3 pints of lager and a packet of prawns!
Regular Vital Leeds contributor Gromjo from the Emerald Isle made the trip to Old Trafford on Sunday to watch one of Leeds best days in recent history.
Gromjo was always going to write an article about how his day went but to do it with a famous win under our belts made it much easier to do.
Well the day started at 5.45 as I got up for my flight. My dad and I were meeting a group of Man Utd fans at 7.30 to pick up our tickets. We get there in plenty of time but are greeted by about 30 men with a few kids, all in their red scarves, hats etc. Some of them honestly looked like they were part of the infamous Red Army but we prevailed, collected our tickets and boarded the plane.
On the plane were 50 football fans. It was a chartered plane especially for United fans so I was ready to stay quiet. It was on the plane though that I could have sworn I heard someone singing Marching On Together but I thought nothing of it. It was when I had a look at my ticket and it said Executive 500 Club in the North East Corner. I turned to the guy next to me on the plane to ask him if he knew if this seat was anywhere near the Leeds fans but he said that he had no idea as he was sitting in the away end!
It was then I finally realised that I would not be the only Leeds fan travelling behind enemy lines today.
We arrived at Manchester Airport in good time and in fairness to this travelling group, there was a coach waiting outside for us that took us straight to the stadium.
As you probably know already, all the pubs were closed within a two mile radius so we just headed straight to the stadium. Walked down Sir Matt Busby Way to the stadium passing by plenty of disgruntled Man Utd supporters but there were plenty of police around and they seemed to be running a tight shift. When I got to the ground the Leeds fans were walking around freely waiting to get into the stadium and the atmosphere was quiet but there was a hint of anxiety in the air. We walked around for a bit, bought two programmes (one for a friend at home) and went looking for our entrance.
A small point on Old Trafford itself. From outside it is an eye-sore. It is a stadium that they have built random stands on, just to try to increase the capacity, and it is very ugly!
Its size is impressive but its shape is disgusting. Much like a man after an augmentation,...The inside was good with facilities but the outside was not what I expected. It is very different from any Irish stadiums because it is built very high and quite narrow unlike Irish Stadiums, which have room for GAA in Croke Park and Rugby in the new Lansdowne Road. In all the stadium was quite different to how I imagined it and I hope if the new developments go through on Elland Road that it doesn`t ruin the shape like at Old Trafford.
Our tickets were for section E4 so we went about looking for it. We asked a couple of stewards but to our surprise none of them could help us. The sections went E1, E2, E3, E5 etc. and completely skipped E4? One steward suggested it would be at the very opposite end of the ground which I was disappointed about because it would have meant being away from the Leeds fans but when we asked a policeman he directed us to sort of pillar shaped building at the corner of the stadium marked Executive Seating! Now I got slightly excited here as we got the elevator up to the 500 Clubroom. In here was a memorial to every Man Utd player to make over 500 appearances, but more importantly was one of the few places selling drink within 2 miles of the ground as drink didn't go on sale to the common folk until 12 o clock!
Also there was food cart (not complimentary) which included a traditional English breakfast, croissants and prawns of all things! My dad and I sat there for a bit, had 2 pints, and had a look at the betting long list for the game that was complimentary. As some of you know I am trying to avoid my gambling before it takes hold of me but I thought sure a £5 bet would mean nothing so I through it on Leeds to win the first half! Got 9/1 for that so a cool £50 at half time was handy!
We then decided to get the elevator up to our seats with about 45 minutes until the game started.
Stepping out of the elevator we were up at the very corner of the stadium in the executive seats (padded!). trying to describe where my seats were they were at the same side of the stadium where the Main gathering of Leeds fans were behind the goal but I was at the other corner flag where the second bunch of Leeds fans were not....It makes sense in my head anyway.
Our seats were in the second row at the top tier of the stand so very good seats. Also we were very near to the Leeds fans so could hear them clearly. At this stage, the players were warming up and the Leeds fans were all in the stadium slowly starting to chant. For a while it was just the Leeds fans singing as the Prawn Sandwich brigade were still filing into the stadium.
Leeds fans were in very good voice and very impressive but as of yet had no competition from the scum supporters. i myself was sitting there with my coat zipped up fully and singing into it quietly. During one chorus of MOT I did the Leeds salute and caught a couple of Leeds fans attention which I was proud of. More and more fans were now starting to sit around me though so I soon had to stay quiet.
The game started and Leeds fans started the chanting while Man Utd fans returned with a rendition of UNITED etc. On the pitch, things were oddly even. We were not sitting back while they were not creating any clear-cut chances. They had a couple of nothing shots really while Beckford had a poor attempt at a bicycle kick. Every player on the pitch for us was working hard, Beckford included. I was now quiet the fans became slightly hostile. Then the Goal, Howson wins a ball in defence and plays a fabulous ball to Beckford over the defenders head. Beckford`s first touch is poor but gets to the ball just before the keeper and somehow trickles the ball into the net.
The whole thing for me was in slow motion and I sat still while it went in. Somehow, I was able to say nothing as Man Utd fans became slightly hostile. I then turn to see 3 stewards rushing into the stand just behind me as one unfortunate Leeds fan got caught celebrating and was now being heavily threatened. He jogged down the steps out of sight but was soon followed by 2 Man Utd supporters although that`s the last I saw of that. I soon went into the toilet making sure nobody was around and screamed before returning to my seat.
The rest of the game I don`t have to go into detail about but was brilliant. I honestly could not believe the score line as I stared at it. It was after that that the Stretford End went quiet and said absolutely nothing for the rest of the game!
We did not particularly sit back for the rest of the half and still they only had one good chance that Casper did well to get a touch to Rooney`s toe-poke and Crowe did even better to clear it off the line. Half time went so we ran back to the executive box for another pint, and to collect my winnings! Watched the replay of the half on the TV screen and still couldn't believe we were 1-0 up against Man Utd, in Old Trafford! Me being Pessimistic I still didn't think we would hold out, which I think was fair enough.
As the second half goes, the only things of note were Beckford`s missed chance (It wouldn't have been a proper game unless Beckford missed an easier chance) and Snodgrass hitting the crossbar. Meanwhile at the other end there were a few terrible shots, a few good saves and a few goalmouth scrambles but Leeds were holding on.
I think I should now at this point give mention to the Leeds fans in this. First of all, I suppose it might have been different if we hadn't been winning for over an hour but I don't think that takes much away. Throughout the game, they were outstanding. They never stopped singing and more importantly absolutely none of it was malicious. It might have just been me but I did not here one Munich Chant (thankfully)! I did not see one fight inside or outside of the stadium and I suppose that is a credit to both sets of fans and the Manchester Police. Man Utd fans had absolutely no reply and were quiet for 70% of the game which I loved as it made it a lot easier for me. The only thing the Man Utd fans seemed to be able to sing was a chorus of 'We All Hate Leeds Scum` but after they had sung it the third time the Leeds fans just started laughing at it and how pathetic it was.
As the game was ending I began hearing the man behind me murmuring. As I listened, he was saying the names of Leeds players. When full time went I stood up and applauded and turned and asked him was he Leeds. He replied that he was so we shook hands and went our separate ways.
It should also be mentioned, I met more Leeds fans behind enemy lines while collecting my bet as they had money on Beckford to score first at 9/1! Leeds fans were all around me if I had just looked...
I left the stadium and honestly could not stop smiling. I walked up matt Busby Way back to our bus and I was buzzing. I still could not get over everything that had happened. We had gone to Old Trafford, as a league 1 side, and won 1-0, and knocked them out of the FA cup, And I was there! Arguably one of the best games that could be added to our clubs history and I was there.
The bus back was delayed due to traffic, the flight was delayed by an hour and a half for a couple of reasons (not enough staff at Manchester Airport) and it was a longish flight back at 45 minutes but honestly none of it mattered to me. I had been to Old Trafford and back and seen the Mighty Whites return with mighty fans that did us proud, and the most importantly for me, I was there at the turning point of our clubs history!
Marching on Together!
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