Coach Dennis Wise and his Tonto, Assistant Gus Poyet were in designer suits and natty waistcoats on the sidelines at 'Under Seige' Elland Road for a do-or-die Nationwide crunch match with fellow strugglers Luton Town.
The third coach this season under the Chairmanship of Ken Bates, the locals are not convinced of this southerner and former Chelsea captain. Despite the cut of his clothes he probably still tucks his shirt into his underpants. A couple of days earlier I went to the ground and there was only one person in line for tickets, even though this was the second match to offer half prices seats. I entered Billy's Bar, a pub built into the South Stand, for a half a cider and I was the only customer, and nobody was in the Club Shop, despite replica jerseys for £15, less than half the normal price.
Saturday afternoon brought out a big crowd, over 27,000, 10,000 more than usual and the same difference over the next best attended fixture on the day, Barnsley vs Sunderland. It is still sad to see the unused upper deck of the gigantic East stand, until rebuilding at Old Trafford, the largest cantilevered stadium in Europe. In those Golden Days six years ago the All Whites were playing Real Madrid in the Champions League Semi-Final and jetting off to Madrid, Istanbul, Milan, Barcelona,Amsterdam, Rome and the like, before suicidal financial mis-managagment took them to the edge of the abyss, and their expensive stars such as Kewell, Viduka, Ferdinand, Robinson, Keane, were unloaded to Liverpool, Manchester United, Newcastle...
Fourty-one different players had played for United this season including 13 on loan, but the fans were in form to support regulars and unknowns alike. The North Kop-The Revie stand, was jam packed with swaying, chanting, singing fans Marching On Together and other melodies. Dads had brought their youngs sons and daughters, and their pals for a cheap ticket day out. I bought a plate of chips for £1.20 across the road at United Fisheries and stall holders were flogging Leeds United scarves, pins, flags, old programmes and other memorabilia, while there was a long line snaking its way through the club shop for bargains. 10 yards outside, on the corner of Elland Rd and Lowfields Rd stood the Billy Bremner statue, in memory of their beloved captain. Billy Bremner, 1942-1997, LUFC 1959-1976: 771 appearances, 115 goals: The Inspirational Captain of the Great Revie team.
Ken Bates had had to go to the High Court to allow his programme notes, and former Director Melvyn Levi was named, along with his address, in the last programme in a dispute over ownership of shares. Levi had called in the police and installed extra security measures at home. The programme also stated that Leeds United were owned by a Cayman Islands company operated from Swiitzerland, while Bates and his wife reside in the tax haven of Monaco. He has been in the game over 40 years, running Oldham Athletic, Partick Thistle, Wigan and Chelsea.
A really good read is a recent historical fiction book The Damned United, by David Peace, about the 44 days in 1974 that great coach Brian Clough came in from Derby County after Don Revie left for the England job and made a total bollocks of the job before being dismissed and taking Nottingham Forest to 2 Championships of Europe.
In a match notable for its lack of skill on either side, goalkeeper Casper Ankergren, on loan from Brondy IF of Denmark, saved a late penalty to give Leeds 3 points after a 50th minute goal by Richard Creswell was the only goal of a match of missed chances. My last, vivid impression was of a one-legged fan brandishing his crutch aloft, wrapped in a white, gold and royal blue United scarf.