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Ridsdale and I Part 14- Watford Wobble and Valiant Vale
Friday, 21st May 2021 09:54 by Mark Monk

The tale of my early years following Leeds United continues through the promotion season. In this episode I finally get to watch Leeds United away from home.

Saturday March 2nd and my first ever Leeds away match, at Vicarage Road, Watford. The Hornets lay in 11th place and no doubt to capitalise on Leeds riding high, albeit a point clear of Sheffield United with a game more played, as well as the Rookery End which in those days housed the away fans, we got a section of seats in the Sir Stanley Rous stand, now known as the Graham Taylor Stand.

According to Barry, the ticket at £10 was a bargain as it included the programme too. I'm pretty certain it was unsegregated as well, as I'm sure I stood their in the gents next to a home fan. It was a nice stand, great view - the rest of the stadium was shit!

The Rookery End was a seething mass of Leeds fans, opposite where we sat it was easy to mistake the ramshackle array of stands in with the allotment sheds that stood behind and to the left was an open Spion Kop where a certain Vinnie Jones had stood as a kid.

We'd stopped for "refreshments" on the way down, it might have been Towcester in Northamptonshire, wherever it was it was a quaint, market town stunned by the arrival of a coach load of Leeds fans. I'm not sure if it was an extension of his work at the brewery but I soon learned that for away days Barry always had a watering-hole up his sleeve, obviously with the consent of the pub landlord.

To be fair, he ran the branch very well and there were no trouble-causers, if there were they'd have been dealt with and promptly kicked-out. So happy days all round, the thirsty fans were refreshed, and the landlord had a full till of takings.

However things drastically took a turn for the worst when we left the pub, Leeds battled but found Watford keeper Tony Coton in inspired form, it was one of those games where had Mick the Go Whittle driver had thundered our coach on to the pitch headlong towards Coton's goal he would have stopped it.

They scored a late winner, I can't remember who scored! Who cared? What I do remember was as we were queing to leave over the PA system they played a record in the charts which I utterly hated called "Birdhouse in your soul" by the American duo "They might be Giants" talk about adding insult to injury!

Four nights later, I was Barry's guest in the absence of Brian for the home game against Port Vale. Vale were at the wrong end of the table but inspired by a familiar face in Neil Aspin, the popular central-defender who famously postponed his wedding-day so he could play in the FA Cup Semi-final in '87.

Aspin got a terrific welcome back but if we were expecting any favours we were mistaken. He marshalled Vale to cling on to a 0-0 draw which allowed those around us to gain even more ground. At least I was spared the man-hugs from Barry because Vale didn't let us score.

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.

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