Monday, 4 December 2017

Leeds United's Christmas Message

It almost feels like this football season hasn’t got going yet, but here we are approaching the halfway point. The blistering start from Leeds swiftly turned into a stutter and in recent weeks it has levelled out a bit, but add in the numerous international breaks and it has all been a bit stop/start and it is hard to draw any conclusions. Yet as I write, Leeds have played 20 games and will soon be facing the home straight to the end of the season once again.

December is traditionally the time when the league table really starts to take shape. The inhabitants of the play off places at the turn of the year are quite often the same ones at the end of the season; unless one of them is Leeds of course, but it’s up to us to change that. Right now we are two places and five points outside the play-offs zone and face a pretty favourable run of games in December, so you could conclude that Leeds are quite well placed for an assault on the top six in the second half of the season, and December could see them send out a message to the rest of the division.  

 The last month has seen a bit of a turnaround in the club’s fortunes after a pretty horrific October. While there were two away defeats at Brentford and Wolves, Leeds won their only home game against Garry Monk’s Middlesbrough and also notched a rare Yorkshire Derby win at Barnsley. This has stopped the rot and instilled a bit of belief in both the team and the management, something that had gone badly AWOL and left us all a bit confused after such a brilliant start to the season.

It seems that almost every game is either live on Sky or on a beamback at Elland Road at the minute, so we are certainly feeling a part of the action at the pub, as fans can’t resist the urge to pop in for a pint before and after the game, to savour that matchday atmosphere they know and love. Naturally we will always welcome this and whenever and wherever Leeds United are playing there is always someone at the Old Peacock cheering them on.  

November has been a pretty quiet month at the Old Peacock though, with just the one home game against Middlesbrough, and that on a Sunday lunch time. We had to forego our usual pre-match live band in the beer garden due to the early kick-off time, and of course we couldn’t serve our traditional Sunday lunch either, but it was all worth it as the lads came straight out of the traps and secured a much-needed 2-1 victory. It was great to see a big crowd again and the club’s efforts to re-engage the fanbase certainly seem to be paying off. We have always welcomed families at the Old Peacock, but more and more we are seeing the younger generation coming to the games with parents and it is fantastic to see.  

We are hoping this continues into December too, and for once the fixture computer at the Football League has been pretty kind to us. Okay, Sky Sports are responsible for the Aston Villa game being moved to a Friday night, but after that we have Saturday 3pm home games on two successive weekends, all in the run-up to Christmas. It’s to be hoped that you guys are doing all your Christmas shopping online, because there won’t be many trips to the shops with Leeds being at home two Saturdays running.

Norwich City are the visitors on Saturday 16th and then Hull City come to Elland Road on the 23rd. With Leeds seemingly back in the hunt for the play-offs these are sure to be big occasions and we will certainly have the welcome mat out for the 30,000-plus crowds expected. Leeds then see the year out with away games at Burton Albion and Birmingham City, before Nottingham Forest come and visit on the first day of 2018. But let’s not worry about that for now. With two Saturday 3pm fixtures lined up, we are busy getting stocked up and all our staff prepared for what are sure to be two mammoth occasions in the run-up to Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas, as usual, our Christmas Day menu sold out in no time at all and we are now fully booked for the big day. We have always felt that the festive season is about more than just getting together on the 25th however, so we designed another Christmas menu for the run-up to Santa coming and this has proved really popular in recent years. More and more people use the festive season to get together with friends and family they perhaps don’t see too often, and of course there are numerous works parties at Christmas time, so we designed our Christmas Fayre menu specifically with this in mind. Now you can sample a flavour of Christmas at your favourite venue and with your favourite people. It will save you washing up and it certainly won’t cost you the earth. At two courses for £13.50 and three courses for £15.50 you will be hard pushed to find better value anywhere in Leeds. There is a choice of traditional Christmas dishes mixed with some old classic favourites and over the years we have hosted some memorable evenings with people who keep coming back year after year.

Please call in and speak to us in person or phone us up (0113 2715962) to book a table for the Christmas Fayre menu and we will make sure we can accommodate your party.

So another year at the Old Peacock comes to an end. It has certainly been a busy one and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We hope to see you for the Norwich and Hull games and again at some point over the festive period, but we would also like to take this opportunity to wish a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all Leeds United fans and to all our customers everywhere.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Doing The Right Things

As soon as Halloween is over and done with, thoughts very quickly turn to Bonfire Night and the very real desire to set fire to anything and everything. The temptation right now for Leeds United fans is to burn everything they own that even vaguely reminds them of football, such is the rapid descent in form that is currently being experienced. There is a strange sense of satisfaction in watching something crackle and burn and disappear into the air, unless it’s Leeds United’s promotion hopes for yet another season, and that’s the vivid prospect we are watching unfold before our very eyes.

October ended with a shattering late defeat to Derby County, and Elland Road emptied rapidly in a foggy murmur of discontent. It was a night that started so promisingly with an early goal and a sixty minute performance that belied the lack of confidence that had engulfed the team in recent games. But in familiar fashion, and in fairness as a result of some dubious refereeing decisions, it all came crashing down, and somehow we trudged home on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline and thank God there were no more trick or treaters knocking on the door because patience had well and truly worn thin.

Six defeats out of eight games tell its own story, and if it wasn’t for the extremely welcome 3-0 win at Bristol City last month, then the calls for Thomas Christiansen’s head would be gathering a lot more pace.  It is clear that whatever propelled Leeds to an unbeaten opening seven games to the season has long since disappeared, the key now is whether the management at Elland Road can work out what it was, and more importantly, rediscover it. There can be no doubt that Christiansen needs some help now, and the nagging feeling is that there is a lack of nous and experience of this division, on the pitch, in the dugout and in the backroom staff.

Christiansen announced himself with assurance and dignity in the early stages, his footballing principles were there for all to see and his ethos gathered some quick momentum. Now it is evident that he needs to learn very quickly how to adapt that for different games. It is almost like his team’s development has missed out two key stages; he has the flair and the pretty passing, but he has missed out the mental strength and the character. Every team in the Championship needs that, you need to battle and earn the right to play football first and foremost, and sadly it appears that Leeds United lack that at this moment. We need leaders, people to organise a team when the pressure is on, people to be vocal and get players’ heads up when things are going wrong. Right now, if Leeds United concede you know what is going to happen next, and Christiansen needs to learn how to affect games better and make sure his players can have an influence.

Of course we need to remember that this is a new team, with new management and a new footballing ethos. There is new structure at the club and a completely new outlook. Things like that take time to operate exactly how you want them to. In many ways it was a miracle that the season started as it did, and certainly we were lulled into a false sense of security, but it also shows that perhaps we are not too far away. Games are only being lost by fine margins, and in time, knowing how to manage games, how to change formation to make a difference and knowing who to rely on when, will become easier. The key is whether Christiansen will get that time.

For me, I think it is imperative that we continue to break the mould at Leeds United. I say ‘continue’ because already we have seen a raft of positive measures implemented by the club, which add up to a ship clearly sailing in the right direction. The club is progressing, it has its eyes open and has a vivid sense of what is needed and how those things can be achieved. We are not used to seeing that, rather a blurred vision of lawless and rudderless chaos. Change and instability has done us no good. Breaking the mould would be to stick with the courage of our convictions and believe that the people in certain positions will learn and grow as the club grows, and along the way they will improve. Given the right tools of course, and perhaps if Andrea Radrizzani and Victor Orta have learnt anything from the past month, it’s that the January transfer window is something they need to take an active interest in, with opportunities to ship players out as well as in.

So we come to November and the run up to Christmas. At the Old Peacock we have enjoyed some big days and nights in October, particularly the Friday night of the Sheffield United game, where we felt the occasion warranted a live performance from The Snapp – usually just reserved for Saturday games – and a big attendance brought a very special atmosphere to the pub and the beer garden. November on the other hand offers just one home game, and thanks to Sky TV that comes on a Sunday lunchtime, when Middlesbrough visit on November 19th.  However, we will be sure to expect a healthy attendance again for the return of Garry Monk and our doors will be wide open for everyone to enjoy a Sunday afternoon drink prior to the game and afterwards.

Talk of Christmas brings us to our regular festive menus at the Old Peacock. We have our Christmas Fayre Menu (two courses for £13.50 or three courses for £15.50) which is perfect for those office parties and for friends and families planning a special Christmas get together. This starts in December and runs all the way up to the big day. On Christmas Day itself we have a special menu (four courses for £49.95 per person, or £14.95 for under 12s) but this traditionally sells out quickly, so please contact us on 0113 2715962 or call in personally to secure your place.

We also want to bring your attention to the Ossett Brewery Open Day, which takes place at the Kings Yard brewery in Ossett on Saturday November 18th, from 12 noon until 7.00pm. There will be live bands, bouncy castles, BBQ food and of course lots of beer and the chance to view the new extensions to the brewery.

So all in all, there is plenty going on and plenty of work to do. It never stops at this time of year, but we get through it and we are confident that Leeds United will too. Like the Old Peacock, it is an organisation that survives through teamwork, hard work and staying strong when the chips are down. Now is the time to keep together, keep cool and keep on doing the right things, and eventually things will turn around.       

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Shaking Off The Autumn Blues

Funny old business football. This time last month Leeds United hadn’t won a home game, and yet we were all super positive and excited, like Santa had arrived and the in-laws had just announced they weren’t coming after all. Leeds then proceeded to win all three home games in September and went top of the league in the process, and yet by the end of the month we are sat solemnly staring out of the window contemplating whether we should jump straight through it. And yet we are still fifth in the table.

The nature of the despondency, though, is not just the polar opposite form the club is showing in the last few games, or even the slow creeping realisation that maybe we aren’t as good as we thought we were, but mainly the paralysing fear that we are still stuck in the murky abyss of being a mid-table team with no clear plan or idea as to how to get out of there. I am here to wholeheartedly confirm that is not the case, however, having witnessed the last 15 years so closely that I have seen the whites of its eyes and suffered its ungodly body odour, I can sympathise with those who cannot shake this interminable worry.  

Yes, despite winning all three home games in September, Leeds United also thrust upon us the bothersome inconvenience of losing the last three away games. Sandwiched in the middle, we shouldn’t forget, was the epic League Cup win at Burnley, where a much-changed side fought hard in a tight game against Premier League opponents, and then won the game on penalties after having twice looked like winning in the last crazy ten minutes of normal time. This, we thought, was the shape of things to come, and a clear sign that we could step up and match a quality side as and when we needed to. It was also the perfect response to our first defeat of the season at Millwall, a result so depressingly predictable but one that you could put down to the ‘unique’ occasion that a visit to Millwall is, and hence something you hoped to dismiss as a one-off.

The step up in quality we appeared to match at Burnley we hoped to also navigate in the games versus Cardiff City and Sheffield Wednesday, but those results were comprehensive reminders that we are far from the finished article. Whatever could go wrong in those games did so; injuries, sending offs, kamikaze defending and a goalkeeper, about whom the jury was previously still out, confirming that he has a lot to learn in the game. That said, it is hard to find a part of the team that isn’t left open to criticism after the last two games, and of course the manager is there to be shot at too. But a little perspective is needed at this juncture I feel, and while the last international break came at a frustrating time for Leeds, having just beaten Nottingham Forest 2-0 and gained some considerable momentum, this one gives us chance to lick our wounds in the sanctuary of Thorp Arch, and work out a strategy to return to our former, if fleeting, greatness.

We shouldn’t forget that September included the thoroughly brutal destruction of Burton Albion, a display so overwhelmingly one-sided and ‘complete’ it looked like it had been designed by a FIFA 17 maestro. The home wins against Birmingham City and Ipswich Town were far harder work, but showed some excellent qualities and overall it bore well for the rest of the season. Just over a week later and we’re back in a familiar routine; arranging a viewing for 15th place and being fitted out with a zero goal difference again, just like old times.

The key is, of course, that we have the personnel at the club to do great things. We’ve already seen it. What we have to do is work out an adaptable system for certain games, and have the know-how to be able to navigate tricky periods, or tricky fixtures as a whole. It is as much about having a specific mindset as anything else, particularly at places like Millwall and Cardiff City, but it is also about being able to change your system to suit specific games, and while it is admirable to stick to certain principals, especially when they are very attractive looking ones, the mark of a great side is knowing when to approach a game differently, ie. when to play and when to pitch in and battle.

It was very easy to get carried away after the Burton performance, but equally we need to sit tight and not get too downhearted now. It is true that Thomas Christiansen is new to this league and a relative novice as a football coach in general, but he is an intelligent, studious man, and is backed by a team of professional coaches and analysts of football and the next two weeks should give them ample time to spot where Leeds are going wrong. There isn’t one specific answer, but every game is a learning experience and hopefully the management team are taking something from each one that will help us further down the line.

October at first glance looks quite sparse with home fixtures. There are no games now until the 14th, when Reading are the visitors to Elland Road, before away games at Bristol City and Leicester City in the League Cup, but then the month is rounded off with two home games right at the end. Sheffield United visit on Friday 27th October before we entertain Derby County on Tuesday 31st October. Just one Saturday afternoon fixture is a bit of a blow, but we are doing our best to make the Friday night fixture against Sheffield United a traditional party occasion. From 5pm, we will have our new BBQ food available as we have started doing for all midweek fixtures, but we will also have our resident band The Snapp playing live in the beer garden from 6pm, a rare privilege usually only reserved for Saturday afternoons. With it being half term week, and a Friday night, we felt people might have a bit more time to get to Elland Road and would also be in more of a ‘weekend’ mood than a ‘midweek’ mood, so hell, let’s pretend it’s a Saturday!  

And hopefully by then we will have shaken off the Autumn blues we are suffering after the Sheffield Wednesday game. So keep faith, remember the good times that weren’t so long ago, and let’s get behind the lads as they seek to find that form again.


Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Something To Talk About

I should know by now that Leeds United never play by the rules and mostly do the opposite to what I expect them to. In the last Peacock blog post I talked about allowing new manager Thomas Christiansen a little time to settle, I tried to temper expectations a little by pointing to Garry Monk’s first month in charge and suggesting the first few games aren’t always a reliable indicator of how a season is going to go. I pointed to the good things happening off the field in an attempt to direct a focus towards the bigger picture, and away from the short term struggles that ‘could’ happen with an inexperienced coach and a raft of new players. So what do Leeds United do to help me drive home that message?  Go seven games unbeaten from the start of the season; including four clean sheets, a procession of well-taken goals and a style of football not seen since Brazil’s carefree romp through the 1970 World Cup Finals in Mexico.

OK, so that last bit has a slight addition of artistic licence, but given some of the drab and soulless fare we have been served up over recent years, it is hard not to get excited about Leeds United’s eye-catching start to the season, and it is equally difficult to find rational comparisons to draw upon. 

When you see Samu Saiz pinging 50 yard passes straight to Stuart Dallas, Gianni Alioski reducing a left back to tears and Jay-Roy Grot delivering a defender to a different postcode with an innocent shoulder barge, it takes a special kind of crotchety sourpuss to deny Leeds fans a wry smile and a faint vision of a new beginning. But that’s all it is; a beginning, and while it is conjuring up a definite stirring in the loins, and God knows we have spent many a cold and lonely hour waiting for one of those, it is perhaps wise to remember that we have played just seven games, and while we didn’t want to get too downhearted if things started badly, equally, we shouldn’t be hanging out the bunting to celebrate our inevitable promotion, just because things have started well.

However, they definitely have started well. A 3-2 win at Bolton on the opening day was followed by two slightly deflating 0-0 draws at home, but then Leeds served up two absolute treats for their travelling fans and all those watching on TV, with almost identical 2-0 wins at Sunderland and Nottingham Forest. These weren’t just regulation wins either, both were achieved against big clubs with high expectations, and, particularly against Forest, Leeds dominated from start to finish and looked every inch the charismatic gunslingers that have so often waltzed into Elland Road in recent years and took home the prize.
The scenes in the Old Peacock when Alioski drove home the second goal at Forest were reminiscent of the Champions League days when Leeds toyed with the opposition. Leeds had looked comfortable and superior throughout, and a peach of a goal dressed the victory up perfectly. There was a tangible sense that ‘this’ Leeds United are the real deal, and finally, are people going to be talking about Leeds United again for the right reasons, and not as a joke club or a financial disaster story?

It is testament to the work of Thomas Christiansen of course, who has been supported very well in the transfer market, without spending the amounts of money that rivals such as Aston Villa, Wolves or Middlesbrough are spending, but still has to fit all these individuals into a team formation. One of the most pleasing aspects of the first few games is how we have coped with injuries and suspensions and how any individual slotting in has so easily adapted to the formation and team ethic. There is clearly a plan and everyone is buying into it, and only the head coach, who works with the players every day, can firstly achieve that and then instil it in every player in the squad.

Since those two scintillating away performances, of course, we have seen the end of the transfer window and yet more activity to add value to the belief that Leeds are getting the infrastructure of the club absolutely right. Few fans are lamenting the loss of 30-goal Chris Wood when you look at the proven attacking talent we now have at our disposal, and hats off to Director of Football Victor Orta for that. Looking at the squad we have two strong players for every position and you could conceivably field two separate 1-11 teams and have a very evenly-matched practice game. I honestly can’t remember the last time we could say that, if ever. The key is, of course, how you keep every member of that squad hungry and satisfied. Inevitably, a large chunk of them are going to be continually on the periphery, and few will be satisfied with an occasional Carabao Cup outing, while we still remain in the competition. But the signs are that Christiansen has built a team mentality with a selfless attitude, and there is no doubt that over the course of the next nine months, they will all be needed at some point.

So September brings us a pleasing run of home league games after nearly a month without one. August 15th saw us draw 0-0 with Fulham, and September 9th brings the visit of Burton Albion. It’s only our second Saturday matchday of the season and we can’t wait to get the live band on in the beer garden, the kitchen cooking pies, and Paolo the Peacock out of his sleepy hibernation. We will be more than ready to welcome you all on Saturday, and again on Tuesday 12th when Birmingham City are our visitors, and we will hopefully be firing up the barbecue to deliver our new midweek matchday BBQ menu. That’s not the end of the action for September either, as Ipswich Town will be stopping off at Elland Road on Saturday 23rd to complete a mammoth and exhausting month. We will certainly know a lot more about who the real Leeds United is by this time, and let’s hope the next International break is just as unwelcome as this last one has been. However much we dislike a fortnight without ‘proper’ football, it’s far more pleasant to go into a two-week break on the back of the 2-0 ‘pasting’ of a supposed promotion rival, so all being well we will repeat the trick in September.

In the meantime, come on down and enjoy the matchday experience at the Old Peacock. As it stands, for all the positivity, Leeds haven’t won a home league game as yet, so they need all the support they can get at Elland Road over the next few games, to show they can back up all the promise demonstrated away from home, and ensure people are really talking about us.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Riding the changes

The beginning of August is a unique period of a football fan’s calendar. Not because we can entertain the prospect of possibly going to a match in short sleeves and maybe even shorts, and not because we can walk down to Elland Road for an evening game in daylight and eat our pre-match burger as if we were back on holiday in a Mediterranean street cafĂ©. Or something like that. No, it’s because every football fan starts the season with a clean slate and an often over-sized chunk of optimism for the next nine months. Our team has a record unsullied by defeats, goals conceded and woeful open-goal misses, and we feel good about that.

We all feel that somehow this is going to be our year, even if, as has happened often with Leeds United in the last few years, the reality of the squad of players assembled together before you like a patchwork quilt, screams otherwise. And that is pretty much where us Leeds United fans are right now, except we have just a little bit more optimism than we usually have, partly based on the fact that the 2016/17 season was the first campaign in what seemed like an eternity, to give us tangible belief that we might one day escape the tedium of the second division. But also because our summer recruitment has been pretty solid and inspiring. While there are still sizeable holes in our squad which could still be addressed before the end of the transfer window, on the whole we have a first team pool that has more quality options than it has done for many, many years.

It seems a long time since the unknown Thomas Christiansen first walked amongst us like a novice sales rep at his first annual conference, and it is to be hoped that his time has been used wisely. The prospect of making an impact on Leeds United in a short space of time can be a daunting one, even if you have the years of experience or the hide of a rhino like a Sam Allardyce or, dare I say it, a Neil Warnock. For Christiansen, he needs to first earn the respect of a set of players who have literally never heard of him, and then implement methods and a mentality that will make them a better set of players than the one that finished narrowly outside the play-off places last season. That’s a tough ask, even if you have comparable experiences to draw upon, and it’s fair to say that Christiansen needs a huge amount of uncontrollable factors to fall in his favour. But one thing Leeds fans can control and where we can help him out, is by allowing him a little patience and lowering his immediate expectations.

Of course it is the familiar trait of a football fan to expect your team to come racing out of the blocks at the start of the season, and immediately shrug off the shackles of a non-competitive summer like a hibernating groundhog unleashing itself on another year. Unfortunately it doesn’t always work out like that, and we seem to accept the fact that footballers effectively forget how to play the game in the six weeks they have off between one season and another, and it takes a few weeks to get back up to speed. Add to that the hefty turnover of players and the annual implementation of new coaching methods, and it’s fair to say that the first month of the season is rarely a good indication of how the season as a whole will go, and that is very much how last season started off under Garry Monk. Twelve months on we are in a very similar situation, except that we have the optimism of new ownership and a raft of crowd-pleasing measures, plus the very unfamiliar scenario of having purchased players that other clubs actually wanted to buy too, but instead they chose Leeds.

It is that feeling of actually competing with other clubs in our own division, beating them to players, and acting like a big club again that provides a warm fuzzy feeling as the new season approaches. Off the pitch, in the stands, the Leeds fans have never wavered, and have remained a constant reminder of the potential Leeds United has; the one ingredient of the club that is always there to project an image of a fully-functioning travelling behemoth, even if in the background there has been chaos, financial thrift and a wafer-thin infrastructure. And at the Old Peacock we are fully aware of that.

That feeling of unbridled optimism every Leeds fan feels in August, is pretty much what we see every matchday as soon as we open our doors. The buzz of anticipation prior to kick-off at any stage of the season is evident in the thirst and hunger with which you lot approach every game; there’s nothing like the prospect of another 90 minutes, and whatever your thoughts on the current state of the team and the club, every match starts 0-0 and you just never know what might happen; except that Gaetano Berardi almost certainly won’t score.

But the feeling at the start of another 46-game season magnifies this tenfold, particularly when the club has not just bought the likes of Vurnon Anita, Samuel Saiz, Ezgjan Alioski and Caleb Ekuban, but has also spent a pretty penny on securing Elland Road after it has spent 13 years under anonymous and murky ownership. And what’s more, at the Peacock we will have our regular live band, The Snapp, back for every Saturday home game, new food options, Paolo the Peacock to keep the kids occupied and another development to help cut the matchday beer queues a little bit; two pint pots! Why just buy one pint per visit when you can save time and buy two? It’s a simple concept and something we have introduced to hopefully get people served a little quicker this season.

So the new season is upon us, and we have a rush of home games before another long and miserable break until September. We had a small taster of what’s to come with the home friendly versus Oxford United last Saturday, but that was mere child’s play. Including the League Cup, we have three home games in less than a week coming up shortly, so it is a baptism of fire in terms of breaking in the new season. Port Vale will be welcomed to Elland Road on Wednesday 9th August for a League Cup tie, and Preston North End are our first league visitors on Saturday 12th August when we are expecting a big crowd approaching 30,000. The following Tuesday 15th August our visitors are Fulham, but then we have a break until September 9th.  And by then, maybe we will need it?

This new season enthusiasm creates a hell of a thirst if the past few years is anything to go by. But we’re not complaining and we can’t wait to see the pub bursting at the seams again, it’s been too long. And it’s been way too long since Leeds fans have had genuine reasons for optimism leading into another Championship campaign, but right now I think we do. So let’s navigate this first month, stay strong and focused and not get too carried away with results either way, and re-group again in September to see where we are.  

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Fighting Back

A month is a long time in football, even in June when there’s usually nothing happening. Except at Leeds United, when it’s never safe to turn your phone off and go to sleep at 11pm in case we sack someone, hire someone or redefine legal precedent in some bizarre way. One month ago we were all in a pretty dark place; asking ourselves why Garry Monk didn’t want us anymore and feeling pretty vulnerable and apprehensive about what the future held. Since then we have learnt a lot, and most of it good.

It’s safe to say that Thomas Christiansen could have walked into the Peacock a month ago and ordered a pint of Yorkshire Blonde and nobody would have batted an eyelid. Even now most people would maybe afford him only a second glance as he sat down with his family for Steak Night, and dismiss him as somebody who had sold them a fitted kitchen package from B&Q a couple of years ago. He has a face we recognise, but is not yet someone we can immediately identify.

That’s the beauty of arriving on the scene in the close season I guess, and I expect it is also just the way he likes it. Leeds United’s new head coach, Thomas Christiansen doesn’t strike me as someone who is going to steal the limelight and hang around waiting for attention, he’s happy to be quietly going about his business and getting to know his squad on the training pitch. But when the season starts, he is certainly someone we are going to see a lot of. It’s the nature of being a high profile part of Leeds United and let’s just hope he has done his homework and knows that to expect from the media’s glare. The frenzy of activity upon his unveiling will be nothing compared to the attention before, during and after every Leeds United game, such is the hunger for every last detail, and if Leeds United start doing well……………

It was hard not to feel a little bemused by Christiansen’s unveiling. Literally nobody can claim to have been aware of him and his track record. We all had to undertake a swift Google search upon hearing the news. But his pedigree is decent and he is a credible appointment, if a little leftfield, but certainly with no Championship coaching experience, he will need a lot of things on his side. What is encouraging is that Christiansen will have an insatiable hunger for the job. He is well thought of and highly respected in football and this is his first big job. At 44 years old, he has something to prove, a challenge to face and a name to make for himself. When you consider some of the other names that were linked with the job: Alan Pardew, Nigel Pearson, Juande Ramos, even Claudio Ranieri, while they have a lot more coaching experience, you sensed being appointed as Leeds manager would have been ‘just another job’ to them. There is a huge merry-go-round of managers who simply skip from job to job and never stay long enough to make an impression; just pick up a sizeable pay cheque based on past reputation. With Christiansen, we almost have a blank sheet of paper and he can write his own history.

So far squad recruitment has been encouraging and the calibre of players Leeds are being linked with is a notch up from previously, but there are still big holes in our squad and a lot of hard work is required behind the scenes if we are to approach the first game of the season with confidence.  And that first game is creeping ever nearer. Fixtures release day is always an exciting one at the Peacock as we await news on when we can expect the first mass influx of Leeds fans through the doors since last May. There is a friendly fixture v Oxford United at Elland Road on July 29th of course, but that will be like a day in Kindergarten compared to the cacophonous sensory overload that is a proper full-on Leeds United matchday. That day will be Saturday August 12th when Preston North End are our visitors, while the following Tuesday (August 15th) we welcome Fulham to Elland Road. Before you know it we will be right back in the groove, with a sea of happy faces, a landscape filled with yellow, white and blue, live music pumping out of our beer garden and happy revellers dancing off to the ground with a happy expectation of three points for the Whites.

Of course we couldn’t let this blog post pass without mentioning the other seismic announcement coming out of Leeds United in the last few days. This was something that went far beyond hiring another manager, or buying a player, or releasing another new all-white home kit that was ever-so-slightly different to the previous one. This was something that brought the very fabric of the club back under its own control, something that put the heart and soul back into Leeds United, and something that all three previous owners had promised to do but not got anywhere nearer than simply making empty promises in the media. This was something that made Leeds United whole again; after 13 years in the hands of an anonymous owner, Elland Road was back under the ownership of Leeds United.

It was an emotional day for all sorts of reasons. This news was about more than just bricks and mortar; it was righting some wrongs and making our house our home again. It was a bold move of Andrea Radrizzani to announce his intention to buy back the stadium so early in his tenure. We have been burned before in exactly the same way and his reign was open to irreversible ridicule if he fell short of his promise, which he will have known, and this is why I was quite confident he would come up with the goods.

Whatever happens now, Radrizzani has delivered something significant that no other recent owner could do, and it has instantly made the club stronger, both financially and structurally. It has also bought him some time and some patience from Leeds fans who can maybe see the bigger picture, and sense where the club is now heading. It’s true that nobody wanted Garry Monk to leave after the progress seen last season, and we were dealt a blow. But events since then have been a fantastic response and now Leeds United are looking lean and mean; fighting fit and fighting back. So let’s keep building in July and by the time August comes into view we expect to see Leeds United very much in the same state as our pub; ready to explode into action.


Thursday, 8 June 2017

From Despair To Where?

OK, so this time last month we were just coming to terms with Leeds United’s late-season slide out of the play-off zone. The season wasn’t quite officially over, but it was for us, as Leeds United had snatched despair from the jaws of probable impending despair a few weeks later. Finishing seventh and watching the play-offs unfold without us did have its benefits though. It’s true that football fans have a natural passion for schadenfreude and we certainly revelled in the misfortune of others during the month of May, as the shattering impact of a play-off defeat hit home with the force of a ten tonne truck for three of the four clubs who just a couple of weeks earlier had taken great delight in our miserable displacement into seventh spot.

Did it make up for Leeds United failing to reach the play-offs after spending most of the season in the top six? Well, it certainly helped, and you like to think that having reacquainted ourselves with the fraught and precarious nature of the play-offs after five years away, we might just be better prepared for them next time around. But the truth is that nothing can prepare you for your whole world collapsing around your ankles at the mere stroke of a penalty kick, and maybe the lesson to learn is that it’s never wise to get too cocky about the play-offs until you have actually won them. Or perhaps the lesson is that life would be a whole lot easier if we just marched majestically towards the top two with no such worries? And that should now be our aim.

Of course a month ago we felt pretty confident that the 2016/17 campaign would act as a platform to next season, and Garry Monk would continue the fantastic work he had started. The reception he and his staff were afforded at Wigan away on the last day of the season certainly suggested a strong bond had formed and we would at least enjoy some continuity in the transition from one season to another, for the first time in many years. Alas, it was not to be and in the space of just a few days the whole scene changed at Elland Road. Again.

The full 100% takeover of Andrea Radrizzani was a badly kept secret for many months, and that went through swiftly and cleanly in May, and we all settled down to enjoy a summer of building on the strong foundations in place. On his first day in office, Radrizzani managed to secure a new 4-year contract for midfielder Ronaldo Vieira, and in an instant managed to change the club’s outlook and reverse the short-termist methodology that had seen a stream of young stars leave for next to nothing. Now we have a clear message that we see our future with blossoming talents like Vieira staying with us, but even if he improves at a rate far greater than the club does over the next couple of season – as many others have in recent years – then at least we will get a fair market price for him now he’s on a longer deal.

If Day One of Radrizzani’s reign had us dreaming of a corner finally turned, Day Two presented us with an upturned rake around that bend, which soon hit us squarely in the face as we attempted to make more positive steps forward. It all seemed set up for Garry Monk to extend his stay at Leeds United for another season and hopefully agree a longer term deal over the coming months, but for whatever reason he decided his future wasn’t with us. The news came as a body blow, and it was hard to get away from the feeling that last season now counted for nothing, but as the days pass you learn to deal with it and move on. As I write, there is no concrete news about who the next Leeds United manager will be, but it is clear that a more professional set-up is being built behind the scenes at Elland Road and the club is stepping up a level in terms of modern football, a whole business outlook and a quality of recruitment, and there is more expectation rather than simply blind hope, that the next manager will be a considered and measured appointment with a longer term view.

Certainly the early days of the Radrizzani era point towards exciting times and Leeds United looking more like a 21st century football club. That isn’t necessarily a good thing in some respects, when you look at many aspects of the modern game, but there is at least the impression that Radrizzani has his head screwed on, is surrounded by good advice and has made a success of pretty much everything he has touched in the past. We don’t need wild promises he can’t keep – although he has already claimed he will buy back Elland Road in the summer, like every other owner – we don’t need soundbites, charisma and celebrity stunts, we don’t even need him to pop over to the pub on an afternoon for a photo opportunity, although he is more than welcome to sample our lunchtime menu and a pint of Yorkshire Blonde between meetings, any time. We just want the owner of Leeds United to be a respectful guardian, to listen to and embrace our massive fanbase, to appoint the right people to run the club in the right way and to release the huge potential we all know Leeds United has.  

At the Old Peacock, we are certainly excited about this new era, and if we look out across our front car park we can already see scaffolding up on the West Stand, and a long overdue facelift for certain areas of our beloved ground. If we’ve learnt one thing in recent years it is that actions speak louder than words, and Radrizzani appears to be wasting no time in making an imprint at Leeds United, and let’s hope that continues.

We will certainly keep an eye on the old place over the summer, for any of you Leeds fans exiled away from the city, and there is plenty going on at the Old Peacock too as we take a step back and a breather from the madness of our Leeds United match days, and make our own plans for next season. 

Your match day enjoyment doesn’t just happen by accident and we have already started discussing what we can change and improve on for next season. So just like Leeds United and Elland Road itself, rest assured the Old Peacock will be back and looking better than ever in August. 

Enjoy your holidays.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Not really ready for summer

Hey! Summer’s here! It’s great; wall-to-wall sunshine, Saturday afternoons in the beer garden, barbecues at home with friends and family and endless late nights where it never seems to get dark. But…..hang on, you’re still thinking about the nine months of biting wind and rain and the hard slog that we call the football season aren’t you? And let’s not kid ourselves, we don’t really care too much about summer right now because we are stuck in a sense of interminable doom brought about by Leeds United’s late season slide out of the play-off zone. Too soon to think about holidays and al fresco dining on the decking of an evening? Yeah, probably. We’re still thinking about Burton away and that injury time equaliser conceded at Fulham and how Reading have managed to stay in the top six and well, um, erm…..yeah.

So it’s over for another season and Leeds United have done yet another impossibly ‘Leeds United’ thing; raised hopes out of nothing, delivered some scintillating afternoons and evenings and then let us down at the end, like a jilted bride left high and dry at the altar.

At times like this, we could console ourselves with the fact that there is a 75% chance this sense of crushing despair would hit us 100 times harder in a few weeks, as only one team out of four can prosper through the play-offs system. There is a tendency to forget the odds are stacked against you, and people call the play-offs a ‘lottery’ because that is pretty close to what they are. Right now though, we would gladly sell a limb for the opportunity to chuck our ticket into the pot and line-up in the tension-filled, nerve-shredding vortex of potential calamity that makes up the play-offs, even in the knowledge that anguish and pain is more likely than not to arrive on your doorstep at some point, be it in the two-legged semi-final or at Wembley Stadium in the final.

But let’s face it, we’d rather take the chance. We had all started making plans of some sort and had dropped some pretty subtle hints to our other halves that we would be disappearing for a long weekend at the end of May, and we had started drip feeding funds into a large pot to cover the enormous cost of a Play-Off Final weekend. But it’s not to be, that £500 can be put to better use and those brownie points can be saved for something that does actually happen. Leeds United’s season is over.

Of course, we should remind ourselves that this season has been beyond all our expectations, looking at the squad and another new management team walking into the unknown back in August. Few people predicted anything other than another arduous nine month battle to stay anchored in mid-table. That we have enjoyed countless exhilarating games at Elland Road and on the road this season is testament to the amazing job manager Garry Monk and his coaching staff have done, and while we can get frustrated that we perhaps didn’t do enough in the January transfer window, and that with eight games to go we were in a very strong position, a seventh-placed finish shows incredible progress from last season, and notwithstanding the shattering late loss of form, ‘progress’ is all we ever wanted to see this season.

At the Old Peacock we are used to the big crowds before Kick-Off of course, but on many occasions the atmosphere has been just as vibrant after the games too. We are conditioned to seeing fans flowing back in with sullen faces and muttering obscenities about another Leeds defeat, but this season there has been a natural buoyancy all day and all night, which we would love to bottle and sell for you to take home. But I guess, it is unmistakably the Old Peacock. We think back to home wins over Barnsley, Aston Villa and Derby, and then Sheffield Wednesday, Brighton and Preston and these were special occasions that we hadn’t seen in a long time. Happy faces, genuine pride in the team and the club, and essentially, a belief that ‘something’ was happening again at Elland Road. It is important that we remember those occasions whilst we feast on the disappointment of missing out on the play-offs, and if the club do the right thing over the summer, hopefully this is just the start.

Naturally, with Leeds United, that is a big ‘if’. But the overriding hope now is that the club is more settled, there are full takeover plans in place and with a more stable ownership structure only good things can happen; and that means keeping Garry Monk for next season and beyond and making the most of the progress we have undoubtedly made this season.

As I write there is just one game left in the 2016/17 campaign, away at Wigan Athletic; a dead rubber of a game, with Leeds needing to win 13-0 (and rely on Fulham losing) and Wigan already relegated. We should be thankful that there has only been one meaningless game this season, when usually that is the case from January onwards, but certainly Leeds fans have had a taste of what actually competing for promotion feels like and we all want more, so it is up to the club to manage the summer in the right way, and to bring us back in August with a genuine feeling of optimism.

For our part, we would like to thank our loyal, dedicated and extremely patient staff, who we think do an amazing job in very challenging circumstances on matchdays. Each Elland Road game involves an enormous amount of planning and we think we have got it just about right. We will make improvements for next season, just like Garry Monk and the team will, and we hope to see you again in August, if not during the close season when our quality food menus continue and you can sample the unique Old Peacock atmosphere seven days a week. But on that note we also want to thank you our loyal customers for your unstinting thirst during this and many other seasons. Chin up, we will all be back in August and we will start again afresh. Keep marching on together and enjoy the close season, from everyone at the Old Peacock.  

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

Seasons Change

Upon certain moments, seasons change. Kyle Bartley’s last minute header at home to Brentford, Ronaldo Vieira’s long distance winner away at Norwich, maybe Chris Wood’s late overhead kick back in August against Fulham. They all instilled belief in individuals and the team as a whole, and played a big part in this season turning out like it has. At the other end of the scale we could point to Reading’s winner last Saturday, a poor performance in the 2-0 defeat to Brentford this week or the decision to drop Pontus Jansson against Brighton and the potential fallout from that, as reasons why Leeds won’t get automatic promotion and may fail in the lottery of the play-offs. But we don’t really want to think about that right now, do we? Plus, it’s all conjecture anyway while we don’t know the conclusion to the captivating joyride of season 2016/17.

At the Old Peacock seasons are changing for us too. The sun has a bit more warmth in it, the trees have some colour and our beer garden is looking more alluring and a bit more invigorated with life. While the sheer number of Leeds fans that converge on the pub on matchdays means an overspill outside is inevitable, whatever the weather, it is always nice to see the sun shining and the odd customer venturing outside during the week and on non-matchday weekends. We are blessed with plenty of space on our much-treasured patch of LS11 and it is great when we can use it a bit more.
For Leeds United the term ‘seasons change’ refers also to the bigger picture. Not many Leeds fans would admit to having predicted this season would play out the way it has. Garry Monk was always a great appointment in the context of the other managers the club were seen to be approaching last summer, but with meagre resources at his disposal and a number of low-key punts in the transfer market, nobody was expecting too much other than another hard slog towards maintaining our birth right of 15th place in the Championship table.

What has happened since has reawakened the club in terms of attendances, expectancy and excitement, and has elicited this strange new phenomena; being interested in the league table after February, and not only that, taking a vested interest in the play-offs rather than looking on green with envy at them, like a party we are never invited to. Suffice to say, this time next month we will be about to play our last regular season game at Wigan Athletic and we should have a pretty good idea who we are likely to be playing in the high drama of the Play-Off Semi-Finals, assuming of course that we can hold onto the top six spot that has been ours since October.

Standing between Leeds United and a certain play-off spot are six remaining games which will shape the club’s destiny and play a significant role in whether this truly is a season of change. Three of these are away games at Newcastle United on Good Friday, at Burton Albion on 22nd April and the final game of the 46-match Championship campaign at Wigan on 7th May. The other games are the three remaining home games that all reside in April and all now carry major significance.

First up we have Preston North End this Saturday 8th April, followed by Wolverhampton Wanderers on Easter Monday and finally Norwich City on 29th April. The smart money says that if Leeds win those three home games then they should be safe in the play-offs, but depending on other results, the odd win on the road certainly won’t do us any harm. What we can be assured of is three more mammoth occasions at Elland Road, most likely drawing in crowds in excess of 30,000 once again, and all being well, these will culminate in a Play-Off Semi-Final at Elland Road. So let’s hope that we will be seeing each other again – over the bar, in the beer garden or in the marquee outside - in May.

Another huge change for our parent company Ossett Brewery is going on down at Granary Wharf in Leeds at the moment. Over the last couple of years this area has changed considerably, and the extra pedestrian traffic created by the £20m invested in the Leeds rail station southern entrance, which opened in 2016, has been a major factor in the success of the three bars operated by Ossett Brewery in that area; The Hop, Archie’s and the Candlebar. Another part of that success has been the standard of food offered, with the Candlebar in particular taking the plaudits for the quality of the stone baked pizzas coming out of its wood fired oven. Over the years, however, Ossett Brewery haven’t been known for resting on their laurels, and the success of the Old Peacock shows how wise they were to invest heavily in this iconic pub in 2013. Now, a new era of culinary experiences is coming to Granary Wharf, as the wood fired oven is being transferred to Archie’s so pizza fans won’t be denied their regular fix, while a food revolution is taking place at the Candlebar.

April sees the launch of ‘edo sushi’ at the Candlebar; a unique partnership of quality craft and cask ales with fresh and authentic Japanese cuisine. Ossett Brewery are introducing Japanese chef Tomonori Hasegawa to the Leeds public in a bold move to push the culinary barometer up a couple of notches, and we are confident the tranquil and high quality surroundings of Granary Wharf will embrace the fresh, light and aromatic delights that will be emanating from the Candlebar’s kitchens. So if you are venturing into Leeds city centre on a non-matchday, you will be sure of a friendly welcome and a new and exciting food experience at any of our Granary Wharf sister bars.

So there is plenty of change going on around the Old Peacock and the city of Leeds at the moment, and let’s hope that the biggest change is the one that we have waited longest for; Leeds United back in the top division. See you in May.     

Monday, 6 March 2017

Popular Aren’t We?

It’s March, and Leeds United’s season is still well and truly alive. No, you haven’t read that wrong. Usually the clocks going forward is just a blessed relief because we are one hour closer to the end of the season, now we are simply enjoying every minute of this 2016/17 campaign, but we are still rather keen to get to the climax and find out if Leeds United can do it.

February was a mixed month for the lads, with three wins, two defeats and a draw from our six games, but at the end of it we are still well in contention, and a win from the first game in March – 3-1 away at Birmingham last Friday night – has hopefully set us up for another good month.

Undoubtedly now we are facing the business end of the season, and those waiting for the wheels to come off at Elland Road may have to concede defeat and accept that this team is the real deal. I have had my doubts myself, I must admit, and I’m sure most Leeds fans would confess that they were waiting for the traditional woeful Christmas to put paid to any flimsy promotion hopes, but if anything that was our strongest period yet. The odd defeat has never been far away, but it is clear that there is a significant backbone to this side, and even without looking at individuals, Garry Monk has put together a team that works for each other, is supremely organised and has an incredible spirit. No game ever seems lost and our ability to dig in and win points without playing spectacularly well has been very evident in recent weeks and is a very useful trait to have.

The benefit of having an organised team with a strong backline can’t be underestimated, and that’s what a largely unchanged defence gives you, and with Pontus Jansson and Kyle Bartley, with goalkeeper Rob Green behind them, we are always fighting to stay in games. When the attack is mis-firing and not quite getting its game together, as has been evident in many games recently, at least a strong defence keeps you in with a fighting chance. Then it just needs someone to provide Chris Wood with a sniff of a chance and hey presto, Leeds have bagged the points again.

As a consequence of Leeds staying in the top six, we have seen some very busy matchdays at the Old Peacock, and long may that continue. The Yorkshire derby with Sheffield Wednesday brought another 30,000–plus crowd and two more Saturday afternoon home games in March should see plenty more pints being passed over the bar to you thirsty lot. The lunchtime Kick-Off v The Owls put paid to any plans to have our resident band The Snapp playing in the beer garden, but a 3pm start against Queen’s Park Rangers on March 11th and a massive game against Brighton & Hove Albion the following Saturday (5.30pm Kick-Off), should both be preceded by plenty of stomping tunes from the band, weather permitting.   

Undoubtedly, with a successful Leeds United we see a knock-on effect at the Old Peacock on non-matchdays, and there is definitely more of a buzz about the area. People call in for a pint after they have been to buy tickets or stop off at the superstore, and not only that, they are happy to talk about Leeds United again and not just sit disconsolately staring into a pint as they might have done a year ago, or indeed at any time over the last few years.

Of course the last time Leeds United were in this position, chasing promotion to the top division back in 1989/90, the landscape was very different. In those days people would call in for a pint after watching the boys training on the Fullerton Park pitches at Elland Road, and on the odd occasion they might even catch a drink with the players themselves. Messrs Batty, Speed and a certain Vinnie Jones were all regulars after training and our old pool table was the scene of many a competitive scrap on an afternoon. Now sadly, the players are cocooned away at Thorp Arch, and passing fans are unlikely to catch a glimpse of their heroes, but it is fantastic to still see that fans see the Peacock as an extension of the ground and a landmark they have to call in and make use off as they are passing.

No Leeds fan will need reminding that the 1989/90 season ended with a triumphant promotion and was followed two years later by that epic Division One title win. Believe it or not but the 1991/92 championship triumph was nearly 25 years ago, with the anniversary of that dramatic 3-2 win at Bramall Lane coming up at the end of April.

It’s enough to question what the hell we have all been doing with our lives, but 25 years later it is certainly something worth celebrating. Leeds United are putting on a celebration dinner at the Elland Road Pavilion and we look forward to seeing a few dicky-bows on display that evening, as plenty of people can’t resist stopping off for a pint at the Peacock before these events. And we were delighted to hear that the people at The City Talking were behind a new film, DVD and book to commemorate the 25th anniversary in the form of ‘Do You Want To Win?’ which was announced last week. Daniel Chapman is writing the book, and as one of the guys behind The Square Ball – who are all Peacock regulars on matchdays – we are confident it is going to be fantastic and worth supporting. The film has a premiere event at the Everyman Cinema in the Trinity Centre next month, so check that out as well and you might just see some famous faces.

In the meantime we are looking forward to the two massive home games coming up this month, and by the end of March we should have a much better idea how Garry Monk’s men are set for the play-offs. Certainly the tickets are flying out of the ticket offices at Elland Road, so if you are passing don’t forget to pop in and say hello, and check out our food menus too for a midweek bite to eat. See you soon.

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Love Is In The Air

By this time of every year, we have already dismissed our new diet and fitness regime as an unworkable fantasy, we have already suffered with a horrendous head cold and we have considered quitting our job on at least half a dozen occasions. But the mornings are getting ever so slightly lighter and, hey, there’s some crocuses flowering over there so the downhill momentum towards a hedonistic summer of relentless partying and sunshine, yes even in Leeds, is on.

February is that month where nothing really happens apart from FA Cup replays and the mother-in-law’s birthday, and it is one of those periods where the winter seems to be going on forever, even though we are starting to make plans for a brighter, warmer and happier time. But there is one key date that we would all be foolish to forget, February 14th, and of course we won’t this year, for two reasons. Firstly, the love of our life deserves a treat on Valentine’s Day and the date is imprinted on our mind because we wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to express in the form of chocolates, flowers or a four-pack of beers how much we respect, savour and cherish every moment with our loved one. And secondly, because Leeds United are at home that day.

Across the land, when the 2016/17 fixtures came out last June, every Leeds fan made a mental note to thank the Football League for once again scheduling a home game for Valentine’s Day, so that the extra effort we make on February 13th will really go down a treat and be remembered fondly as we disappear out of the door 24 hours later just as our other half is chilling the champagne and rustling up a three-course feast. So yes, for us Leeds fans it is a thrice-cooked pie warmed up from last Saturday’s home game and returning home to our dinner in the bin or the dog’s stomach instead. But such is life, and secretly we suspect, and indeed hope, that our loved ones would prefer the telly and the chocolates all to themselves anyway.   

And it doesn’t mean that love isn’t in the air on February 14th, because Leeds United fans have fallen in love with this team. New signings such as Luke Ayling, Kyle Bartley and Pablo Hernandez have gladdened our hearts like none of the endless stream of mediocrity passing for Leeds United players have in the last decade or more, while youngsters like Ronaldo Vieira and Kalvin Phillips show an energy and vitality that we love to see in our Academy products. Even established players like Chris Wood, Stuart Dallas and Charlie Taylor have won over fans this season and it is refreshing to see a Leeds United team gelling as a unit and bringing out the best in each other, rather than plodding around aimlessly and showing no evidence that they work on anything in training during the week.

But there’s one man who has enamoured himself to the Elland Road crowd to a degree not seen since Vinnie Jones grabbed us by the throat, fixed us with his enraged eyes and drafted out a contract insisting we loved him, written in our own blood. That man is Pontus Jansson. For a long time the Leeds United faithful have been looking for heroes, at some points just anybody who can take responsibility and maybe score the odd goal or 20. But the panorama has been so bereft of quality, leadership and character and the Elland Road atmosphere has reflected that barren emptiness. It is not solely Pontus that has ignited the fans this season, of course, but he is a huge part of it and the first Leeds player since Luciano Becchio to have a rousing song about him sung endlessly on repeat.   

Jansson arrived at Elland Road as a lost soul himself; un-selected and unloved at Torino in Italy and disillusioned with the game, and in Leeds fans he has found a reciprocal need for attachment and belief in something real. Has there ever been a more compatible coupling of two parties so adrift and disorientated and so in need of each other? Jansson is the kind of player who not only understands Leeds fans and what they need, but has the personality, fearlessness and bravado to pull it off. Many have tried and many have failed, but in Jansson we have the real deal, and now he is ours on a permanent basis.

The day after his 89th minute winner had secured three hard-earned points at Blackburn Rovers, it was announced that Jansson’s loan deal with Torino would be made permanent in the summer, for a sum of £3.5 million. It is more than Leeds have paid for anyone in nearly 15 years, but it is still a complete bargain in today’s market, and the most important thing is that it sealed the deal, the circle of love was complete and we are now stuck with each other, for better or worse. We have even invited Pontus over for a pint in the Old Peacock now he is settled in Leeds, and he would be following in some esteemed footsteps, not least one Vincent Jones, if he were to spend a post-training afternoon with us over a pint or two.

Of course, the hope now is that Jansson can play his part for the rest of the season and beyond, and while he is happy to take the limelight and be at the forefront of Leeds United’s charge to the play-offs, Garry Monk and the rest of the team are quietly going about their business. February sees three home games for us to navigate at the Old Peacock, starting with a double header of Cardiff City (Saturday 11th) and Bristol City (Tuesday 14th) followed by another Yorkshire Derby against Sheffield Wednesday (Saturday 25th). By the end of that run of games we should have a much clearer idea of where Leeds stand in their pursuit of promotion. The nagging feeling is that the top two automatic spots are just that little bit out of reach, but all we can do is keep the momentum going and make sure we are as close as possible should either Brighton or Newcastle falter.   

At the Old Peacock we are looking forward to this run of home games, as it seems 2017 hasn’t quite got going yet with no big Saturday games for us so far. Rest assured we will be ready, and while we have no big plans for romantic set meals for two on Valentine’s Night, because the pub will be ram-packed with you lot creating a very different vibe, we are quite content that Pontus is leading us and love is very much in the air. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Turning the January Blues White
Welcome to January. I write this on a miserable, grey Monday morning. The wind is lashing rain against my office window and normally motivation would at an all-time low. January is traditionally the longest month of the year, not simply in the number of days of course, but in the energy-sapping way in which it drags interminably. December fair skips by in comparison and there is always real momentum going in to the end of the year, but that hits you hard like a Pontus Jansson sliding tackle at the turn of the New Year, and January appears on your doorstep knocking rather too loudly and carrying a suitcase full of bills, work, bad health and a mountain of other problems.

Is it the third Monday in January that is cited as the ‘most depressing day of the year’? When people have lost the zest of all the festivities over Christmas and New Year and can only see a very long road ahead, even though the mornings are getting ever-so-slightly brighter each day. Well in 2017 that Monday falls three days after Leeds United play Derby County at home in a vital fixture that could further cement our place in the play-off places, and may even see us close the gap further on a spluttering Newcastle United in second place. For that reason, it is perfectly possible that Leeds United fans will continue sailing through January on the crest of a wave, fighting off the traditional January Blues with a vim and vigour borne from a superb string of displays over the festive period and a surge of optimism that doesn’t appear to be ending any time soon.

Not this year are we worrying about our ‘New Year, New Me’ diets, or boycotting our favourite pub in a misguided and fatally flawed attempt at a ‘Dry January’, and no longer are we looking forward with dread at the endless treadmill of work, sleep, work, sleep. Instead, Leeds United fans are looking forward with a beaming smile even Lucas Radebe would take inspiration from.

Two wins and a draw out of three games over Christmas and New Year was a far better return than Leeds fans usually expect, from a busy period that traditionally saps the festive spirit like a lump of coal on Christmas morning. Add to that the 50% ownership change at the club, with Italian businessman Andrea Radrizzani finally concluding his deal last week, and arriving with a flawless track record in every sense, and there have been few better times to be a Leeds United fan since we were marauding fearlessly across Europe at the turn of the Millennium.  The sea change in commercial activity, media output and stability in management this season has brought its own rewards which are clear for all to see. And we are hopeful the strength and solidity of the club will only improve with this latest change in the boardroom. Being honest, we don’t expect Mr Radrizzani to pop over and join us for a drink at the Old Peacock, we think he is more likely to keep a lower profile than our previous owner, but he is definitely welcome, and indeed we will certainly be toasting the new ownership regime if results continue as they are.

It is true that previous ownership changes have come about at a time when they have been absolutely necessary, and they have found Leeds United on the floor and picked it off the canvass looking bloodied and beaten. Right now, the club is in great health and everything is in place to take it on and make it work. This ownership change has come as a boost, at a time when momentum is taking Leeds United forward like an un-manned bread van hurtling down Wesley Street, and it could be just the tonic we need to carry us over the line.

And ‘boost’ is the operative word in January. Rather than looking ahead with fear and dread, we are taking everything in our stride. That goes for us at the Old Peacock too. We aren’t changing too much in 2017, we are maintaining our high standards, happy to keep serving the hordes of happy, smiling Leeds fans that turn up on a match day, and delighted to be seeing and feeling the general buzz around Elland Road all through the week at the moment.

Of course we have already navigated one hectic match day at Elland Road this year. January 2nd saw one final blowout before we all returned to work, and there was certainly no evidence of a Dry January pre-match in the Peacock for the Rotherham United game. A 33,000 crowd ensured the festive spirit kept flowing for a few more hours, and the lads did the business on the pitch too, with a fine 3-0 victory setting 2017 off on the right foot.

Friday 13th will be unlucky for Derby County if Leeds continue this rich vein of form. We have seen some major occasions at Elland Road in recent weeks, with 30,000 plus crowds for the visits of Newcastle, Aston Villa and Rotherham. But in terms of vital points and administering psychological blows to near challengers, the visit of Derby is arguably the most important home game since our promotion from League One. We are expecting another busy evening behind the bar but after that, January could return to being a bit of a long one, with the team’s progress in the FA Cup meaning there are no more home games this month.

Our weekly food events are still proving extremely popular. After our Christmas Day service sold out in record time, we also enjoyed a busy run-up to Christmas with lots of you taking advantage of our Christmas Fayre menu to host your parties with friends, family and work colleagues. Our Curry Night, Steak Night and Sunday Lunch menus will continue in 2017 and of course we have our general menu available all week as well. We are always keen to hear feedback from our customers and we have been really honoured to have received some lovely reviews from people who have visited us in recent weeks. These can be viewed on our Facebook page, where, along with our Twitter account, you can also keep up to date with all our events and any information about match days.

For now, keep your chin up, enjoy January and confront the things that get you down with the gusto of Chris Wood fending off that Rotherham defender to turn and smash the ball into the roof the net; eat my goal. We’ve been through it all together, as the song goes, and we will beat January together. 

All the best.