What a Weekend! The Thrashing of Huddersfield from the Leeds United SkyBet Box – by Rob Atkinson


View from the Top

View from the Top

Now that the dust has settled on my “Weekend Mirabilis” of a few days back – now that the successive hangovers have lifted and the blood pressure has reverted to its former levels of merely mildly unhealthy – now, at last, I can take the time to reflect on what was 48 hours of almost unadulterated pleasure and exultation, something very rare in the life of any Leeds United fan.

The bare bones of this orgy of enjoyment are that Leeds United thrashed Huddersfield Town 3-0 on the Saturday and then, having departed on a well-earned seaside break after returning from Elland Road, I was able to watch the once-mighty man u, the Pride of Devon themselves, comically throw away a two-goal lead not once but twice, as they salvaged a 3-5 defeat from the jaws of victory at Leicester.  Not at all a bad weekend, you’d have to agree. But that, gentle reader, is not even the half of it.

A few days prior to Huddersfield’s Humbling, with my mind on matters no higher than nettle clearance in the lower field at Atkinson Towers, I received an email out of the blue from a gentleman named Ross Watson, representing SkyBet, who were running a promotion of their Transfer Fund at Elland Road for the United v Town match. The Transfer Fund offers the chance for registered Leeds fans to win £5,000 for themselves as well as a transfer jackpot of £250,000 for Leeds United, with every £1 bet earning a token which then goes into a draw. It’s one of those “you’ve got to be in it to win it” things; the more bets made by a fan of any Football League club, the more chance there is of that club – and some lucky fan – benefiting as above. It’s easy to register, and there is the dual attraction of a flutter on your team, together with the additional chance of winning big and helping your club – even, potentially, with a losing bet.

As if that’s not enough to recommend SkyBet, they’ve also had the immense good taste to read and enjoy this blog; hence the email from Ross who was very kindly inviting me along to the Leeds v Huddersfield game to watch the match from a corporate box in the East Stand (less than fondly known as the “Delph Shelf” by Leeds fans, all too well aware of where the money came from to fit it out in such resplendent style). Furthermore, there was a three-course meal and complimentary bar, the genial company of Sky’s “Mr Deadline Day”, Jim White, the enticing possibility of meeting fellow bloggers and various celebs – and I could bring a guest.  So Mrs Rob got a day out, too.

My experience is that, when a thing appears too good to be true, it’s normally because it’s not true. My first reaction, then, was a slightly less than gracious “what’s the catch” – but I am here to record for posterity that there was no catch and that the occasion delivered beyond my wildest dreams.

Considering that I’ve always had an innate suspicion of the corporate box experience – blame my proletarian roots for that – and that I’ve always been instinctively hostile to the kind of people I imagined I’d meet in such bastions of privilege, the day was a revelation from the start. It hasn’t cured me of yearning for the return of the terraces, but it has introduced me to a more comfortable way of watching football, one more appropriate to my age, perhaps, if not my wallet. Not having to spend a bean all day certainly did appeal to the parsimonious Yorkshireman in me – and let’s face it, the result didn’t exactly harm my prospects of enjoying the experience.

But all that aside, my afternoon in East Stand Box 34 blew me away at least as much because of the sheer kindness of everybody, the smooth efficiency of the match-day staff, the absence of any snobbery (which I’d at least half-expected) and the novel feeling of being well looked-after – at a football match! For someone with a good few decades as a supporter behind him, and vivid memories of bricks at Millwall, police horses at Bradford and needing an oxygen tent at Sheffield – it was an eye-opener, alright.

From the very beginning, as we entered somewhat diffidently through the imposing East Stand portal, people simply couldn’t have been kinder or more friendly and considerate. A svelte blonde lady noted our names, issued our tickets and saw that we were conducted to level 4 by lift and then delivered to our plushly-appointed box. We were among the first to arrive, but gradually the room, dominated by a promising-looking dining table, filled up. I met Keith Ingham, frequent contributor to We All Love Leeds and his son Ryan, who has an article/parable in the current issue of The Square Ball; there was a heady mix of competition winners and dedicated bloggers present as the drinks kept on coming, sparking off a warm and friendly atmosphere while we anticipated what was to come.

All the way through the afternoon, I was struck by the lack of any awkwardness, the relaxed and convivial atmosphere, where I had thought there might be a certain stuffed-shirt flavour to proceedings. Nothing of the sort – just smiley happy people everywhere as liquid hospitality was absorbed along with the gathering atmosphere of a crowd approaching 30,000. We weren’t insulated from that inspiring sound either, the crowd noise was a welcome accompaniment to the friendly chat in the box. And then dinner was served; sorry Mr Keane, not a prawn sandwich in sight. It was Yorkshire Pud to start for me, as befits. A “Duo of Chicken” was the #LLUUE main course of choice and then a welcome slab of trifle. A few bottles of wine rounded things off along with coffee and mints. It was what Lord Snooty in the Beano used to call a toothsome tuck-in, and as far from anything I’d ever experienced at Elland Road before as it is possible to get. All we needed now was for the match to go well for our heroes in White…

Well, the rest, as you know, is history. The three peaks of the actual football part of the afternoon left me reassured as to exactly how the other half support. Again, I’d wondered if the atmosphere would be diluted, if the joy of seeing the ball hit the back of the opposition’s net would, in some way, be lessened by such rarefied surroundings. Not a bit of it. The seats were ridiculously comfortable; all the easier to jump out of them as first Austin, then Antenucci and finally Doukara hit the heights for Leeds. Once the action was under way, we felt as much a part of the crowd as I’d ever known; alright, there was no swaying and rib-crushing as with those dear old seventies Kop days and evenings, but equally there was no sense of detachment, no feeling of being divorced from the action. It was as enjoyable a match-watching experience as I can remember, aided of course by the decisive margin of victory and the fact that the away fans were hating every minute of it. But there was so much more to the whole afternoon than just the match.

At half time, I went into the main concourse – and immediately met Terry Yorath, one of the Revie glory boys and as approachable and friendly as you could wish. And, as if to confirm the other-wordliness of it all, there too was Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the USS Enterprise, sporting a Huddersfield Town badge on this occasion, in place of his more usual Starfleet one. For once, he was the alien in this situation. I wandered by, shields up, phaser on stun. Huddersfield were being assimilated; resistance was futile.

After the match, there was no hurry to leave. I had the chat I’d promised myself with Jim White, gently upbraiding him on his efforts to stir up interest in Ross McContract on the last deadline day but one, the night that Big Mass got barricaded inside Elland Road. It all seems so long ago now, with Ross44 gone and unlamented – and Mr White was all polished affability, flashing a smile that matched his hair for megawatt brilliance. “Aye, 11 million you got for him in the end? Extraordinary!” Indeed.

After the free bar, the good company, the sumptuous meal, the fantastic Leeds United performance and the chance to mingle and chat with some of the great and the good – the best was still to come. We were all gathered in a happy knot in the box, finishing off drinks, chatting and celebrating – when one of our number pointed out that Massimo Cellino himself was just a few boxes down from us, holding court for the Sky reporters. Emboldened by the occasion (and by the red wine), a few of us negotiated the metal barriers between boxes – and there we were, shaking hands with il Presidente, asking for and being granted selfies with the Sheriff, smiling and laughing with the one and only driver of the Leeds United bus. For a Leeds fan who has suffered along with thousands of others for the greater part of this century as well as a goodly chunk of the last one, it was like a dream – something I could scarcely have envisaged when I was digging up nettles just a few short days before.

Regrets? I have a few. Well, just one really. It was a shame that my good friend Andy Gregory, owner of the excellent We All Love Leeds blog, couldn’t make it along, due to holiday commitments. I know he’d have loved every minute of it, too. Characteristically, he made sure that his loss was someone else’s gain and Keith and Ryan, both contributors to the great body of Leeds United reportage, deservedly reaped the benefit. By Saturday evening, heading for the Mysterious East (Filey), I honestly thought that the weekend had given me all it possibly could – I was just looking forward to a few days’ relaxation to treasure my memories and “chillax”, as the young people say. But then came Leicester City to make my Sunday a cause for celebration too, and precipitate a second consecutive hangover. Corporate box or no corporate box, it’s tough at the top.

Thanks, in no particular order, to Leeds United, Leicester City, Huddersfield Town, man u, SkyBet, Massimo Cellino, Jim White and his lovely partner Katie, Ross Watson, the guy called Dave whose surname I didn’t catch, Keith & Ryan Ingham and the rest of the Box 34 fraternity, my wife who got me the Cellino signed programme and the SkyBet Football League pin badge, Terry Yorath and the kind and hard-working catering staff in the Elland Road East Stand.  You’ve all made an old fan very happy – and that makes a very refreshing change.

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45 responses to “What a Weekend! The Thrashing of Huddersfield from the Leeds United SkyBet Box – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Lets see your Cellino selfie then Rob

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  2. Bah – you’ve sold out! 😀

    I do agree that Terry Yorath is a real gentleman though

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  3. You’ll be voting Tory next Rob!

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  4. Good to see you back Rob, it sounds like a great experience. Great to see how much happier everyone is down at Elland Road. I spent my afternoon down a Tadcaster albion watching them win six nil. Liam ormsby now plays for Tadcaster. I regularly talk Brendan ormsby and his mum Wendy . Brendan is making progress after his stroke. Johnathan greening joined the club a couple of weeks ago.The owners are big Leeds United fans, it’s a great atmosphere. But I still need to go elland road when I can. Welcome back I did miss your blog. MOT

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  5. ugandanleedsfan

    Where the f#*k have you been? Its been an unbelievable few weeks!!! Relegation fodder? My a@#e

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  6. Ropey Wyla

    Superb stuff. MOT

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  7. Sounds like one of those great days 🙂
    Hopefully lots more to come….MOT

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  8. Con grats on a banging wkend reward for all your hard work writing your top blog and the scum getting another beating just the cherry on the top van gaal master tactician my arse MOT

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  9. sniffersshorts

    Nothing wrong with having the chance to watch your club in the luxury of a corporate box …… My late father came from humble roots his great grand father was a rag and bone man from the askew rd shepherds bush his carsey was a bucket under a bench in a stable….. So his son pulled out from that trade and his son my father started as a jnr surveyor and built his career up to a director on the building board of control….. During his career he was given the chance to see many sporting events from privileged positions within the stadium ….. I work in more humble circumstances but whilst he was alive I had the privilege to watch many with him father and son together as it should be , I also watched football on the terraces I’ve sat on a bench I’ve stamped my feet in the cold, I’ve been abused for cheering my team in the old Chelsea shed end …. But I’ve had the privilege to watch my club and country playing football from a box full of ordinary people also privileged …. I they do not always get to this…. Since my late father death and his influence and in thanks for his hard work from others I was privileged to be with my dad and that with the sport I saw I will always cherish ….. It has fuck all to with class and money a little privilege is nice at times… God rest his soul I miss you dad and our days together.

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  10. sniffershorts

    Sorry Rob forgot to add I am chuffed you had a great weekend …. Your hard work was rewarded with a big pat on the back …. Been a while since we heard from you the last few weeks have been ….. Well fantastic for our club fair play mate MOT

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  11. Peter Mellor

    Good on you.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  12. Jon of York

    Well done for taking the wife, all ways handy to have someone to clear the table and do the dishes. X

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  13. I actually got to watch us play hull a couple of seasons back at the Kc as a guest of the chairman no less. I have to agree it’s a completely different experience having the full hospitality package and watching is from the directors box. I actually enjoyed the day out even with Warnocks shite football and hull City beating us

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  14. don’t forget lampard banging one in against chelsea

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  15. Nic Thompson

    Rob,

    even better than the 3-5, Frank Lampard scoring against Chelsea.

    Nic

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  16. Michel Dyson

    Thought you were working for skybet for a min! Glad you had such a great experience. Despite many saying they did you don’t meet the chairman that often.

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  17. Oh right, so now you have finished hobnobbing with the upper echelons, you decide to grace us once more with your presence, perhaps you would care to get back up to speed with blogging us about all the wonderful happenings that have transpired since you went AWOL!… Jealousy is a terrible thing, but I can’t help it.
    I begrudgingly admit that its nice to hear from you again though (now that your feet are back on the ground).

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  18. I went in a corporate box a few years ago v crystal palace , Ross mc got the winner , a really great day out and I still wear my Leeds united neck band that held my pass that day , it now holds my pass key at work , I work in rothetham so you can imagine the locals don’t like the sight of it ,,, glad you had a top day rob , and were ya bin lad ?

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    • It was amazing Mr O – one of my top 4 Leeds United days – possibly top 5 actually, thinking of Strachan against Leicester – or top six with Viduka beating Liverpool – I’d better stop there!! It’s been a busy time with family problems mate, but I’m going to apply myself better now!

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  19. Gratifying to know you had a very special day in every way and thoroughly enjoyed it. Glad to see you back & in good form Rob, you have been missed by me & many others.

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  20. Michel Dyson

    It’s ok Rob this is a great blog. Only chairman i met direct was Ridsdale. He was up his own ass but friendly enough. Only later did i learn the goldfish excesses and the near meltdown of our great club cos he got us in such debt. Btw have you heard our ex Rio slagging off ex-managers? Easy when you don’t play for them. The wobbly lip has spoken!

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  21. Missed you Rob. Welcome back mate.

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  22. So we we wait with baited breath to read what all those “great and good”pen about meeting you Rob! Fame at last? They do say good things come to those who wait! After the recent time you have had Rob, it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving chap! Thanks for letting us know…. I’m not envious one bit!

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  23. Welcome Back Rob. Really missed you and your take on our beloved Leeds, especially as Redders started turning it around, and things getting better and better…so wanted your escalating hopes and spin on post Hockaday ( and btw: it wasn’t all his fault. Who wouldn’t have said “Yes”?) Total envy of your Box Day experience. Munching on together. Yes please! And then…you had the perfect game for it.
    All very well told, as usual. Great stuff. Thanks!
    P.S. (Hope your parent issues resolve ok; I’ve got one of those going on at the moment too…)

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  24. Good to have you back Rob- Ive been commenting on my own teams boards for a few weeks now and am thoroughly depressed, lol. Bloody hell, it sounds like you had to pinch yourself at the end of a hell of a week end. Ive always wondered how the other half live, what’s it like? lol We’ve all got our own often misguided idea of what its going to be like behind the corporate curtain and you’ve opened my eyes as it sounds like you’ve had an incredible experience. Maybe Karma is alive and kicking at Elland Road after all. I can’t see wor Mike being quite so convivial with his legions of fans at our place but I still wouldn’t mind an invite as I’d smile at him through bulging cheeks!!

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    • Honestly Grem – if you EVER get the chance, grab it. I can’t speak from experience, but it’s the kind of thing that must make even losing more bearable. But with the win – and that performance – it was just bloody unbelievable.

      Like

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