Date:Thursday May 29 2008
Rod Christopher pops in with a great report of his weekend that saw Leeds United lose the League One playoff final 1-0 to a dominant Doncaster Rovers.
The night before setting off I’d been out in the city centre, thinking of what good things might happen tomorrow, while downing a number of strong alcoholic drinks. A late night out saw me hitting my bed at around 3am, before having to rise again at 6am!
The morning of the game quickly arrived and at first all I could think about was; how was I going to get rid of this hangover before boarding my coach!
A quick brush of the teethed big breakfast helped me recover and before too long my head began to focus on one of the biggest of big matches ahead. My beloved Leeds United in the League One play off final at Wembley and I was going to be there.
Wow, now that’s just everything I ever wanted in a football match. My hometown supported club at Wembley!
My mind again began wandering, as all sorts of thoughts kept me excited and very much looking forward to the day ahead. Before long I was in total dreamland, hoping and
praying to myself that the day would end in glorious victory, not despair. Then in the next thought it was; What if I miss my coach? Can or should I even contemplate possible defeat after this long trip?
Will my team perform on the day and what is this Wembley stadium really like? The theatre of dreams? Let me decide! My head was indeed spinning and it would not be too long before all of my questions were answered once and for all!
At 7am i arrived at Elland Road stadium and I would be travelling alone with the official travel club for the princely sum of £30. The deal was that I paid the money and they would transport me from our ground all the way to Wembley stadium and back. I would travel solo because none of my LUFC loving friends had bothered to become members, but this was the very least of my worries, because I WAS going and they were NOT!
My travel club deal was a very fair one that I got after purchasing my £50 middle tier ticket on the Monday morning before that fateful Wednesday morning, when all hell broke loose in the queues and everyone fell out!
On arrival I was surprised to see so many people queuing for coaches, as there must have been a good 700-800 all waiting in front of me! I was hung over and at the back of a very long LUF queue. My worst nightmare surely! A full 90 minutes later I at last boarded my coach. I was put on coach 54 and on 9.40 am i began the journey towards this haloed turf in support of my idols.
My seat partner was called Mally, a bloke I sort of new previously from local football and before long we were away chatting about the hopes and fears from the day. Mal wasn't a man to make predictions, but I was firmly in the court that Donny are an excellent footballing side, but we have far more class and experience.
I sort of figured that our superior class might eventually be the difference between the sides on the day. We talked happily about getting through the 15 point deduction and
of our previous visits to Wembley. Mal has been a season ticket holder since age 7, has not missed a home match in that time and had been to Wembley 4 times prior to this one. Unfortunately he had never seen them score here (not including the Charity Shield 4-3 win, which is not a 'real' game is it!) Mally was a cool guy who had seen it all before. A 20 minute stop off at Watford gap saw us within 2 hours of the stadium and all of the fans I met sang happily in their groups about how 'we are Leeds' and the familiar 'Marching together' also could be heard just about everywhere.
The hairs on the back stood up, as the enormity of today’s match dawned on me. How lucky was I? So many fans watching from home, pubs and big screens, yet here was I actually heading for the stadium with these magnificent fans.
I would not have missed it for the world!
Coach 54 pulled in at Wembley at 1.30pm. I took my first photo from outside of the arena, and then headed towards entrance C, where I would be seated in the middle tier Leeds end, behind one of the goals.
On entering Wembley the first thing that struck me was how big and comfy it seemed. Brand new looking, with very professional staff. I then paid £10 for 2 match programmes and burger and chips for an outrageous £7.60p!
Time to take my seat I think. Wow, wow, what’s all this then?! What a beautiful national stadium we have right here. It's absolutely fantastic. I'm really struggling here to explain just how good it is. My simple words just will not do it justice I’m afraid, but I will say that this place really is something special!
I hastily pulled out my camera to capture my first visions of the place. Pictures I will share with you, then cherish forever. That much I can promise! Singing our national anthem really made me proud to be there and then seeing the lads out there in anticipation made me feel ten feet tall. It is an experience that I will never ever forget, regardless of the final score!
The match kicked off and I twigged early doors that this would be no cakewalk. Donny just seemed better organised, more fluent in their play, I was worried that we might concede early, and then have to chase the game later. Doncaster created a lot of early chances, with Kasper saving us time and time again.
I kept telling myself that Donny could score at any time, as United struggled to break down a very solid defence. Our boys were reduced to hitting long range shots for the most part, with Stock, Price and Hayter pulling the strings in that first half. To be honest I thought Utd were very lucky to be going in at half time on par.
I spent the entire 15 minute break phoning friends, bemoaning the fact that Leeds simply were second best! Those Doncaster boys sure can play good football. The second half saw Leeds up their game a bit, but not enough to cause any serious problems to that defence. Again a few half chances by Beckford and the odd effort by Howson just wasn't enough.
We never really got our game going for me, but Donny most certainly did. From my view the best team on the day won and as much as it hurts me to say; they did deserve it. It just was not our time this time around. My Leeds United man of the match? I'd have to go for Kasper, as he kept us in it for quite a long time.
Hopefully next year then! The final whistle blew after 5 minutes of added time, but in my mind I knew it had been over for quite some time. We never really looked like scoring and that is to my utter disappointment. I came in hope, but went home in anger. Anger that not enough of our lads were good enough on the day. I day I had paid dearly to be a part of. Yes I was in despair to the point of tears as I stood in front of my seating area at the end, alone watching the lads inconsolable at the final whistle.
At least 4 fans must have noticed my tears, as they helpfully hugged me as i headed for the exit.
Believe me when I say it was a very long journey home. The mood was obviously similar to mourning!
Date:Thursday May 29 2008
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