Saturday, 19 February 2011

The Road to Damascus

Tuesday 1st February - Hull City 2 Leeds United 2

Super cover, Super Matty Fryatt!
Everyone has a guilty secret.  Some have more than one.  Some carry them for longer than others. I have more than one and I've carried them for longer than most. Two of them concern sporting allegiances.
As previously shared, one is connected with the game of rugby league and centres on my initial leanings towards the black & white half of the city of Hull (a fact that ensured my enjoyment of Wembley 1980 was somewhat bittersweet).  It was nine years later and the start of regular attendance at HKR matches that finally banished those particular demons.
However, even that pales into insignificance against the one I'm about to share with you now.  So gather round blog followers - all eleven of you - I need to come clean.  (Cue clear-the-throat moment) I. Used To. Support. Leeds United.  Yes, "Dirty" Leeds United. "The White Shite".  The club even current manager Simon Grayson acknowledges is known around the world as "Leeds scum". Please stick with me while I try and explain...

It was all my dear departed Mum's fault.  For my initial tie-in stemmed from the Christmas present she and Dad gave me back in 1971.  And although Dad must share the blame, Mum was actually the main football fan in our house and so must have instigated it.  Put it this way, I'm certainly not owning up to having actually asked for a Leeds United kit at the tender age of five.  And if I did my parents should have had the decency to refuse such a request!
My Auntie Monica & Uncle Ted did their best to put me on the right path.  Their present to me that Christmas consisted of the classic plain amber shirt, plain black shorts and plain amber socks that Waggy, Chillo and co wore as part of that "great" Tigers team of Terry Neill's.  It was smart.
But unfortunately, it was eclipsed by the one I unwrapped  from my parents. The design was the same as the City number: no frills, plain round-neck, long sleeves, fairly tight fitting shorts and no trim on any of it. But it was almost one hundred per cent  white - the only patch of colour (and perhaps something else that gave it the edge) being the blue emblem of an owl sat astride its perch on the left breast.  It oozed class.
That was it.  Leeds United had become my team.  I'm so sorry.
Twenty blokes wearing my first ever football kit
My "affair" with the Elland Road outfit (I can't bring myself to use the word "love" for surely I was too young to know its true meaning) lasted for several years.  Via our black and white telly I shared in the delights of Clarke's header against the Arse at Wembley in 1972 then suffered the pain caused by Jim Montgomery's heroics at the same venue a year later.  I crowed about Revie's champions then mourned their failure to crown their achievements with victory in Paris in 1975.  I followed from afar the false hopes raised by Messrs. Armfield and Adamson as the shine soon faded from the Leeds "Glory Years".  And, yes, Mum and Dad also bought me THAT Admiral strip with THAT smiley badge. 
Of course I wasn't alone at this time.  At school, Leeds United was one of the "big three" clubs most kids in our little corner of East Yorkshire cited when asked, "Who do you support?" To admit to supporting Hull City at Withernsea High School in the late Seventies was to leave yourself open to intense ridicule.  I remember 'Pom' Foster did though (take a bow son).  Gary Hook, Keith Waites and Jim Maxwell too (although in their case, Leeds, Liverpool and Ipswich were also tagged-on for credibility purposes - Hull City was their "second team"!).
Even after my first visit to Boothferry Park in 1975 and during my four-match FA Cup run of 1980/81 (which, ironically, included a first ever taste of Elland Road thanks to a second round second replay against Blyth Spartans) it was still the Leeds result that I looked for first on the teleprinter.  Indeed, I even established a new rule to govern such inconsistency by supporting Leeds in the league and City in the FA Cup.  I know, "shameful" is not the term.
Andy Dawson - born survivor
It was over eight days in late February 1981 that I experienced my coming of age and indeed "Damascene conversion" as a Hull City supporter.  It began with the Les Mutrie-inspired demolition of Hartlepool in front of me and 2,824 others and ended with a 2-0 win over Mansfield Town, watched by almost double that number - or as ITV News dubbed them: "The fans who want to save Hull City".  In the intervening period, the club had called in the administrators.  These Tigers really were facing extinction.  I rallied to the cause.  I walked the Humber Bridge with my "Save The Tigers" sponsor form.  My "support" of Leeds was consigned to history.
Of course, City did survive and then thrived.  And I accompanied them along the way.  Between 1981 and 1988 I rarely missed any but the most impractical of away games.  There wasn't a ground the length and breadth of England that City played at during that period that I didn't manage to get to at least once.  Except Bury (don't ask!).
And as my feelings towards my local side continued to grow stronger, my disdain for Yorkshire's so-called biggest club and, in particular, the hundreds of "East Yorkshire Whites" seen streaming down the A63 every weekend, grew and grew.  However, as much as Leeds fans would wish it to be so, they didn't become City's biggest rivals in many people's eyes, mine included - Sheffield United still had that particular place well and truly reserved.  No, "disdain" was an appropriate enough term for "TWS".
In 1985 I finally got chance to show this disdain at first hand as Jobbo earned us a point at Elland Road before scoring again in a memorable 2-1 win in the return (along with Waterfront nightclub regular Frankie Bunn).  But if that was good, even better was to follow a year later.
For in 1986/87, Hull City did the double over the self-proclaimed "Champions of Europe".  Again I was there at both matches; behind the goal in which Alex Dyer and Garry Parker confirmed a 2-0 away win and in the South Stand seats for the 3-1 "mauling" in the return (incidentally, this formed part of a glorious "double" of another kind that day as a few hours later I stood on the Gordon Street End to see Garry Clark's try secure a Rovers win at The Boulevard).  Ah, the memories.

Since then, Leeds have had another ultimately unsuccessful flirt with being top dogs in Europe and City have had a couple of further close shaves with the winding-up courts.  However, in 2007 - twenty years after I'd celebrated my first win over Leeds United - we achieved a more significant success.  For while Deano's goal  at Cardiff earned the point that kept City in the Championship, it also confirmed the Elland Road club's relegation to the third-tier of English football.
A year later, in May 2008, Deano again struck to send the Tigers to the Premier League for the first time ever.  The following day Doncaster Rovers beat Leeds on the same Wembley pitch to consign "TWS" to another season in League 1.   How we lapped it up. Hull City - the team that apparently no other club in Yorkshire gives a toss about - were now the top club in the county.  Fact. 
Two seasons on we now find ourselves again competing in the same division.  And on the face of it, the tide would again appear to be turning, with Simon Grayson's side  arriving at the KC as realistic challengers for automatic promotion. 
Having said that the first meeting, at Elland Road, ended all square at 2-2 with John Bostock scoring his second "Wow!" goal during his short spell at the Tigers. And we too were also on the up again.  The Allams' money and Nigel Pearson's workings in the transfer market (loan and permanent) had ensured City were also contenders for promotion - albeit probably via the Play-Offs only.  A measure of the turnaround since the summer could be seen in the starting line-up, of which only skipper Andy Dawson had been involved on the season's opening day.
The days leading up to the second midweek meeting between the two clubs saw plenty of banter on the various boards, forums, web-sites as well as in the Easington United dressing room.
And what amused me was that for people who apparently couldn't give a fig about Hull City, the Leeds fans I encountered were fairly bitter in their pre-match vitriol.  Perhaps living in the shadow of this "small village club from East Yorkshire" for the past three years has got to them more than they like to let on!
There was also a touch of spice in some of the exchanges at official level; Adam Pearson's programme notes that expressed disappointment at having to allocate our visitors the full North Stand at the KC while City fans were "tucked away in the corner" at Elland Road, being quickly refuted by a Leeds spokesman in the following day's Yorkshire Evening Post report.
We arrived at the ground in good time despite almost getting stung by the new extension of "Permit Parking Only" down The Boulevard.  And we took our seats towards the back of the Upper West an ideal fifteen minutes before kick-off.  Five rows below was "Paz", Withernsea binman and Leeds Utd/Hull FC fan (what a combination!).  We shared some pre-match "banter" - I offered to "out" him to the masses should his team get on top!
It took just thirty seconds to realise that there was only one team that would dominate the first half; Matty Fryatt doing really well to hold up play before drilling over a cross that Aaron McLean really should have converted for his first goal in a City shirt.
No matter.  This was the start of the post-Bullard, post-Ashbee era and on first viewing it was an exciting one.  Aside from a couple of brief scares at the other end, the half became a procession of chances in front of the away contingent.  Koren went close, Schmeichel pulled off two cracking saves and both Fryatt and new boy James Chester scored as the Tigers "roared" into a deserved two-goal lead.  There would be no need to do any outing this half...
But then, just before the break, Leeds were gifted a foothold in the game.  A perhaps needless foul by the otherwise impeccable Anthony Gerrard. Up stepped Robert Snodgrass to plant the ball into the top corner from 20 yards.  The half-time interval wouldn't be quite so enjoyable.
The Younger Slushette won't be getting this kit for her fifth Christmas!

It was almost predictable that Leeds would level after the break.  And they did through  Davide Somma.  However, what was refreshing for me - as the visiting supporters mocked "Two nil...and you f____d it up!" - was that City gradually recovered and began to look the more likely as the game wore on.  The City of just a few months back would have folded.  And but for two goal-line clearances to deny the fabulous Fryatt we may well have been celebrating a deserved 3pts.
Almost the last act of the day involved a stray Lloyd Sam elbow flooring - and hospitalising - the unfortunate Leroy Rosenior.  Sam, as is the way with today's players, later "tweeted" that it was an accident and he'd contacted his opponent who'd accepted this as fact.  Nigel Pearson didn't think it was an accident.  And neither did many City fans.  There are no "accidents" where Leeds are concerned...except perhaps the one that resulted in this my guiltiest secret of all!

1 comment:

Mel said...

I'm really shocked reading that, although I have to admit that in the mid 60's I did keep football scrap books for two teams. Fortunately I quickly lost interest in the one for TWS and it probably only lasted for a few weeks. How lucky was that? ..... looks at clock and departs for Old Trafford.