It seems like I’m only allowed to celebrate one Leeds United win in each of these monthly blog posts. Last time out we had just beaten Brentford at Elland Road for Paul Heckingbottom’s first win as Leeds boss, and it looked like we had finally turned the corner. Sadly, it’s been another case of ‘what might have beens’ since then and Leeds are exiting the Easter period just far enough away from a wide open play-off race for us to play no meaningful part in it, but close enough to look on with rueful regret and green with envy.
Yes, it’s that familiar time of year when we can write the season off and start planning for the next one. Again. I guess we should be thankful that we are pressing the reset button at the end of March rather than in February as normal, but the significant fact is that it’s much earlier than last season, when at least we carried the fight right until the last few fixtures. It’s the failure to build on that platform that rankles the most and there’s no escaping the fact that Andrea Radrizzani might have done plenty of good things off the pitch – if we ignore the abomination of that badge, and we really want to – but on the pitch it’s been a waste of a season.
That’s not to say it’s been a complete disaster. There are some players in the squad who can still contribute something to the standard of team we really need in this division, but not many, and it’s the lack of standout moments that really tells us everything. Usually you can point to games, goals and moments that make your hairs stand on end even if, ultimately, it all counts for nothing. But this season there’s largely nothing to write home about, save for a run of seven games unbeaten at the start of the season, which ended up being the biggest false dawn since…..erm…….since someone dressed us as Dawn and it turned out they weren’t called Dawn at all.
We’ll save the full post mortem for May’s blog post, but for now, when the moments most people recollect from a season are a 4-3 home defeat to Millwall and your star player being sent off for spitting in an FA Cup defeat to a League Two side, and then banned for six games, you know it’s time to draw a line through another campaign in this godforsaken division and move on.
Except of course, we can’t. At least not yet. In typical Leeds United fashion, we have another three largely pointless home games to endure. Although the last one gave us something of a shot in the arm in the form of a 2-1 win over Bolton Wanderers, and maybe if we’re being super positive and maybe a tad over-optimistic we could suggest that ‘the’ magic moment hasn’t happened yet?
Leeds showed something of the free-flowing, attacking spirit we’ve longed for since those heady days at the beginning of the season against Bolton, and the atmosphere in the pub both before and after the game was especially buoyant. It was Good Friday, I guess, and at least this set the Easter weekend up nicely for everyone.
April arrives now and offers us two Saturday afternoon home games, a rare treat in a calendar month, although I guess that demonstrates quite clearly how even Sky Sports have lost interest in meddling with Leeds United’s season. On the 7th we welcome a Sunderland team who look to be heading straight down to League One, but they will be sure to bring a huge following with them to Elland Road. Fixtures with Sunderland always seem to have a traditional edge and this will be no different, and I’m sure there are many Leeds fans who would take a particular liking to banging another nail in their coffin.
Following that we have Paul Heckingbottom’s reunion with the Barnsley side he left to join Leeds in February. This takes place on Saturday 21st and again, I’d expect a decent crowd to turn up for this local derby, particularly as Barnsley are also fighting relegation and have plenty to play for.
Usually at the Old Peacock we start to feel quite sad at this time of year, another league season passes by and the pub takes on a whole different personality for the summer months as, well, just another pub. And we all know that’s it’s not just another pub. So that’s why we are particularly excited about the events coming up over the summer in 2018. We’ll talk about these in more detail in our May and June blog posts, but we have Josh Warrington’s World title fight with Lee Selby coming up on Saturday May 19th and then England play their last friendly before the World Cup against Costa Rica on Thursday June 7th. These will each be huge occasions and, as always, we are right in the thick of it and intend to play our part in making the Elland Road atmosphere something special. After all, that’s why these events are being staged here, so we have a duty to do our bit.
We like to think we contributed something to the amazing Super League game between Leeds Rhinos and Castleford Tigers at Elland Road last month also. In the second of the Rhinos’ two ‘home’ games being staged here while their Headingley Stadium is re-developed, we saw a brilliant spectacle as Cas ended up 25-24 winners in a nail-biting climax. Clearly there was an edge to the occasion due to the locality of the two teams, mixed with a bit of a grudge element after the Rhinos steamrollered Cas in the Old Trafford Grand Final last October, but no one quite expected the quality of game that we saw.
It was also brilliant to see fans of both clubs mixing happily in the pub before and after the game. There is definitely a different kind of relationship between rival fans in rugby league that we will probably never see in football, and while the Peacock will always be packed before Leeds United games, whether we allowed away fans in or not, there’s a mutual respect between teams in RL that is quite unique and to be admired, while at the same time we wouldn’t change the tribal football rivalries one bit.
We wouldn’t have it any other way, and we are proud of the role we play in making the Elland Road atmosphere so special, and we can’t wait for the next few months to play out so we can show it to the whole country, and maybe even the whole world.