28.12.2014

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Today, we’re taking a look back to almost exactly 24 years ago to one of Leeds United’s, let’s say, more emphatic performances on their travels. But January 12th 1992 belonged entirely to Leeds United, who looked like Champions a full four months early with this five star, six of the best Masterclass display. This Christmas Eve match against the Pride of Devon found Leeds some way short of their peak form. The situation between the Uniteds of Leeds and Devon is one of a legendary mutual animosity, even at the best of times.
So, Yuletide or not, the usual poisonous atmosphere was in evidence as the two teams walked out before a 39801 crowd that overcast morning twenty years ago today.
Peering from the Kop at the other end of the ground, through an alcoholic fug, I could hardly believe my eyes.
Leeds had the bit between their teeth now, and Brian Deane was suddenly clear for an instant outside the right corner of the Man U penalty area, played in by a cute pass from Carlton Palmer. The game had settled down by this time, and both sides were showing enough ambition to feel that they were in with a chance of victory. Again, that explosion of noise and joy, again my fragile system was assailed by the rough-and-tumble of riotous celebration. The second half was another tale of give and take, both sides able to cause trouble up front, but both seemingly capable of dealing with all that was thrown at them. After the game, and before the seasonal celebrations could begin in earnest, other traditions had to be observed. I can’t remember the journey home, or even how spectacularly ill I was when I got there, although I’m told I was the picture of ecstatic yet grossly hung-over ebullience. At the time, he spouted a few mealy-mouthed platitudes about wishing to reconcile two sets of fans divided by tragedy. Now, fifteen years after the murders in Taksim Square, and with his football career at an end, Kewell is once more involved in English football, for the first time since a dilatory and uncommitted stint at Liverpool, as a member of the Watford FC coaching staff. Life and death were the issues on that April night so long ago, and events panned out such that two lads, who simply wanted to follow their heroes at a football match, never came home – and have never received real justice.
We Leeds fans, deeply conscious of the fact that our own Don Revie’s death had been disrespectfully ignored by the FA, chose in our turn to ignore the official edict. But the simple fact is that what we did at Blackburn that night in 1994 was absolutely right and proper. The players from any era who were wheeled onto camera to criticise the actions of the fans at Blackburn, have one thing in common. I don’t give a toss for all the apologists who sit there bleating, oh it was a terrible thing, they dragged the name of our club through the mud. Now it was game on in earnest, and I vividly remember a nervous evening at home that midweek as West Ham played host to Man U who were finally playing their remaining game in hand.  Win, and they would be in the box seat – but, as I frantically tidied and re-tidied my bedside table drawer to save myself from chewing my nails down to my elbows, they lost, wonderfully, miraculously lost to leave Leeds in charge of their own destiny. The defiant and comedic greeting the Leeds fans carried with them to the UEFA Cup Semi Final with Galatasary in Istanbul. His influence over the club was crumbling amid rumours of money problems, takeovers and dressing-room discontent, a tale that would doubtless strike a chord with Messrs. Worrying signs of defensive frailty and general ineptitude had been all too obvious just the previous week at Hillsborough.
I hadn’t exactly led a sheltered life up to that point, but this was the first time – and the last, to date – I’d ever risen the day before Christmas to bacon sandwiches at 6 am, closely followed by numerous Budweisers with the Sunday papers in a fan-friendly pub, as we waited for our “Scum Match Special” mini-bus.
Let’s not mince words here, the two sets of fans hate, loathe and detest each other – and open warfare is the norm. Just as Leeds were smarting from their Hillsborough debacle, so Man U were struggling to emerge from a poor run, winless for a month and dispatched by Liverpool the previous week. This arrived in a most unlikely form after a mere five minutes, when a Leeds corner swung over from the right.
Schmeichel was out swiftly to smother the chance, but Deane managed to dink the ball over him, only for it to clip the crossbar and bounce away to safety.
Receiving the ball in the left-back position, he tried to beat Butt instead of clearing long, and was robbed of possession.
2-1 up against the team we loved to hate; the cockneys at the far end were suddenly silent and morose. The onus was on Man U to retrieve a losing situation, but Leeds were rarely in great trouble, and as the game entered its final quarter there was unprecedented optimism that we could close this one out, and enter Christmas on a real high. I just know it was my happiest Christmas Eve ever, ensuring a deliriously festive spirit for the whole holiday, much to the delight of my long-suffering wife and two-year-old daughter. Kewell, wearing the number 10 shirt, was one of the Leeds United side that emerged into a cauldron of seething hatred as the stricken Whites were forced to play the first leg of a UEFA Cup semi-final against Galatasaray mere hours after the savage murder of two of their supporters. You’d have been laughed out of court, possibly with a few bumps and bruises for your own bad taste and lack of judgement.


Leeds fans will not welcome his return; for us, his copybook is blotted beyond any hope of redemption. That tends to become obvious only when you see a glaringly obscene example of the real thing – only then does it stand out that some dubious acts thus labelled are actually as water unto wine when it really comes down to it. One of them had a son, George, who has had to grow up without his Dad, and who, once upon a time, angrily wanted to point out to a thick-headed footballer the betrayal he believed that footballer was guilty of perpetrating, by his thoughtless act of offering a Galatasaray shirt as a prize in an online competition. So we paid our own tribute, singing the name of Don Revie instead of standing silent and resentful before an away game at Blackburn – and in so doing, we brought upon ourselves the self-righteous and sanctimonious disdain of many, many fools and hypocrites. So why the hell is there such a disparity, and more to the point, why the hell are we expected to just put up with it and go along with such blatant stinking hypocrisy and double standards?
Well in case you haven’t noticed, the name of Leeds United is always being dragged through the mud, and not by us, but by the FA, by the buffoons of the Football League, by nonentities who work for or support other clubs, by the Daily bloody Mirror and other gutter rags, and by Uncle Tom Cobleigh and all. One of our unique, unbeatable accolades, like being at the top of the League when the Millennium clicked its four digits over. The queasy feeling before any match against “Them” was therefore multiplied by unaccustomed early-morning grease and alcohol, and I was feeling several shades of not-too-good as we set off for Elland Road. Revisionist football pundits would have us believe that this is strictly a one-way affair, but you only have to tune into one of Sky TV’s glitzy live love-ins for a Man U match, and whoever they are playing, our Home-Counties friends are in full voice with their “We all hate Leeds scum”. Richard Jobson rose on the edge of the area to head towards goal, where David Wetherall, lethal against Man U in the past, was challenging for a decisive touch. It would happen  the other way around alright, way too often, and even from three yards outside the area but this was unprecedented, since our Title-winning year anyway. A two-goal lead at that stage would have felt unlikely yet deserved, as Leeds United had been on the front foot right from the off. Butt looked up, and placed a neat pass inside to Andy Cole, whose efficient first-time finish levelled the match. Now, a defensive position was coolly handled by Gary Kelly, finding the time and space to launch a long clearance forward, where Brolin headed on. Leeds weren’t simply sitting back and absorbing pressure – and the maxim of attack being the best form of defence was to serve them well.
Kewell must, surely, have felt as threatened and disgusted by the atmosphere prior to and during the game as any other United player that night. Kewell put himself beyond the pale by the manner of his leaving Elland Road, when he and his agent held the club to ransom (in stark contrast to the example of Alan Smith, cited above) ensuring his pockets were well-lined, to the detriment of the club that gave him his start.
So forget about those who have crossed the great divide between Elland Road and the Theatre of Hollow Myths – their defections mean nothing at all in the grand scheme of things. George Speight received no apology, no understanding, no acknowledgement from Kewell – just a casual insult and a hollow accusation of racism. They’re players, club employees, and they come and they go, even the best and most loyal of them. The game against Galatasary was played within 24 hours of the murders of two Leeds United fans.
This was a season that had started off with a flurry of Tony Yeboah thunderbolts and some impressive results and performances which appeared to promise much.
It was an 11:30 kick-off, live on Sky, and it promised either to make or break the whole of Christmas for us fans, as well as for our hopeful families. But that touch came instead from the upraised, red-sleeved arm of Nicky Butt – and referee Dermot Gallagher’s whistle sounded for a penalty. Steve Bruce evidently thought it was just too much to bear, and screamed his violent protests into Gallagher’s face, having to be restrained by Gary MacAllister, who appeared to be trying to explain the rules to the furious defender. Soon, though, a lesson was to be delivered about what happens when you miss chances against this lot.
Suddenly, my headache was even worse, and I was starting to wonder about the fate of my breakfast too, as it threatened to make an untimely reappearance. The ball was loose, and surely meat and drink for Man U’s international defender Paul Parker – but he inexplicably let it bounce over his foot. And the massed ranks of the Kop Choir had to regale the departing Man U fans with victory taunts as they sulked away, silent and crestfallen, headed for all points south.
Three Leeds United players who opted to transfer their allegiance to the Evil Empire over the wrong side of the Pennines. They would later demand that the second leg should be played at a neutral venue, should their disgusting fans be banned from an Elland Road return. He could not have more effectively alienated Leeds fans everywhere if he had sat down and thought about how to do so for a year. His subsequent betrayal of the soul and spirit of Leeds United, by signing for that tawdry outfit from Istanbul, added gross insult to what was nearly a mortal injury.
We have been amply repaid over the years anyway – luminaries such as Johnny Giles and Gordon Strachan have made the opposite journey and have found glory in all-white.


Clearly, not everyone agrees with this point of view, many Leeds fans among those dissenters. We did the right thing at Blackburn, just as we did in the Galatasaray ground years later, turning our backs to the field of play. On the 5th April, 2000, Christopher Loftus and Kevin Speight were murdered by cowardly Galatasary supporting scum.
Sadly though, it petered out in a shocking late-season run following a League Cup Final humiliation at Wembley, courtesy of Aston Villa. He’s also stated that going to Liverpool is nowhere near as bad as going to Leeds; clearly, he’s never been for a late-night pint in Old Swan or Dodge City.
Time for another reviving injection of optimism as Leeds surged forward, and Speed so nearly made up for his defensive error, playing a one-two with Tomas Brolin which gave him space to put in a right-foot shot that went narrowly wide. Yeboah pounced on it like a hound on a rat, and he was away, surging towards goal with ex-Leeds defender Denis Irwin backing off. The resulting free-kick was played to MacAllister in space in the middle of the park, and he swiftly moved it out to the right wing. It was an act of calculated disrespect to the victims, their families, their friends, the wider Leeds United community and decent football fans everywhere. It was an act of a vain and stupid young man whose God-given talent had set him up financially for life, but whose poverty of taste, sensitivity and loyalty would make the poorest beggar in the street look rich.
At the end of the day, all of that is just about football – and beside the matter of life, death and justice, football remains very small beer indeed. We showed pride for our club, respect for our dead, and a big fat V-sign to all those who are so overtly against us. Stabbed to death, because allegedly they had made insults, towards sections of the Istanbul public.
MacAllister placed the ball on the spot, and sent it sweetly into the top right corner for 1-0, giving Peter Schmeichel not even the ghost of a chance.
Yeboah in this mood was usually irresistible, and sure enough none of Irwin’s careful jockeying could prevent him from finding that vital half-yard of space.
Brolin picked up possession and slipped the ball to the overlapping Palmer, who surged into the box and then turned past Irwin to set up Brolin again on the edge of the area.
After all, they’d gone to the club we despise above almost any other, certainly as far as anything these islands can provide.
It was base treachery in the raw; the act of a man who cannot see beyond his own narrow interests and who, frankly, could not give a damn. Any player who had ever been connected with Leeds United should have realised that such a move was the ultimate in terrible ideas. It was a statement of our reverence for the Don, against a background of organised and compulsory national mourning for someone who was a hero only to Scum, City and possibly Liverpool fans. Not one of them knows what it is to be a fan and continually to have the media’s favourite bloody club shoved down your throat, to the exclusion of everything and everyone you care about as a Leeds supporter. An allegation that didn't have one witness who could put Kevin or Chris at the scene of any incident. The celebrations were raucous and deafening as the Elland Road cauldron exploded with joy – and inside my skull, the trip-hammer of a beer-fuelled headache pounded away anew, utterly failing though to banish my smile of delight.
The gap appeared, Schmeichel came out to block, and Yeboah clipped the ball sumptuously just out of the Danish ‘keeper’s reach, up and over to nestle in the far corner of the South Stand net. The much-maligned Swede, making the contribution I best remember him for, chipped the ball sweetly first-time, standing it up just around the penalty spot, where Deane’s exemplary movement had won him the space to rise and plant a firm header past a helpless Schmeichel into the net. So too, much earlier, had Joe Jordan and Gordon McQueen, along with the less-well remembered examples of Arthur Graham and Peter Barnes in the relatively small collective of former Leeds players who have identified themselves with the Pride of Devon and their repellent supporters. Only the buffoons of UEFA could have made such a ridiculous decision as to rule the game should go ahead. It’s not something that should have needed explaining, not even to the meanest intellect or the most self-involved and vacant young man.
And it was an assertion of the fact that we are Leeds and nobody tells us when to show respect, especially when no bugger showed any respect for the Don in life or in death.
These individuals, heroes to Leeds fans at one time or another, were held individually and as a category to be traitors to the real United, of Elland Road. Figuratively speaking, as well as almost literally, they had sold their souls to the Devil.



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