After all the nonsense and politics in Zurich a few days ago it was great to actually watch a football match live, despite the ice and snow that blanketed Britain.
Every home and away match, Leeds United have great support, not only from Yorkshire, but world-wide. Their web site www.leedsunited.com is more popular than all but the top four mega clubs in the EPL. Every match there is also huge support from fans arriving from Ireland and Scandinavia. I went to Elland Road on Saturday afternoon with my friend Morten from Oslo, who along with many Norwegians had taken the cheap route. RyanAir Oslo: Rygge-Newcastle for about £6.00 each way and then hired a bus to bring them to Leeds. Incidentally www.yorkshire.com recently won a world wide travel award for its web pages.and its 'A long weekend in Yorkshire' campaign The county is bigger than Qatar and of course there is much more to enjoy and do. It is DEFINITELY cooler!
'Operation Buckingham' had been a frenzied exercise to save the Leeds United v Crystal Palace match when all over matches in various divisions in Yorkshire were called off. The ground staff had worked wonders, the pitch was immaculate and snow had been piled up around the ground as they cleared walkways and stairs. Chairman Bates makes headlines weekly from his home in the tax haven of Monaco, but he speaks a lot of sense and sometimes rubbish. He called FIFA a 'TWO BOB OUTFIT', and felt that the English F.A. should help form a rival international organization after the fiasco in Zurich.
'Without Germany, Spain, Italy, France and Britain there would be no FIFA'. I think you might add USA and Brazil and I would agree. Anyway, outside the John Charles Stand we were entertained by a band of the Salvation Army. FIFA might look at that splendid organization as an example to follow. SOME CHANCE !!
Leeds, on a six match undefeated role and back in The Championship, have had a roller coaster ride with some sensational defeats, and Elland Road is no longer a guaranteed fortress. We had an exciting dual between two Argentinians. Luciano Becchio from Cordoba is United's top scorer and recently put Bristol City to the sword with a quick hat-trick. He is out of contract in six months and may only be persuaded to stay by a fat contract. He was plucked from Merida UD in the Spanish third division in 2008, and is a huge guy and this raging bull is difficult to stop at full speed.
Palace's sensational goalie Julian Speroni is from Buenos Aires, but left Club Atletico Platense in a hurry to join Dundee FC nine years ago when the life of he and his team mates were threated by fans. He moved to Palace for £500,000 and has been the fans' player of the season three seasons running. He is also out of contract and rumoured to be heading to Fulham in January.
Against the run of play and the superb goalkeeping of Dane, Kaspar Schmeichel, the visitors took the lead. Their playmaker Neil Danns is a target for Simon Grayson the Leeds manager and he put the Londoners ahead in front of a suprised 25,000 plus crowd. The All Whites continually battered at the palace gates, but it was not until three tactical substitutions and Becchio's brillance with two goals in as many minutes near the end that the game was won and lost.
By then Leeds had three strikers, three wingers and two attacking midfielders on the pitch, and it was just a matter of time before the dam burst. Visiting manager George Burley has almost turned his team around with recent form, but their large contingent of supporters, in good voice throughout, went home empty handed.
Becchio and his team mates went back to their dressing room and a hot shower to a standing ovation. Not so for Bradley Johnson, who wants a better and longer term contract. He has rejected the latest offer and was booed and jeered by the home fans when he was substituted in the 55th minute. Leeds United are in the play-off places.