All the best
Thursday, 10 May 2018
Where does a year go? This time 12 months ago Leeds fans were coming to terms with another wasted season as a play-off bid that had looked nailed on for months spectacularly hit the buffers. It was with a mixture of pain and frustration, but at least an element of pride, that we waved the season off in a seventh-placed position that ultimately brought us nothing. One year on and we’re battling exactly the same disappointment, except the pain and frustration came a lot earlier and there was absolutely no element of pride.
To say the 2017/18 season has been disappointing is a monumental understatement, not just after last season’s near miss but also after the positivity of last summer. Let’s face it, mistakes have been made and performances have been nowhere near good enough. You can point the finger in various directions because there isn’t one solitary reason for Leeds United’s failures this season; football isn’t always as simple as that and there aren’t many individuals at the club who can look at themselves and say they performed to an acceptable standard throughout a campaign that brought such little cheer.
So yet again, Leeds United face a huge summer of re-building. We do believe there are some elements of a decent side within the first team squad, but that only amounts to about half a dozen players. However, with a raft of promising youngsters emerging and three or four key additions, things can very quickly look a little more positive, as long as we can clear the decks of a lot of the dead wood that habitually ends up hanging around Elland Road.
A key ingredient of any successful team is to build some camaraderie and team spirit and that seems to have been badly lacking all season. This team isn’t a ‘team’. There hasn’t been much evidence of fallouts or visible ructions within the squad, but equally, they don’t look like a squad of players that would die for each other, who know exactly what each other’s role is and who are organised and well-drilled. It doesn’t help when nobody knows from one game to the next who is going to be playing, and while a lot of this is down to coaching and management, a major reason why the team is so fragile and afraid to perform at Elland Road is also down to personality, and for that reason character, attitude and experience is as important in this upcoming transfer window as ability.
One thing that we can’t complain about at the Old Peacock is the crowds at Elland Road this season. Even when it became perfectly clear that the season was going down the pan, the attendances for home games rarely wavered. I guess we were helped by the league leaders Wolves visiting in midweek and a couple of Yorkshire derbies, but all the same it is impressive to maintain an average home crowd of around 30,000 when you’ve won only three games in four months and are spending yet another season achieving absolutely nothing.
Home games at the Old Peacock have continued to be special occasions and our resident house band The Snapp have again proved to be incredibly popular. So much so that they have warmed the crowds before the two Leeds Rhinos games recently and we hope they will be providing plenty of tunes and getting you all geared up for the Josh Warrington world title later this month, and for the England friendly versus Costa Rica in June.
Speaking of Josh Warrington, we are very much on the countdown to May 19th and we are getting prepared for what is going to be one hell of a day. With the Elland Road gates opening at 4pm and an undercard that includes the darling of Leeds – double Olympic champion Nicola Adams – we are sure to be having a busy afternoon in the pub. Add to that the Royal Wedding, the FA Cup Final and Leeds Rhinos v Castleford Tigers in the Magic Weekend at Newcastle and this is all building up to a quite unique day that will certainly be keeping our bar staff occupied.
Ticket sales for a chance to see the crowning of the first World Boxing Champion from Leeds are looking pretty good and we are certain there will be a very special atmosphere awaiting the current title holder Lee Selby as he enters Elland Road on the night, and we will be doing our best to add to that, so get yourselves along early for what promises to be an amazing sporting occasion in Leeds.
Before all that though, don’t forget there is one Leeds United home game remaining before the players head off for the summer, or if they are really unlucky, to Myanmar. Queen’s Park Rangers are our visitors on Sunday May 6th, which is a bank holiday weekend, and as we have a 12.30pm Kick-Off we will have The Snapp performing after the game, and not before as normal. So as to keep noise to a minimum we can’t have the band on too early, so why not make a day of it and join us after the game? Early indications suggest the weather should be pretty good too, so what better way to toast the end of the season than a glorious sunny afternoon in the Old Peacock beer garden listening to some quality tunes?
And of course, if you are not satisfied with just the one bout of ritual disappointment and humiliation, England are heading to Russia next month for the World Cup, so in our next blog post we will be telling you all about our plans for the month-long football jamboree, that fingers crossed might retain some home interest longer than a fortnight.
But for now let’s raise a glass to the 2017/18 season, wish it good riddance and party on to the sound of good things to come.
Monday, 16 April 2018
It seems like I’m only allowed to celebrate one Leeds United win in each of these monthly blog posts. Last time out we had just beaten Brentford at Elland Road for Paul Heckingbottom’s first win as Leeds boss, and it looked like we had finally turned the corner. Sadly, it’s been another case of ‘what might have beens’ since then and Leeds are exiting the Easter period just far enough away from a wide open play-off race for us to play no meaningful part in it, but close enough to look on with rueful regret and green with envy.
Yes, it’s that familiar time of year when we can write the season off and start planning for the next one. Again. I guess we should be thankful that we are pressing the reset button at the end of March rather than in February as normal, but the significant fact is that it’s much earlier than last season, when at least we carried the fight right until the last few fixtures. It’s the failure to build on that platform that rankles the most and there’s no escaping the fact that Andrea Radrizzani might have done plenty of good things off the pitch – if we ignore the abomination of that badge, and we really want to – but on the pitch it’s been a waste of a season.
That’s not to say it’s been a complete disaster. There are some players in the squad who can still contribute something to the standard of team we really need in this division, but not many, and it’s the lack of standout moments that really tells us everything. Usually you can point to games, goals and moments that make your hairs stand on end even if, ultimately, it all counts for nothing. But this season there’s largely nothing to write home about, save for a run of seven games unbeaten at the start of the season, which ended up being the biggest false dawn since…..erm…….since someone dressed us as Dawn and it turned out they weren’t called Dawn at all.
We’ll save the full post mortem for May’s blog post, but for now, when the moments most people recollect from a season are a 4-3 home defeat to Millwall and your star player being sent off for spitting in an FA Cup defeat to a League Two side, and then banned for six games, you know it’s time to draw a line through another campaign in this godforsaken division and move on.
Except of course, we can’t. At least not yet. In typical Leeds United fashion, we have another three largely pointless home games to endure. Although the last one gave us something of a shot in the arm in the form of a 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers, and maybe if we’re being super positive and maybe a tad over-optimistic we could suggest that ‘the’ magic moment hasn’t happened yet?
Leeds showed something of the free-flowing, attacking spirit we’ve longed for since those heady days at the beginning of the season against Bolton, and the atmosphere in the pub both before and after the game was especially buoyant. It was Good Friday, I guess, and at least this set the Easter weekend up nicely for everyone.
April arrives now and offers us two Saturday afternoon home games, a rare treat in a calendar month, although I guess that demonstrates quite clearly how even Sky Sports have lost interest in meddling with Leeds United’s season. On the 7th we welcome a Sunderland team who look to be heading straight down to League One, but they will be sure to bring a huge following with them to Elland Road. Fixtures with Sunderland always seem to have a traditional edge and this will be no different, and I’m sure there are many Leeds fans who would take a particular liking to banging another nail in their coffin.
Following that we have Paul Heckingbottom’s reunion with the Barnsley side he left to join Leeds in February. This takes place on Saturday 21st and again, I’d expect a decent crowd to turn up for this local derby, particularly as Barnsley are also fighting relegation and have plenty to play for.
Usually at the Old Peacock we start to feel quite sad at this time of year, another league season passes by and the pub takes on a whole different personality for the summer months as, well, just another pub. And we all know that’s it’s not just another pub. So that’s why we are particularly excited about the events coming up over the summer in 2018. We’ll talk about these in more detail in our May and June blog posts, but we have Josh Warrington’s World title fight with Lee Selby coming up on Saturday May 19th and then England play their last friendly before the World Cup against Costa Rica on Thursday June 7th. These will each be huge occasions and, as always, we are right in the thick of it and intend to play our part in making the Elland Road atmosphere something special. After all, that’s why these events are being staged here, so we have a duty to do our bit.
We like to think we contributed something to the amazing Super League game between Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers at Elland Road last month also. In the second of the Rhinos’ two ‘home’ games being staged here while their Headingley Stadium is re-developed, we saw a brilliant spectacle as Cas ended up 25-24 winners in a nail-biting climax. Clearly there was an edge to the occasion due to the locality of the two teams, mixed with a bit of a grudge element after the Rhinos steamrollered Cas in the Old Trafford Grand Final last October, but no one quite expected the quality of game that we saw.
It was also brilliant to see fans of both clubs mixing happily in the pub before and after the game. There is definitely a different kind of relationship between rival fans in rugby league that we will probably never see in football, and while the Peacock will always be packed before Leeds United games, whether we allowed away fans in or not, there’s a mutual respect between teams in RL that is quite unique and to be admired, while at the same time we wouldn’t change the tribal football rivalries one bit.
We wouldn’t have it any other way, and we are proud of the role we play in making the Elland Road atmosphere so special, and we can’t wait for the next few months to play out so we can show it to the whole country, and maybe even the whole world.