When Dennis Wise answered the call from Chairman Ken Bates, who he played under at Chelsea and who is his son's godfather, the fans at Elland Road, home of a very down and out Leeds United, were not very impressed. Letters to the editors of both the Yorkshire Post, and the Yorkshire Evening Post and calls to the local radio chat shows were ruthless in their condemnation.
Like Mary and Joseph, Wise and Batesy have a very stable relationship, which is very important for manager and chairman in a soccer club. Despite going down to the third tier, Division One for the first time, and being docked 15 points before the season even started, fans, players, manager and chairman can now think the unthinkable. By Christmas they could well be in the automatic promotion positions, and on their way back up to The Championship.
Last Saturday I was with a couple of my Norwegian friends, Morten and son Joaquim, who are Leeds fans, along with about another 100 or so from Norway as United took local rivals Huddersfield Town apart 4-0 in front of 32,500 at Elland Road on a very cold and wet afternoon. Before and after the match the Norwegian fans all meet at Peter Lorimer's pub, The Commercial on Sweet Street near the edge of downtown. Peter is a Leeds Legend with 525 appearances and 168 goals for the club. He also played 24 times for Scotland and for Vancouver Whitecaps and Toronto Blizzard in the NASL and also played for Scotland in the 1974 FIFA World Cup in Germany where I watched them tie with holders Brazil and with Yugoslavia, in Frankfurt. He scored a goal in the other match vs Zaire. He is credited with the hardest shot in English football at the time.
The attendance was the best in the third tier since 1977, even though the huge upper East stand is still closed, which would have added another 8,000 fans. Leeds is by far the biggest one-club city in England with enormous potential, and they were playing in the semi-final of the Champions League 6 years ago.
Before the match many fans congregated at the Billy Bremner statue at the corner of the stadium, marking the 10th anniversary of the untimely death 10 years ago of the legendary skipper, who was only 55 years old at the time. Scots in kilts had come down from across the border to pay tributes and lay wreaths and flowers. There was a wreath from Nottingham Whites, from The Whites from Cork in Ireland, and from The Wolf from Norway. Scarves, flags, football boots and jerseys covered the base of the statue. Inside the packed stadium there was two minutes of clapping by both teams and songs by the fans before the kick-off. Jermaine Beckford scored a brace to up his season's tally to 13, and even Tore Adre Flo came on for the last 5 minutes and scored the fourth goal, much to the delight of the travelling Norwegian fans.
"There's only one team in Yorkshire", was the song of choice, aimed at the 2,000 Town fans , and poor young 17 year old keeper Alex Smithies, making his debut, and had a miserable afternoon was taunted with "Does your mother know where you are". United had had a lapse in form in recent weeks, getting knocked out of 2 cup competitions and losing their undefeated league record.
After the match we went to the KrisKindelMarkt German market in Mandela Square outside the City Hall where some hot blueberry gluwein proved a winner inside the Frankfurter Scheune Bier Hall after the cold outside.There is a carousel ridndare 30 authentic wooden stalls manned by Germans, selling wooden toys, honey, chocolates, pretzels, stollen, gingerbread and traditional German meals, beers and Herr Jen's Bavarian Oopah Band- a Leeds tradition for the last 5 years. years.