Wednesday, 2 January 2019

One Party Ends As Another Gets Ready To Start

If you’ve no idea what day of the week it is, there are a 101 jobs to do around the house that you’ve neglected for the last fortnight and you are actually quite sick of eating and drinking, then it must be time to go back to work after the Christmas and New Year break. 
By now you’ve taken the decorations down, shifted furniture back and exposed the true extent of the discarded Quality Street wrapper mountain the family has built up over the festive period. But time waits for no man, or woman. The build-up to Christmas might seem to last forever, and then the next week is gone in a flash and suddenly it’s all over and you’re hit by a shuddering reality. It’s now 2019 and it’s time to get moving again.
Turkey fatigue and chocolate lethargy must now be overcome as it’s time for action. And for Leeds United, the corner has been turned and we are on the home straight, with the ultimate prize at stake and very much in view. While there’s nothing like the clock ticking into injury time to focus Kemar Roofe’s mind, there’s nothing like the calendar year changing over to focus the team on the task ahead. 
It’s fair to say the majority of December couldn’t have gone much better. Five wins out of six made for a very profitable month, with the only blemish coming in the last game of 2018, a 2-0 home defeat to Hull City. Before that we enjoyed a succession of wins that really opened up some ground and highlighted Leeds as the genuine frontrunners of the division. 

We couldn’t complain about the selection of home games at the Old Peacock either. Three home games in December, all 3pm Kick-Offs and all 30,000-plus attendances. The pre-match atmosphere is always something special, but you can imagine what it was like post-game on Boxing Day, when fans drifted back into the pub minutes after Kemar Roofe’s dramatic late winner. It was a party that carried on well into the night and perfectly encapsulated the positive feeling there has been all season surrounding Leeds. 
To say this is a dramatic turnaround compared to the start of 2018 is a huge understatement. The second half of the 2017/18 season was a complete write-off and few Leeds fans entertained any hope of the kind of season we are currently experiencing. But then who could have predicted that Leeds would land Marcelo Bielsa as the new head coach and that his magic touch would galvanise the players so quickly?  
Nobody quite knew what to expect when Bielsa first took charge, and even now we are learning new things about his methods and seeing hidden depths to this squad’s capabilities. It really is an incredible thing to witness, and whatever happens, this season has been a lesson in what top class coaching and management can bring out of otherwise ordinary players.
As it stands, Leeds have just lost their first game of 2019 at Nottingham Forest, but we can take a well-earned breather from the relentless slog of the League safe in the knowledge that Leeds are still in first place. It’s the FA Cup this weekend coming and I’d wager there aren’t many Leeds fans with grand designs on a day out at Wembley. Our priority is very simple, and hopefully, as many players as possible can be rested against Queen’s Park Rangers and in readiness for the resumption of league hostilities.
That will be on Friday January 11th, as our good friends at Sky Sports have endeavoured to move our only home fixture of the month to a Friday evening. But what a game it is! Against Derby County, one of the genuine contenders for promotion and always a fixture that has a little extra bite to it. The next home game after that is February 2nd against Norwich City, a 5.30pm Kick-Off for what could be a critical fixture in the race for promotion.
As the end of the season draws nearer, it is hard to say how we are all going to cope with the tension and the unbearable gaps between games. Drink would seem the obvious answer, and we are certainly here to help – in moderation of course – but, as Leeds fans, we are fast approaching an unprecedented situation in modern times and we might want to start preparing ourselves mentally for the inevitable ups and downs, the despair and anguish, but hopefully, ultimately, the undiluted joy that May will bring.
The Christmas period has of course been a busy one for the pub generally. In between games we entertain plenty of works’ parties and family get-togethers over the festive season and the Spiced Mango has done a roaring trade as it opened on every day possible throughout December. We can’t thank everyone enough for supporting this new restaurant venture from the moment it opened in July 2018, and it seems we have already built up a healthy procession of returning customers.
So there’s plenty in store for 2019 and we would be more than happy to see a continuation of the second half of 2018. Plenty of goals, plenty of wins and plenty of happy customers. If Leeds enjoy the same run of form in the second half of the season as they have in the first, then they should be home and dry, and then the party really will get started. 

Tuesday, 11 December 2018

A Season For Giving And Receiving

One minute you think you must have been a naughty boy this year as yet another Leeds United defender hobbles off with a long term injury, and then you think Christmas has come early as the opposition goalkeeper gifts you three points in a big Yorkshire Derby against promotion rivals. The last few days have certainly put us through the rollercoaster of emotions that football can bring, and at this time of year, we’d quite like things to be a little more stable and predictable, so we can settle down and enjoy the upcoming festive period. But life as a Leeds United fan is never going to be like that.

Barring a very dramatic capitulation in form, Leeds should see out the remainder of 2018 in the top six and be well placed to turn around in January and face the home straight with a clear view of what’s needed. Despite signs that the wheels might be falling of Marcelo Bielsa’s promotion wagon, Leeds have somehow kept it on course. In the face of dodgy form, horrific refereeing decisions and a frankly ridiculous injury situation, Leeds have chipped away at the division and maintained a top six spot, and they opened December with perhaps a season-defining win at Sheffield United that could really give the season the lift-off it needed.

Every week and every game appears to be presenting new challenges at the moment, with every stone at Thorp Arch upturned to ensure anyone that has ever played in defence is made available. Three clean sheets from the three games played since the 4-1 trouncing at West Brom suggests that Leeds have been solid as a rock, but while there was little to fear in the two recent home games versus Bristol City and Reading, Saturday’s feisty encounter with Sheffield United was a different prospect altogether. 

November was navigated with almost a month between home games, and we had to wait until Saturday 24thfor the visit of Bristol City. At least it was a 3pm Kick-Off, although three days later we returned to the unaccommodating 7.45pm starts as Reading swiftly came to town in the pouring rain. Leeds had to win both games, and while never quite firing on all cylinders, they did so with relative ease. That made the 1-0 win at Bramall Lane something of an unexpected bonus, and certainly Pablo Hernandez gobbled up the generous gift he was presented with.

It solidified Leeds’s position in second place, and offered a feint opportunity of opening up a gap over the rest of the play-off places before Christmas. In a sequence of three games, Leeds now face Queen’s Park Rangers at home, Bolton away and Aston Villa away. To close out the year we then face Hull City at home and Blackburn Rovers at home.

On paper it certainly looks a quite obliging run of games, with only Villa away being one you wouldn’t automatically expect Leeds to win. But then having already won at Derby County, Norwich City and Sheffield United, there’s no reason to go to Villa Park feeling daunted. And suddenly from the depths of despair in the sorry aftermath of the chastening defeat at the Hawthorns, you have to believe that Leeds have a genuine claim on a top two spot.

Nothing is certain in football, of course, and certainly not in the Championship. Optimism is not just based on Leeds somehow managing to deal with every form of upset, though, but also in the knowledge that key players such as Luke Ayling, Gaetano Berardi and Patrick Bamford are expected to return from injury, while Chelsea loanee Izzy Brown is expected to make his first appearance in a Leeds shirt in the run-up to Christmas.

Barring any further injuries, that should put the Leeds squad back at full strength just at the right time, and while it guarantees nothing, it does make the recent passage of three consecutive wins all the more important. 

So in December we can look forward to three absolutely bumper home games at Elland Road. Two of these are Saturday 3pm Kick-Offs and the other is a Boxing Day 3pm Kick-Off. So the random fixture generator *sideways glance to camera* has been very kind in offering us Lancashire and Yorkshire Derbies versus Blackburn and Hull over Christmas, but before that we are expecting another 30,000-plus crowd for this weekend’s visit of Queen’s Park Rangers.

You can be certain that we will be well prepared at the Old Peacock. The regular influx of huge crowds is nothing new to us and this time of year is when our matchday operation truly comes into its own. The pre-match atmosphere hardly needs cranking up, but the festive period certainly brings a bit more cheer, and if Leeds are still in the top two over Christmas, get ready for some pretty vintage occasions.

This year is a little different for us at the Old Peacock, as our restaurant partnership with the Spiced Mango brings something new to Christmas. The guys have decided to open on Christmas Day and have put together a fantastic deal to tempt you out of the house after Santa has been. For just £29.95 you can have a starter, main, two side dishes, sundries and a dessert. For children under 10, the price is just £16.95. The restaurant is only open between 12 noon and 3pm, so book early to secure an alternative Christmas Day that ticks all the boxes.

Until then, we look forward to welcoming you all to the pub in the run-up to Christmas, as the party season kicks off in earnest. We hope to see plenty of you for the Leeds United home games also, and of course we would like to wish all our customers and Leeds United fans everywhere a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, 6 November 2018

The Big Indecision

We’re currently in that difficult void between Summer and Winter where we don’t quite know what to do. One day you need the heating on and opt for the ‘big coat’ when taking the dog out, the next day you’ve got a bit of a sweat on when you automatically do the same, and actually “it’s quite mild for this time of year isn’t it?” When a population is as obsessed with the weather as we are it can cause mild panic when the weather is indecisive, and there are days when we’d much rather the temperatures plummeted for good and we knew exactly where we were.

Indecision is pretty much how we feel about Leeds United too. Most fans are in that difficult void wondering whether we are a good side or not. The league table suggests we are, but some performances indicate otherwise, and of course there is always that nagging paranoia digging away at our expectations and forcing us to presume that Leeds will fade away to mid-table as always.

However, while we might want the weather to make its mind up, I’m certainly not suggesting it would be better to know for certain that Leeds United are in fact rubbish, as we watch them plummet to their rightful position of 15thand feel content that we know our place. The flipside is that Leeds could go on a ten-match winning streak and blow the division apart, but the reality is that this season in the Championship looks like a pretty even playing field, and it appears that Leeds might just do enough to stay in and around the top two until the business end. That doesn’t help us with our indecision but it does suggest that Leeds are no better or worse than a huge chunk of the division.

What we can definitely say is that Marcelo Bielsa has made this team a much more organised, committed and technically-adept unit than it was last season, and that’s why I think we’ll chisel away and pick up enough points over the course of the season to stay in the pack. So far it doesn’t look like anyone is going to run away and build up an impressive points gap at the top, so there is certainly an opportunity there for Leeds.

The search for consistency over the last month has been a frustrating one, but all the teams at the top can say the same thing. Leeds have salvaged points they richly deserved in some games, but also dropped points they really shouldn’t have, so it’s been a bit of a mixed bag. And certainly at Elland Road we’ve been left disappointed with some results and have witnessed a whole season’s worth of controversy in just two games.

October started with the visit of Brentford and one of the most inept refereeing displays you are ever likely to see. The argument goes that referees are only human and you can understand how some decisions go against you, but then the authorities haven’t helped Leeds either when given the opportunity to take retrospective action with the aid of video footage. Naturally, Brentford’s Sergi Canos got away with a blatant head butt clearly caught on camera, while Pontus Jansson was fined and suspended for his post-match comments about the referee. In fairness, Jansson was always going to face some form of punishment, but it is the consistency that baffles.

There is no doubting that Leeds benefitted from the incompetency of the officials against Nottingham Forest, however, and we can maybe agree that there isn’t a huge EFL conspiracy against Leeds after all. Kemar Roofe clearly scored the late equaliser with his arm and this wasn’t spotted by the officials, so we salvaged a point. Both games ended 1-1 and Leeds could make a legitimate claim that they should have won each of them, and the harsh truth is that we just didn’t have the firepower.

Unfortunately, that’s probably the main factor that prevents us calling Leeds a genuinely good side. There were moments against Ipswich Town, in the other home game we saw last month, where Leeds looked sublime, but Ipswich were a really poor side, and against better opposition Leeds have struggled. We really are missing injured players and a bit more creativity where it matters.

Still, Leeds are second in the table as I write, so we don’t have too much to moan about, except for the fact that our next home game is still three weeks away. Thanks to the fixture list sending us to Wigan Athletic and West Brom, and then yet another international break, we have to wait until Saturday 24thfor the visit of Bristol City. Then, like buses, Reading come to Elland Road on the following Tuesday, 27th.

The Peacock has certainly enjoyed some busy times this season, and it looks like crowds are going to remain at 30,000 or more. The 5.30pm Kick-Off against Forest made for a lively afternoon and the atmosphere built-up before everyone headed over the road to the ground was something pretty special, and as we head towards Christmas and the big games come thick and fast, we fully expect more raucous occasions like that.

Thanks to everyone for the feedback on the new matchday food menu courtesy of the Spiced Mango, and also on the new matchday bars in the beer garden. We always try to fine tune things to make the experience better for everyone, so please let staff know if you have spotted something that can be improved.

Our restaurant partnership with the Spiced Mango continues to be the huge success we expected it to be. We even received an award recently when the restaurant was voted as one of the top ten curry houses in Yorkshire by Yorkshire Life and Living North magazines. The standards are fantastic and if you haven’t tried it out yet, make sure you pay us a visit and enjoy some amazing flavours of the east.

In the meantime, I’m pretty sure that the next time we meet the weather will definitely be cold enough to put the heating on, the big coat will be out when you venture down to Elland Road, and I’m even confident that Leeds United will still be in the mix for promotion, and because of the nature of the Championship, that’s regardless of whether we’re a good team or not.  

Monday, 8 October 2018

Are Leeds United Still Masking The Reality?

By the end of October we will have seen enough masks to last us a lifetime, or at least until Halloween 2019. Over at Elland Road, we are still waiting to see if the ‘real’ Leeds United will suddenly reveal itself. You know, the one we have a strange, dysfunctional and distinctly one-way relationship with.

Last month I wrote about the next block of six games and whether Leeds could see the month out just as they started it; on top of the table. Despite a brief blip over the weekend, as I write, Leeds have just beaten Hull City to go back into first spot. And yet many media people, rival fans and, let’s face it, even many Leeds fans are still convinced the mask will slip and Leeds will capitulate into mid-table like they always do.

Except this time it all looks and feels a little different. We now have a better points total than we did at the same stage last season, but admittedly it did for a long time carry an uncanny resemblance to the stunning start that Thomas Christiansen hoodwinked us with a year ago. That of course was built on sand, and it crumbled away into nothing pretty quickly.

While Leeds have suffered their first league defeat in the last month, results and performances since have done everything to convince us that was just a minor hiccup along the pathway to the stars. Included in that have been two local derbies away from home; games in which Leeds routinely fail to rise to the hype that the home team manage to build. In such games you can set your watch by when certain things will happen; the home crowd are up for it, the players who have been mediocre in every other game this season are up for it, Leeds concede before half-time and never manage to get a foothold back in the game. From Barnsley to Rotherham and from Sheffield United to Bradford City we have all seen it so many times in recent years.

But in the last two games Leeds have drawn 1-1 at Sheffield Wednesday after going behind and won 1-0 at Hull City. There is an element of frustration that Leeds haven’t won both games, but the key thing is that Leeds were able to control both games and were never once muscled out of their stride or intimidated by a home crowd baying for blood. At all times Leeds kept their shape, stuck to a well-drilled pattern of play and just did their own thing. This involved scoring two goals that included front-to-back passing movements featuring virtually the entire side, and culminating in a searching finish from distance delivered with devastating aplomb.

There has been some criticism that Leeds aren’t scoring the scrappy goals that their creative play is presenting on a plate, but the goals they are scoring are all beautifully crafted and bear the hallmarks of a team that is organised, has a plan and is supremely confident.

All this has been achieved without the services of key players of course. We haven’t seen Pablo Hernandez for over a month, and that’s way too long. Pablo was injured prior to the Middlesboro game at the end of August, and when we were also dealt the significant blow of injuries to top scorer Kemar Roofe and £7million signing Patrick Bamford, you feared the worst. Now Leeds just need to ride out one more fixture before a two-week international break, after which the side should be blessed once more with at least some of this craft and firepower.

That Leeds have managed to stay up there and to play some of the football that they have, during this period, should tell everyone exactly what they need to know about the character and endurance of this team, but still there are doubters. Personally, I don’t mind that. If Leeds have to go into every game having to prove themselves to people, then that isn’t a bad mind-set to have.

The day we get complacent and believe all the hype is the day that standards drop and mistakes creep in. So let’s hope that people are still questioning the quality and longevity of Marcelo Bielsa’s side in April with just two games to go and with Leeds sitting pretty and with their destiny in their own hands.

We have seen just the two home games at the Peacock during September, within four days of each other and each with very contrasting emotions. Preston North End arrived on Tuesday 18th and were brutally put to the sword, as an injury-ravaged Leeds crushed them 3-0 with a display that oozed with style and buoyancy. It could have been much more and set everything up perfectly for the visit of Garry Monk’s Birmingham City on the following Saturday.

Of course the football world is littered with pantomime villains where Leeds fans are concerned and Monk is definitely in that league now, and if there’s one game we didn’t want to lose it was this one. I guess that it was written in stone that Leeds would succumb to their first defeat in this game and we should perhaps be thankful that it wasn’t Millwall away, but it was hard to take all the same.

October brings three home games, in another stop-start month punctuated rather rudely by those pesky international breaks. We have the visit of Brentford this Saturday then no games for a fortnight. A short trip to Blackburn is followed by the visit of lowly Ipswich Town on Wednesday 24th and then a Saturday evening Kick-Off against Nottingham Forest on the 27th.

This last fixture is the kind of game we look at when planning things at the Old Peacock and everyone kind of goes quiet and starts to contemplate what it will be like. You won’t be surprised to learn that even though the game kicks-off at 5.30pm rather than 3pm, that doesn’t mean people come to the pub a minute later than normal. Certainly not Leeds fans anyway. We will be licking our lips at the potential bar takings, but it does also present a few challenges throughout the day. But it is all the fun of the fair and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

When Leeds United are flying like they are now, our job is just to keep the good times going, and we have plenty of years’ experience of doing that. So let’s see where Leeds are in another month’s time. Hopefully the mask hasn’t slipped yet and the real Leeds United is becoming more recognisable as the one that is still cutting a swath through this division.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Goodbye Sunshine, Hello Good Times

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

New Season

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’.


Of course, the difference we need to see is that Leeds progress at the same rate that Bamford does. We don’t want to see yet another big name sold off to the Premier League while Leeds continue to flounder in the second tier. And with things slowly coming together before Sunday’s big Kick-Off against Stoke City at Elland Road, there is definitely plenty to be optimistic about, even if Leeds fans are too savvy and battle-weary to get carried away again.

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

Welcoming A New Culinary Era to Elland Road

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 d├ęcor 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.