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Ridsdale and I Part 3- Remembering the 1st time
Tuesday, 30th Mar 2021 21:52 by Mark Monk

Continuing my tale of watching Leeds united during the Ridsdale era, in the years from 1989 to 2004. In this episode I finally make it to Leeds, for what turned out to be a rather forgettable game against Ipswich Town.

A legacy of my failed teenage relationship was a Young Person’s Railcard. I’d got this in the summer of 1988 to save money on my rail journeys to see my then girlfriend- having given up on the morbidly slow and utterly unreliable National Express Coaches.

Ironically Gary Glitter advertised the YP cards, British Rail were blissfully unaware of his sordid private activities. It was another twist of irony that the ad men at BR also employed Jimmy Saville to tell the unsuspecting British public that this was indeed the age of the train.

Its going to sound a bit old-fogeyish now, but my first trip to Elland Road probably cost me around £12.50 by the time Id factored in my reduced rail fare, refreshments, admission and a programme. It didn’t include the Leeds A-Z from WHS I bought and crudely stuffed into my denim jacket inside pocket as I tried to navigate a short-cut via Sweet Street and the back streets of Holbeck, shuffling beneath the shadows of huge mail-order catalogue warehouses, back street garages etc when everyone knows the best way is to simply stick to the main road out of town and walk parallel to the M621.

My nearest railway station was Burton On Trent, from there Id either catch a direct Inter-City train to Leeds, I think they ran from Plymouth up to Newcastle or onto Edinburgh or failing that, I could get a local service to Derby and then catch the Inter-City up to Leeds.

I mistakenly thought the main station was called "Leeds Central" after all at the time the Scottish band, “Hue and Cry” had a hit with a song called “Looking for Linda” around about this time, which apparently was written about a Scottish woman who went missing after going out to buy a packet of cigarettes. The lyrics go that she headed for Leeds Central which actually closed in 1967. According to my research, Leeds Central was situated off Wellington Street and it became a Royal Mail depot and an abandoned architectural Skyscraper project called Luminere.

A workmate of mine religiously took his mum, aunt and niece shopping in Burton on a Saturday morning and agreed to pick me up, so there I was on my big day out wedged in the back of a Vauxhall Cavalier with a load of shopper-women, eagerly anticipating what bargains they would find later that day. Having escaped that particular tedium, I got out in the town-centre, I comfortably made the 8:38 and was in Leeds for around 10:30. Burton as you may know is famous for brewing beer and the air was filled with whiffs of malt, hops and yeast.

I was quite mature looking for my age, so service of intoxicants was never an issue even though I was still nearly a year below the legal drinking age. I easily procured two-cans of Websters Bitter from a shop nearby to my parents pub and cracked them open after we left Sheffield, the warm but heady liquid oozed through my gullet.

As I emerged from Leeds Station, I blinked as the bright March sunlight and early alcoholic refreshment overwhelmed my senses. Bear in mind I had lived in a small, Edwardian market town for three-years and before that an even smaller town, so to experience a city-centre like Leeds was pretty awesome, even without intoxicants.

I do remember thinking that most of Boar Lane was derelict, I remember seeing a ramshackle building with a battered sign saying “We buy Owt” above its dusty, grimy facade. Soon I saw the splendour of Kirkgate Market, standing on Vicar Lane since 1857 and where a certain Marks and Spencer began trading, emerged. It has always been a must-go-to place whenever I am in the city.

After overwhelming my senses further on record and clothes shops, at around 1pm I settled in the Zam Zam Curry House on Upper Brigatte for Donor Kebab and chips whilst Radio Aire blasted away in the background. Donor kebabs in daylight was another novelty! Then that walk to the stadium, as thousands have done before, no doubt bemoaning the irony that like me, they probably arrived by train that day which passes just a couple of hundred yards from the stadium without a stop.

In those days, the you’d catch a tantalising glimpse of the blue and gold facade which Don’s all conquering teams would proudly use as a backdrop in their crisp white shirts and far lesser players that followed for a decade and half after he'd left.

Rather than simply follow the A653 towards the M621 then walk parallel to the motorway, I decided to amble down Holbeck way somehow missing Peter Lorimer's "Commercial Hotel" pub, the barometer rose and I was soon sweltering in my outsized denim jacket, Leeds top and a pale yellow t-shirt beneath, which would prove to be a lifesaver later on that year.

Eventually I emerged by St Matthews Church. There were pubs galore, the Kings Arms, Bulls Head, Spotted Cow, Waggon and Horses, The Imperial and The Britannia; where I decamped to sample my first hand-pulled pint of Joshua Tetley’s for the princely sum of 96p. I stumbled out, still unaware of my bearings and wandered onto the M621 bridge, squinting at my now well-thumbed A-Z contemplating on taking a left which I now realise would have led me into Hunslet.

I spotted a Policeman on the bridge and approached him. To save face, I put on a fake foreign accent, I think I attempted Norwegian, after all Id read that thousands of Scandinavians love Leeds United. I said to him “Where is ground?” sounding as Norwegian as Abba. The copper looked confused and pointed straight ahead of me “Over their mate” and there it was, in all its glory, for the first time ever I saw Elland Road from the east side.

The first thing I noticed was the floodlights, 250 foot high pylons, with a cluster of spotlights embedded like jewels into a diamond shaped frame. They looked awesome, intimidating and phallic even! I mourned the day post our 1991/92 Football League Championship win that they bit the dust. I was facing the Lowfields Road Stand, which looked like an old dilapidated mansion house atop of a grass bank.

I paid my £3.00 admission cash and scrambled up the steps, stopping at the snack bar for a pie and a Pepsi. I then made by way down the well worn concrete steps and marvelled at the view. Id been to the grounds in the East Midlands, you know the Baseball ground in Derby, Filbert Street in Leicester both now long-gone, as well as Forest’s City Ground but this more than topped all of them! In those days it held 43,000 so it was by far the biggest club stadium Id been into.

I then heard “Marching On Together” crackle through the PA system for the first time ever live. The men in white emerged first, prompting warm applause, then out came Ipswich to a less than a complimentary welcome, their small gathering of fans were clustered in the entire South Stand. A few were brandishing giant inflatable banana’s which had been made popular by Manchester City fans as a tribute to future Leeds striker Imre Varadi.

Its almost a shame the game kicked off to interrupt my awestruckness, within an hour Leeds were 3-0 down. There had been some light relief at half-time as there had been a charity penalty shoot-out, Trevor Cherry who we so sadly lost in 2020, took part, as did gentle giant John Charles and Bobby Collins.

I remember reading about wee-Bobby some months earlier, when during a charity match aged 57 he’d clogged the actor Nick Berry, aka “Wicksey” in Eastenders. Berry who was 25 at the time and a West Ham fan was not impressed by Bobby’s antics and squared up to all 5’3” of the Glaswegian before thinking better of it and backing off.

It epitomised the north/south divide, forget Vinnie Jones grabbing Gazza’s balls, here we had a cossetted southern soap-opera heart-throb against “the wee barra” hard-as-nails, who’d spent four-decades delivering crunching challenges in front of adoring crowds at Parkhead, Goodison, Elland Road amongst others.

Fraser Hines also took part in the event, but luckily it was a penalty shoot-out so at least I do not think that he felt Bob’s studs scrape his shins given his penchant for targeting Soap Stars. Fraser aka Joe Sugden in Emmerdale did get some rather ribald suggestion’s sung at him from the Kop that he frequently pleasured-himself but it was all good fun under the watchful eye of announcer Tom Schofield, unlike the game itself.

Leeds somehow did pull it back to 3-2 and at this stage, I decided to leave the ground before the final whistle as so many people so often do. As I was making my way back towards Revie Road where the industrial units are, I heard a roar and looked back, no way! We’ve only gone and pulled it back to 3-3!! Alas no, streams of cursing Leeds fans were flooding through the exits as the veteran John Wark had put Ipswich 4-2 up. The crowd was 19,639.

It should have put me off but it didn’t. I was hooked and could not wait for the next game! Alas the next two were Yorkshire derbies at Hull and Barnsley and I was not a "U-Card" holder, which was a prerequisite of getting an away ticket due to the hooliganism. My then employer had to verify that I was of sound character and I was not, to their knowledge a member of a far-right group; the NF (National Front) were still visible in those days and Elland Road was a prime recruiting hot-bed for them.

And if you can’t wait for the next episode to appear on toellandback, you can sneak a peek at my blog by clicking on this link.


Tim Whelan



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