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Ridsdale and I Part 18- Local antiheroes and NO I wasn't there!
Friday, 19th Nov 2021 09:16 by Mark Monk

The tale of my early years following Leeds United, as we finally achieve promotion in 1989/90 one eventful Saturday afternoon at AFC Bournemouth, to bring an end to eight long years in the second division. But never mind the football, the media was keen to turn it’s spotlight onto something else…

In the three days that passed from our slip up against Barnsley and our penultimate game of the season, our last at home, against lowly Leicester City, there sure seemed to be a lot of Foxes fanatics crawling out of the woodwork to remind me that their underachieving side, with alleged kerbcrawler manager David Pleat in charge were coming north to spoil our party - I would not witness such an upsurge or interest in Leicester City's fortunes and those proclaiming to be fans of theirs until 2015/16!

I was in the South Stand that day, a muggy day, the ground heaving in anticipation. Leicester began their shithousery by sending keeper Martin Hodge to defend the Kop in the first half. Hodge was known to Howard Wilkinson as he'd faithfully kept goal for Sheffield Wednesday during Wilko's time at Hillsborough- in fact Hodge had been involved in a well-publicised spat with Bobby Davison in 1985 following a bad-tempered FA Cup tie during Bobby D's time at Derby.

I doubt even Wilko could predict how Hodge played out of his skin that afternoon to thwart Leeds time after time but finally, another Sheff Wed old boy Mel Sterland finally smashed home a low range piledriver to send us in 1-0 at the break.

Leeds continued to pile on the pressure in the second half but typically Leicester equalised, a highly-rated young Scot called Gary McAllister smashed home a volley past the grasp of Mervyn Day and minutes later in a carbon copy move, Day just got a glove to it when McAllister threatened to repeat his feat and make the unthinkable happen.

McAllister did have a hand in our winner, Leeds pressed forward, Leicester cleared their lines, it fell to Mcallister who feebly hooked the ball away to Strachan who lashed home the volley from the edge of the area. I remember watching it beat the grasp of Hodge and nestle into the back of the net before pandemonium broke out on the South Stand paddock and all round the ground. I was stood with a guy called John Gregory who'd I'd got talking to on the coach who came from Burton. We embraced and danced on the spot before the inevitable surge and pile in!

I think a few spilled onto the pitch. They definitely did when the final whistle blew. Then there were celebrations when a rumour filtered through from St James Park that West Ham had grabbed a late equaliser at Newcastle. John Helm, on YTV cautiously warned "is that confirmed?" but the Magpies had won 2-1, meaning it all hinged on us going to Bournemouth the following week, Leicester would hopefully put up similar resistance against Sheffield United as they did us and Newcastle would make the short trip to Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough.

As much as I'd like to brag that I headed for the South coast that weekend, drank myself into a coma, barbecued shoplifted burgers for breakfast on an upturned burning rowing boat and then stormed Dean Court, but it was no laughing matter was it? Whoever's fault it was is a debate that rages three-decades on, the 2000 tickets went within two hours of them going on sale. The club obviously did all they could to ensure they were sold to bona fide members. The trouble was that thousands of ticketless fans also descended upon the seaside town on a sweltering Bank Holiday weekend.

The Friday evening TV news was dominated by reports of skirmishes between the police and drunken fans. I looked on horrified at the scenes unfolding overnight and a bit of respite in the form of ITV's "Saint and Greavsie" where the game was barely mentioned. At 3pm i decided to shut myself away in my bedroom and isolate from the TV and radio. But downstairs in the pub, which was shut as the licensing laws were still a few years or so from being relaxed, I could hear the hum of "Sport on Two" in the background, as my Dad started to clean his pipes.

At 4:45pm I could not stand any more and I turned on the TV, it flickered into life a ground I didn't recognise but it there seemed to be a lot of fans in red and white getting very excited. Then the score flashed up, Middlesbrough 4 Newcastle 1 and then it dawned on me that Leeds were promoted, even before I knew that Lee Chapman had headed home the goal to make us Champions and relegate Bournemouth, Middlesbrough staying up and who else, our former striker Ian Baird scoring two of the goals. It was written in the stars. Even Sheffield United romping home 5-2 at Leicester could not topple us, as the song went "We WERE going up as F**king Champions!"

But if I was expecting unilateral rejoicing over our success, I was mistaken. There were a few disparaging remarks in the pub that night about the hooliganism that blighted the news as the Dorset Police rounded up the stragglers.

The papers were unbearable over the next few days, there were plenty of calls for Leeds to forfeit their promotion thanks to the brutality of some of our so-called supporters on sleepy Bournemouth. But in a friendly against Genoa, where the underwhelming Barclays Division Two trophy was paraded in front of the fans (I didn't know it had happened until after the event) the reality of promotion could finally sink in. A bit like the corresponding one 30 years later, it all felt a bit distanced from where I was sitting.

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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