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Ridsdale and I Part 10- Unbeaten runs and Barry
Thursday, 13th May 2021 20:54 by Mark Monk

The tale of my early years following Leeds United continues through the promotion season, and I get to the home game with Watford, with the help of the famous Barry from the West Midlands branch of the supporters club.

Thanks to the shambles that was the Leeds United ticketing service and my Dad's forgetfulness, I missed the next 15 games of the 1989/90 season which, including the draw against Blackburn where I'd watched from their end, stretched to 14 unbeaten.

In fact, the run ended on November 11th just down the road at Leicester where a certain Gary McAllister tapped home a late winner in a seven-goal thriller at Filbert Street with kick-off delayed to allow a huge Leeds following to pack into Leicester's now-demolished old stadium.

My Dad must shoulder some of the blame because just before the defeat at Leicester, he handed me a scrap of paper with the name Barry and a 01283 Burton-On-Trent phone number. He said someone had given it to him weeks ago, Barry was the Secretary of the Leeds United Supporters Club West Midlands branch.

I dialled the number and it was answered by the man himself, sounding somewhat groggy as he was a shift worker at one of Burton's breweries and had been down to Portsmouth the night before (3-3 draw remember Guy Whittingham).

It must have driven him mad, people phoning at all hours wanting coach seats and tickets. Barry explained that technically the membership was oversubscribed but he'd make an exception on my part.

He said he would be unable to get me a ticket for our next home game against Watford on 18th November but I was more than welcome to travel on the coach, for just a fiver, and try my luck getting into the Kop which had very limited "pay on the day" availability, but thereafter it would not be an issue getting tickets. I was back in business.

Barry gave me the rendezvous point, which was a drab layby just off the A38 at Clay Mills. I was there in good time and met Barry and was introduced to some of the others like Bob, Taff, Derek and his missus Kay.

The branch hired two coaches from the Kidderminster firm called Go Whittle. I loved the livery of white, gold and blue. Okay, there was a green stripe in it too but they were ahead of their time as we would have a green away kit five years later.

Despite working in a brewery and being surrounded by the stuff, Barry was fond of a pint. Every match without fail the coach would stop first at the Woodman pub on the A653, (which was a fair old stagger to the stadium) and then it would pull in near to the Drysalters near to the junction with Elland Road and finally decant the passengers who were not obsessed with a pre-match pint or six, or like me wasn't legally old enough to drink and needed to get into the Kop otherwise it would have been a wasted journey.

It was just before 1pm when I got to the Kop and already there was a huge queue. My heart sunk and as the turnstiles opened and the rattling of loose change and loud clunks and clanks filled the cold air in the misty fading light, every movement on the turnstile was one less opportunity to get in and I half expected a steward to appear and say "Sorry lad, full up".

But I was in. I picked my spot in the lower bit, just to the right of the goal, this little half step cut away with my back to the perimeter wall and sat down relieved. Nothing to do, nothing to read, Id not dared to stop and try and find a programme seller, or that bloke in the dirty orange jacket selling the Yorkshire Evening Post who'd yell "Racin' half times!" over and over again.

"Uncle" Tom Schofield in his glass box to my right did his best to spin some pre-match tunes. According to the official UK Singles Charts archive, Lisa Stansfield was number one with "All around the world", at number two was Milli Vanilli with "Girl I'm Gonna Miss You" and Yorkshire could claim the number three spot with "That's what I like" by Jive Bunny and the Mastermixers.

The pitch looked heavy, as well as Hunslet RL sharing it, three weeks earlier the Rugby League Second Test between Great Britain and New Zealand had taken place. At the time the city council owned the stadium and the legend "Leeds City Council Welcomes You To Elland Road" was emblazoned in red and white across the West Stand roof. Presumably it was due to Labour controlling the council throughout the 80's.

The attendance that day was just under 27,000, Watford had just signed Gary Penrice who had been a prolific scorer in the lower Divisions and opened the scoring at the Kop End against the run of play. We had Chris Turner in goal that day, on loan from Sheffield Wednesday as Mervyn Day was injured at Leicester. Luckily Chris Fairclough equalised with a header from a corner and this time I was able to celebrate his goal with my own fans.

Andy Williams scrambled home the winner and my next worry was getting back to home at a decent time because I'd agreed to work behind the bar that night so my mum could have time off to celebrate her 40th. I needn't have worried, the West Midlands branch didn't repeat their incoming detour of stopping off at the Drysalters and Woodman pubs and I was behind the bar as agreed for 7:30pm on the dot!

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.

Photo: Action Images

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