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.