The Elland Road Crowd are Lapping This Up

It’s 1972 and I’m ten, standing upstairs on a crowded 102 bus with my dad and younger brother Dez as we lurch towards Elland Road. This is my first Leeds United match and I’m excited.

“Leeds 5 Southampton 0”, I predict, out loud.

The guy on the adjacent seat shakes his long, seventies locks.

“Six”, he says with mock solemnity. We laugh.

Dad doesn’t. The crowds make him uneasy, especially with two excitable young lads to look after. Arriving at the stadium, I spot a flash of green turf through the turnstiles and instinctively bolt towards them, earning a shout from dad’s gruff Irish accent.

We enter the ‘Scratching Shed’ stand, a primitive structure that reminds me of Grandad’s cowsheds out in Galway. Around us is quite a senior crowd, lots of old men in overcoats and a pervasive smell of pipe tobacco. I am dying of anticipation.

Eventually my white-clad heroes appear, led out as usual by flame-haired captain Bremner, the distinctive talisman of a distinguished team. The match kicks off and Leeds begin attacking the goal at our end. I can’t believe I’m watching them for real.

They take a while to get going. The fans grow restive as the match remains goalless past the half hour. What’s happening? In the last home game they hammered Man United 5-1. It seems the Saints have some good players, especially the forwards Davies and Channon.

You can watch the Match of the day highlights here

The real drama is off the pitch where my dad is losing it. First a twenty pound note goes missing (a lot in those days) and then my brother vanishes. The money is never found but Dez soon is. Dad breathes out.

There’s relief around the stadium too on 37 minutes when Clarke rattles in the first goal. Five minutes later Lorimer makes it two.

We’re now witnessing a display of complete footballing mastery: eleven men operating with a single, unstoppable intent – passing, moving, interchanging effortlessly as the goals rack up against their hapless, demoralised opponents.

You wouldn’t know that Cruyff’s Holland and their concept of ‘Total Football’ was still two years away, as centre back Hunter runs out left and crosses for defensive partner Charlton to head the sixth. With the seventh they exceed  even our busride predictions, yet this is only a prelude.

You see, this match is not about the winning but the taking apart, as Leeds begin an unprecedented spell of possession; white shirt finding white shirt with increasingly extravagant tricks and flicks  marked by shouts of ‘Olé’ from the crowd.

The highlight of this extraordinary sequence even made dad smile. Reaney rolls the ball out to Irish midfielder Giles who impudently tucks left foot behind right ankle and uses it to dink a beautifully arced first-time pass to Clarke.

It’s all over too soon. On the way out dad actually finds a fiver which brings his day’s losses down to £15. Still a lot back then, but I think even he realised it was well worth it.

http://youtu.be/AuWqJ71vaqo

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[info]Reporter – Brendan Staunton[/info]