From Milk Crate to Press Box, 42 Years at Leeds United’s Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson


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Sitting where Frannie Lee wouldn’t dare – within right-hook range of Big Norm

My Elland Road history is one of a gradual progression that has seen me following the varied fortunes of Leeds United from many different vantage points within that famous old stadium. I started out in the much-lamented Lowfields Road stand, its venerable roof famously braced by cross wires to stop it being blown away by anything above a stiff breeze. My spectating debut was in the funny little “shelf” area that ran the length of the stand between the terraces below and the seats above. I attended a good few games there, with our Gray and, solemnly in charge, my Dad – who saw that our match-day equipment included milk crates for us kids to stand upon, thus enjoying some sort of view.

When I first started going to Elland Road independently, I stood on the Lowfields terraces, but found the passion and buffeting of that experience a little too much – softie that I was. So the next move was to the Boys’ Pen, in the North-East corner of the ground. I stayed there until a ticket mix-up meant that I faced a choice between missing a League Cup tie against Everton, and braving the rigours of the Kop. I screwed up my courage to make my debut on that mighty and cacophonous hill – and never looked back. From that time on, I was a dedicated Gelderd-Ender and the Kop years represent my golden era of United support.

When the Kop went all-seater in the wake of Hillsborough and the Taylor Report, it never felt quite the same to me, and I sympathise with those who never experienced the thrill and surge of a packed Gelderd. One moment I’ll always remember is when Dave Batty scored against Man City early in our League Title season of 1991/92. As Batty himself later admitted, he was never much of a goal-scorer “but, against City, I were prolific”. Over a hundred games after his previous goal, at City in the late 80s, Batts hit the back of the net against the same opponents in ’91 – and at the Gelderd End, too. The whole stadium erupted in joy unconfined; I believe injuries were sustained on the Kop that day but, trust me, nobody felt any pain. It was a magical moment, the stuff from which legends are woven.

When my time on the Kop came to an end, my attendance at Elland Road growing less frequent, I became something of a nomad, taking in the view from the South, West and East of the stadium.  I was getting older and more curmudgeonly, less able and willing to tolerate the stresses of a packed crowd, or of bored kids making me get up and sit down all the time as they passed to and fro. I was becoming my grumpy Dad and, frankly, it had ceased to be fun. I was even considering a flirtation with Ponte Collieries, though my heart and soul belong to Leeds and always will. I just couldn’t hack it any more; I’d never got over the loss of the terraces, not that I’d last five minutes there, these days.

But now I’m back, a habitué of the press area courtesy of semi-regular Leeds United newspaper columns and, though I say it myself as shouldn’t, what has become a pan-global blog. Finally, I’m finding myself somewhat cossetted in experiencing an environment a bit kinder to middle-aged sensibilities. Last Saturday, I watched the Ipswich Town match beside one of my heroes, Norman Hunter, a legend of the Don Revie era at Leeds. I was utterly star-struck, but Big Norm was chatty and amiable – until the game started. Then he was kicking every ball, totally absorbed in the action, grievously upset at every United mistake (and there seemed to be a lot). It was an education for me in terms of what an old pro expects of the current crop, with the desk in front of us taking some punishment as Norm fulminated away. On my other side was erstwhile press-box doyen Don Warters, former Leeds United correspondent for the Yorkshire Evening Post. As Norman stumped off just before full-time, on his way to do his corporate bit in one of the lounges, I remarked that he didn’t seem too happy. Don grinned and replied, “He never is”.

I guess such hyper-involvement and the severely critical outlook goes with the territory for those guys who’ve been there and done it, especially at the level Norman, Billy and the rest played. But still, looking on the bright side – we did win on the day to stay top and, despite a couple of awayday blips recently, we’re still doing quite well overall. The football has been genuinely exciting so far this campaign, a real pleasure to watch and even to write about. What’s more, it’s a great view among all the scribes, the club kindly provides sandwiches, coffee and other such civilised comforts – and the company is amazing. All in all, just when I thought I was coming to the end of my Leeds United journey, it’s really wonderful to be back at Elland Road.

While you’re here – a gentle and polite reminder. Life, Leeds United, the Universe & Everything depends on your donations to keep going. Please click HERE to donate what you can – even a quid or two makes a big difference. This blog will never hide behind a paywall, so it relies on your generosity for its continued existence. Thank you – MOT.

 

Lowfields Road

Lowfields Road stand, towards the end of its life – but with the “Shelf” easily identifiable

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16 responses to “From Milk Crate to Press Box, 42 Years at Leeds United’s Elland Road – by Rob Atkinson

  1. Mark Benson

    Glad to hear the kop/north/revie given its proper name. Was and always will be the gelderd end.

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  2. Scally Lad

    Rob, I agree that the football in this first quarter of the season has been exciting, but I’m concerned that much of our success to date is due to the generally soft character of our opposition. Look who we’ve prevailed against: apart from a close win over Ipswich, our victories have come against Burton, Bolton, Birmingham, Forest, and Sunderland – ALL bottom-dwellers. And we’ve lost to Millwall and cuddled by Cardiff. And nothing better than draws against the upper-half sides of Fulham and Preston. Frankly, I don’t think we’ve been tested much yet, and when we have, we’ve been found wanting. What’s your take on this? Happily, we’re momentarily in third with play against these mediocre sides, but I fear it’s not going to last. Give me some reassurance, because I’m not convinced that we’re not heading for a fall …

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    • I’m just enjoying the excitement right now – it’s not felt like this for years. It’ll be a while before we can see how we’re really doing – MOT

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    • Oh ye of little faith,watch what happens in a few hours time. We’ll be second in the table come 3pm and no one can say the Wendies game will be a walk in the park. If Pontus says we won’t get rolled over by physical sides anymore and that we’ll always beat footballing sides,then I believe him. Can anyone remember an actor called Michael Medwin? I wonder if he did any films in Sweden. He’s the double of Pontus. Good to be reminded of the Geldard End although it wasn’t much fun being in a cascade when some joker at the back decided to start a human avalanche. I sometimes got complimentary tickets for games as a friend of a friend knew the Leeds pools manager. One day during the 88 season I blagged my way into the players lounge after a home draw against Man City. I told the commissionaire on the door that I had complimentary tickets but due to the current postal strike our passes to the players lounge hadn’t arrived. I wish i hadn’t bothered,no sign of Billy Bremner and after half an hour it dawned on me how thick footballers really are. Its right what they say “You should never meet your heroes”. I was stood in the south stand when Strachs goal v Leicester went in and exited six inches thinner and a foot taller it was so packed. Good luck to all Catalonians today.

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  3. Gordon baxendale

    As usual, a very erudite article. As one now in his dotage I still follow avidly on twitter and news. I, however can’t watch the matches on T.V . as I shout and behave very badly in front of my grandson who has yet to be initiated into long range supportership. My two sons however still get me from Staffordshire to Leeds for my birthday present. Nearest match to January 6th will be my 71st anniversary of being passed over heads into the old Kop kids pen to watch with awe leeds in there blue and gold shirts. Happy days!! Fondly remembered even though we lost the match. Keep the home fires burning and MOT
    Gordo

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  4. Rob, ive been following your blog for a number of years and was very pleased to see your articles make it to the yep. I like it that i dont always agree with your views in a digital age of turgid press release regurgitation your passionate love of leeds always shines through. Im not so sure that your miwaaaaw and scum baiting will go down as well in the mainstream but you clever enough to find some posh words to disguise it! Well done rob im proud your on the pressbox! Alaw mot, ben

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    • Cheers Ben, most kind of you. I must admit I have to behave myself in the mainstream, so I keep all the dodgy stuff for the blog! Thanks for the comments, they’re much appreciated – MOT

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  5. I noticed yesterday that your Miwwaw comments came true albeit a few days later. Unable to raise a gallop against Barnsley, no doubt the exhaustion catching up with them.
    Nice one Rob.
    MOT

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    • It’s happened before, post-Cup Final syndrome I call it. They hate it when you point it out. Cheers Karl, MOT

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    • Mr Rearguard

      Miwwwaw will never learn that a football season is a marathon and not a sprint. At least their chairman is happy now that they can put the lecky back on after the Leeds came down in large numbers.

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  6. Peter Rollinson

    Good article Rob.I’ve stood on the Geldard-end myself but like you later in life I found the “comforts”of the west stand more appealing. Living in Holland for the last 40 years means not much live support but we,myself and 3 Ajax supporters will be there for the Reading game 24th october.Can’t wait. Keep up the good work Rob,always a pleasure to read your blogs.

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  7. Your Elland Rd journey seems to have mirrored my own Rob,. But instead of now sitting with the famous old boys like you I find myself lucky enough to be invited to some corporate hospitality, it’s the only way to watch it in my advancing years,, I have been invited in “the box” agsin against reading so if you see a mad man waving at you on the gantry , it’s me lol

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